For the next several months my windowsills will be crowded with rooted cuttings from the three ‘Beale Street’ coleus plants that I bought last spring and planted at the front corner of our front yard. Beale Street is one of the honored streets in the Main Street Series of coleus developed by Dummen Orange, a Dutch company with an American branch in Columbus, Ohio.
The Main Street Series includes Rodeo Drive (a green coleus with ruffled dark red margins), Chartes Street (lime green leaves), Wall Street (burnt orange), and variegated varieties named for Fifth Avenue, Oxford Street, and Ruby Road.
Others have been added to this early list, but the big winner is Beale Street! This isn’t just based on the compliments my neighbors had for the striking deep red plants in our garden. Beale Street was named a 2020 winner by All American Selections (AAS), a non-profit that tests and judges new varieties of plants. It’s the first time any coleus has been named an AAS winner.
The bushy plant grows to a height of 2-3 feet and is not quite as wide as it is tall. It is more tolerant of hot sun than many coleuses. My three plants thrived in afternoon sun in a spot that the sprinkler sometimes misses. The rich dark red leaf color didn’t fade.
Flowers aren’t usually desirable with a coleus. They aren’t particularly attractive and take energy from the plant. Gardeners usually pinch coleus flowers off to keep the plants from getting leggy. The Beale Street coleus is slow to bloom if it does at all. I didn’t pinch the plants back until early fall when I started taking cuttings to overwinter indoors.
To take cuttings, cut off sections from the top of each branch, long enough to include 3-4 sets of leaves. From each stem, pinch off the bottom one or two sets of leaves and put the stem in a container of water submerging the places where you removed the leaves. At first I put more than one stem in a vase, but when the roots grew, they tended to get tangled with each other and had to be separated gently. As I took later cuttings, I put each one in its own small vase or bottle.
When the roots are about two inches long, plant each cutting in a small pot (about 2”) of clean potting soil. I keep the soil saturated for the first couple of weeks until the roots adjust from being in water to being in soil. Then, as the plant tolerates, I begin to water less, treating it like an average houseplant. Next spring after danger of frost, the plants can take a place of pride in my garden again.
There are many beautiful varieties of coleus that provide lots of options for adding foliage color to the garden, but Beale Street deserves to become a popular plant in the Memphis area. Look for it at local garden centers when you buy next year’s annuals.