Do you fancy unusual plants that bring color to the tub or bed? Then maybe you should take a closer look at the colored nettle, which impresses not with its flowers, but with its leaves. At first they are wonderfully soft and almost like velvet to the touch, but what is actually unusual is that there are colored nettles in almost every leaf color or color combination and in an unbelievable number of leaf shapes. You would have to choose it yourself, but here you will find out the most important things about the care, reproduction and wintering of the colored nettle.

Caring for the colored nettle

The multicolored nettles are bushy growing ornamental plants that are usually kept in indoor culture and, depending on the location and culture conditions, can reach heights of between 30 and 80 centimeters.

If the freshly purchased plant was sold in a very small potty, you can immediately put the colored nettle in a larger planter, in compost-based potting soil (or garden soil that has been enriched with compost). It needs a lot of space to develop strong roots, which of course also have a positive effect on leaf growth in the upper area.

The location of a colored nettle should be bright, preferably with direct sunlight. If the colored nettle is cultivated in a location with too little light, it does not necessarily die, but the strong, bright colors of the foliage will probably change in the direction of “pale green”, and the colored nettle usually also grows unbalanced or deteriorated. Such a colored nettle is then no longer a room decoration, but more reminiscent of thoroughly neglected weeds.

Too much sun can also be harmful – in a sunny location, the colored nettle really needs plenty of water and, ideally, a shower from the spray bottle again a day so that the humidity around it is increased a little for a while. But do not spray directly on the plant, drops on the leaves could cause the leaves to be burned by the sun, which is one of the reasons when the leaves of a colored nettle wilt or dry up.

The humidity around the colored nettle can also be increased by placing the pots on large saucers with pebbles that are filled with water. The plants are sprayed with soft water every 2 to 3 days. Should the colored nettles still suffer from an infestation by the red spider, the plants should be rinsed daily with lukewarm water.

Colored nettles want to be watered abundantly, the ball of the pot should always be moist, especially in the deeper root area. If the colored nettle dries right down there, it can only withstand this for a very short time before the leaves wither and are even thrown off in the lower area, the second reason. If that happens, you can try to rescue it as long as there are still a few leaves on the plant. You first dip the plant until no more bubbles appear, and then make sure to water the plant regularly and sufficiently and to spray the leaves regularly (not in direct sun), then the plant should recover. But you mustn’t do too much of a good thing here either, the red nettle could react to waterlogging with root rot.

With regard to the ambient temperature, the colored nettle is in good hands in our apartments, it can withstand a lot of heat, so it will survive even in heated rooms and would not want it to be colder than 12 degrees, but neither would they.

The colored nettle needs fertilizer in order to develop splendid leaf colors. During the growing season, commercially available liquid fertilizers should be given twice a month.

Colored nettles in the garden

The “normal” colored nettle is kept as a houseplant, but there is nothing wrong with decorating a garden bed with a brightly colored colored nettle in summer. Perhaps not just with a brightly colored nettle, the colored nettles offered with green, red, pink, yellow, brown and orange leaves could theoretically be used to create entire pictures in a bed.

If you want to grow the colored nettles for the summer bed yourself, sow the colored nettle seeds in pots with potting soil, preferably from March, on the surface, the light germs must not be covered. The potty should be placed in a warm place, at around 24 degrees, perhaps as warmth from below. Now you need a little patience, it can take a good two weeks before seedlings can be seen. Now let them grow a little and then look for the strongest plants that can be moved to individual pots. In the young plants, you should regularly break off the tips of the shoots so that they branch out nicely and bushy. When the ice saints are over in mid-May, the young plants can be planted in the garden.

There you need a permeable soil, which you best equip with compost soil or stable manure rich in nutrients, so the foliage of the colored nettles will show the most beautiful colors. The location should be bright and preferably sunny, but preferably without direct midday sun, the colored nettles like a little wind protection. The colored nettles also want to be fertilized in the garden bed; if the soil is very well enriched with nutrients, a little liquid fertilizer in the irrigation water is sufficient once a month.

Keeping the colored nettles in shape

The following applies to colored nettles in the room and in the garden: so that the colored nettles always grow nice and bushy, you should break out the shoot tips regularly.

Annual or perennial?

There are very contradicting statements regarding the lifespan of the colored nettles, and here, too, it can be observed more often that a myth arises from a trade name that has not been questioned: Many of the colored nettle hybrids on the market say “annual”, and the more conspicuous and The crazier the colors are, the more that is true – such colors are created through very specific breeding, which then has to make compromises in other areas, e.g. B. in the resistance and lifespan of plants.

