Inject some red, purple and black into an all-green bed with tropical-looking flowers and foliage plants. Flame nettles are perfect for filling gaps in borders when spring or summer flowers have faded, or use them in a mixed container display. Parrot’s beak provides interest at head-height in baskets or along the sides of of tall pots. Arisaema is ideal for brightening up shady spots.
Flame nettles or coleus
Known to generations of gardeners as coleus, and often sold as such, these leafy plants were long considered outdated, but are now back in vogue thanks to striking new forms with colorful and patterned foliage. Their vibrancy gives patio displays a lift and adds color to border designs. Another idea is to use pots of flame nettles as underplanting around the stems of trees or shrubs in large containers. Easy to grow from seed, young plants are also available from nurseries. Keep them well-watered and repot young plants several times during the growing season. Prune stems to maintain a bushy shape. The foliage loses intensity when plants bloom, so remove buds as they form.
A close look at the red flowers that cover this evergreen plant immediately reveals how the parrot’s beak got its common name. The other feature that makes it so popular is the trailing stems of gray, ferny foliage, which makes its tumbling leaves ideal for a hanging basket or large container. Although it needs protection from frost in the winter, Parrot’s beak is perfectly happy outside in the summer.
A group of tuberous spring- and summer-flowering perennials originating from China, Japan, North America and the Himalayas, arisaemas have curious flowers that in some species resemble the head of a cobra about to strike. The flowers are generally held on long stems and covered with large leaves. Their sinister appearance is perhaps a hint that the plants are poisonous, but not all look quite so gruesome. Arisaema candidissimum appears more like whipped ice cream with its pink and white flowerhead, which is also delightfully scented.
Arisaemas prefer the shade and are
perfect for small, sheltered, urban gardens where they can survive the
winter outside. Either display a group of plants together or use them to
plug gaps in a bed or border. You can then take the pots out of the
border when they’ve finished flowering and the leaves have died back.
Water regularly during the growing season, but keep compost just moist
when plants are dormant in winter.