"Alabama Sunset' Coleus - A True Classic!

By Pam Quackenbush

‘Alabama Sunset’ is the epitome of the “classic coleus” with its wide oval, pointed leaves and upright form. Truly a workhorse in your garden display, it is dependable with its sturdy structure and bushy growth habit, but what really sets it apart is the color. ‘Alabama Sunset’ is truly the chameleon of coleus! Granted, all coleus will vary in color depending on the amount of light they receive and other cultural differences, but the color range of ‘Alabama Sunset’ is pretty spectacular!

New growth is a cheery yellow-gold color accentuating the tip of each branch. As the leaves mature they become speckled and give an impression of orange until the solid pink-red color moves from the tip of the leaf inward and eventually predominates. In high light, that overall color might be a deep pink to bright rosy-red. With less light, you might find the leaves to be a paler pink with an orange or copper tone coming though, and they might adopt a dappled appearance. You might find all of these colors and patterns at once on the same branch, depending on how much light reaches the lower leaves. If you place a pot of ‘Alabama Sunset’ coleus in two different places in your yard with two different sun exposures, you might get very different results. The passing of time will also have an effect, with the intensity of the the sun changing as the seasons progress.  

Keeping your ‘Alabama Sunset’ happy is easy. Coleus plants love warmth and humidity – they come from Southeast Asia after all! They love moist, but not soggy, soil, and should always be planted where they are easy to water. A timed-release fertilizer will take the guesswork out of keeping your coleus well-fed and growing all summer long. Coleus appreciate some protection from strong winds as they grow so their branches don’t snap and break. ‘Alabama Sunset’ can take full sun when all of the above needs are met, and does equally well in dappled shade. It will survive deeper shade, but you will definitely miss those intense colors that come through with bright light.

‘Alabama Sunset’ is a true classic and has been around for as long as we can remember. Its ability to change color according to conditions as likely been the reason for the many nicknames it has gathered along the way. ‘Texas Parking Lot’ and ‘Bellingrath Pink’ are two of the most common, and together they tell us all we need to know about this particular coleus. It is tough enough to withstand a parking lot in Texas and refined enough to be grown on a grand estate in Alabama. That sums it up pretty well!

Many gardeners plant ‘Alabama Sunset’ in multiples. Three ‘Alabama Sunset’ plants in a 12” pot will grow into a massive display three feet across and again as tall. A pair of those impressive plantings on each side of a stairs or driveway will simultaneously welcome your visitors and fill them with awe! A drift of ‘Alabama Sunset’ in a garden bed is breathtaking. The bright yellow centers are set off by the darker leaf coloration, and even as the light wanes in early evening, it never fails to catch the eye. The sun never sets on ‘Alabama Sunset’!


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