But colored nettles are actually perennial plants, and if you have a naturally grown colored nettle that may not be extremely colorful, but grows splendidly, you can cultivate it over a longer period of time.

Repot the colored nettles

If you cultivate a colored nettle for a longer period of time, you should repot it occasionally, whenever the roots have grown through almost the entire plant pot.

“Show hybrids”, which are only intended for one season from the start, may be given a larger pot immediately after purchase; these colored nettles do not need to be repotted later because they can only be cultivated as an annual with these flower colors. Even if you care for the plants optimally, most of these plants will be long and bare in the second year, and further cultivation is simply not worthwhile.

Multiply colored nettles

You can, however, raise the next generation of these show hybrids yourself, because colored nettles are very easy to propagate: In late summer they cut off some shoots with two to three leaves (head cuttings) that are already a few months old, i.e. not more so tender. The top two leaves stay on, the third you break off carefully downwards, so you get a wound, mean, but stimulates the cutting for self-defense, i.e. for rooting.

With this wound, the head cuttings are now placed in a water glass, where they will get new roots in a short time and can be planted in the ground. On the young plants, prune the tips of the shoots several times so that they grow bushy. You can repeat this “game” every autumn, with the weak hybrids the young plants usually survive the winter much better than the adult specimens.

The flower of the colored nettle

Colored nettles bloom, of course, like any plant. When it comes to the colored nettle, however, it is not about the flowers, which are not very spectacular, and usually even less attractive than the colorful foliage.

That is why it is usually recommended to break out the flowers at the bud stage, otherwise the multicolored nettle would put a lot of power into the flower. When the flowers are removed, that power is retained by the plant to produce new leaves, and these are what we would like to see of it.

If you remove the flowers, you can of course also use them as cuttings, the top part with the bud is clipped off, the rest can be placed directly in pots to form roots.

Hibernating colored nettles

You will only bring a colored nettle with us in heated rooms over the winter, all species originally developed in tropical Africa and Asia.

Beautiful specimens are severely pruned in autumn and overwintered in a light place at room temperature. The colored nettles also want to be really warm in winter, even at temperatures below 15 degrees there is a risk of damage, at temperatures around 7 degrees they should die very quickly.

Fertilization is stopped between autumn and early spring, and the next spring the colored nettle can be put back in the garden or planted out.

Interesting facts about the colored nettle

The colored nettle belongs to the mint family, a plant family that has developed its representatives in every climatic zone around the world. And that a very long time ago, the emergence of the mint is said to have taken place in the Pliocene, about 5 to 2.5 million years ago. Since then, the mint have brought about 230 genera with more than 7000 species, the colored nettles are one of these genera with around 60 species.

Impressive colored nettle varieties

In any case, “our” colored nettle has been bred since the end of the 19th century. Many crosses were obtained from the numerous natural species from Africa, which are now sold under the collective name Solenostemon scutellarioides and the synonyms just mentioned.

There are numerous varieties, with leaves of all colors, here some particularly beautiful ones, the first six were even awarded by the Royal Horticultural Society:

  • “Crimson Ruffles” has dark purple foliage with pink accents
  • “Lord Falmouth” has small, almost heart-shaped leaves that are dark purple on the outside and pink on the inside
  • “Pineapple Beauty” combines light green with dark brown-red in the leaves
  • “Pineapplette” has an unusual leaf shape, very light green with dark red speckles
  • “Royal Scot” shows a beautiful wine red color with a light green leaf margin
  • “Wisley Tapestry” shows leaf colors like “Royal Scot”, the leaves are somewhat reminiscent of vegetable puzzle pieces
  • “Brilliancy” develops carmine-red leaves with pale yellow edges
  • “Candidus” has light green leaves with irregular white spots in the middle
  • “Golden Bedder” gets golden yellow leaves, but only with sufficient exposure
  • “Sunset” has red leaves like the most beautiful sunset, with yellow hearts

Diseases and pests in the colored nettle

The colored nettle is often attacked by red spiders, especially if it is kept very warm and dry. In the case of low infestation, a countermeasure is sufficient to shower the plants daily with lukewarm water, after which you should change the keeping conditions. Also mealybugs / mealybugs or aphids like to appear if the plant is too warm and dry, a shower also helps here, and the location should also be changed here.

If an infestation prevails or the keeping conditions cannot be made more favorable, it is best to take a cutting from a healthy shoot from the diseased plant and grow a new colored nettle.

Colored nettles in the garden bed are often afflicted by snails, so you should plan the harmless alternative to snail pellets right from the start, which you also use for other “snail delicacies”.

There are hardly any more exciting and diverse decorative leaf plants than the colored nettles, which are also pleasantly easy to care for. A must in every household / garden of people with a sense of color.

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