04
February
2019

Coleus ‘Pineapple Splash’

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Coleus ‘Pineapple Splash’ pairs well with Pepper ‘Black Pearl’


What’s the hot take on Coleus ‘Pineapple Splash’? Bright lemon yellow foliage has a jagged red stripe on the leaf. It loves hot summer and does not fade under the brutal sun. Plants grow lush and low for Coleus and pair well with dark varieties—important features we look for in a solid, dependable pro-quality Coleus.

But this is not the full story. ‘Pineapple Splash’ comes from a Coleus dynasty, bred by the University of Florida along with many important cultivars like ‘Redhead’ (2008), ‘Wasabi’ (2011), ‘Electric Lime’ (2016), ‘Ruby Slipper’ (2016), and ‘French Quarter’ (2016). In fact, a full one-third of the 50+ Coleus varieties we sell come from U of F, although we did not know it at the time. Why, then, do so many important Coleus come out of this one place? 

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'Pineapple Splash' tucks in under Pennisetum ‘Vertigo’

 THE NAME GAME


Let’s clear up a little confusion first. A number of Pineapples exist in the world of Coleus: ‘Pineapple’, ‘Pineapple Surprise’, ‘Premium Sun Pineapple Surprise’, etc. We’ve sold all of them and written about them as well. This one is ‘Pineapple Splash’—the splash of red on the bright yellow leaf is how we remember it.

By contrast, IFAS is much easier to remember: the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. It has a broad mandate at the University of Florida, and tucked inside there is a remarkably effective focus on the Coleus. Research is done, by the professors and students, using hands-and-pants dirty work. This is not high-tech genetic tweakage, but sturdy Luther Burbank search-and-select techniques.

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Red stripes on ‘Pineapple Splash’ pair with other reds like Coleus ‘Pink Chaos’

HIGH-CALIBER BREEDING


When you hold ‘Pineapple Splash’ you are not holding an accident. This plant was found, on purpose, by brute force needle-in-a-haystack searches, wherein the IFAS sifted through each and every straw to find that one golden needle. The scope is best expressed by the initial planting that led to ‘Pineapple Surprise’—35,000 seedlings.

IFAS students inspected and sorted, bred and re-bred over and over until they narrowed the field to just those plants with the perfect cocktail of features. They thinned their 35,000 down to a short list of 300, then culled it to 100 to yield a final result of 5 winners.

In other words, ‘Pineapple Splash’ beat out 7,000 other Coleus choices for the chance to reside in your garden. It earned a place in the market.

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Bright reds in the shade darken into muddy colors in full sun—discarded

All this brute force is hard work, but the key to success is the chin-rubbing. Knowing how to define the good and bad features, and then spot them in a sea of seedlings, is the very essence of fielding a high-quality cultivar. For example, above and below are two slides that clearly illustrate good and bad Coleus.

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Bright, crisp and clear in sun and shade—it eventually became ‘Electric Lime’

WHAT WE LIKE #01: Brightness

A key focus of the IFAS breeders was brightness that lasted in hot sun. We've seen that problem. Some Coleus will darken in such a situation, shifting from bright to muddy as pigments fill in the leaf to block the scorching sun. ‘Pineapple Splash’ stays bright in full sun but it doesn’t wilt under the assault of sunshine, provided the garden bed gets adequate water.

We can vouch for its sunfast nature. We have planted ‘Pineapple Splash’ in conditions ranging from blazing sun to part-time shade. In all cases the brightness held up: the color remained uniform, the red stayed crisp, it loved our hot August days, and it actually lasted well into the fall. These are features we look for in a best-of-breed Coleus.

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That stripe stays put along the spine

WHAT WE LIKE #02: The Flashy Red Stripe


Another selling feature is the clean, but distinct, jagged red stripe. Coleus is no stranger to the wild, wild world of decor, and it is easy for this plant to go psychedelic. A clean stable color with a strong consistent feature is actually better for garden design. It is also harder to find in the Coleus world, and therefore more highly-prized.

That red in the stripe also happens to be a popular shade among other workhorse cultivars. This allows ‘Pineapple Splash’ to pivot from Begonias to Impatiens, New Guineas, Lantana, or other Coleus selections, color matching with their reds. It bridges the different genre while unifying the entire garden. Very few plants have this capability—it’s what keeps us coming back to ‘Pineapple Splash’.

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‘Pineapple Splash’ fronts or surrounds taller material like Salvia or Gomphrena

WHAT WE LIKE #03: Lush and Low

You may remember ‘Redhead’ and ‘Wasabi’ from our previous Display Gardens. Those tall Coleus varieties generate big 3D blocks of color that sit above the soil. By contrast, ‘Pineapple Splash’ is low and wide, but lush enough to cover the soil well. We use it as a skirt to gather taller plants together into a single presentation, or just to neaten up around the base of shaggier plants. The narrow cut leaf and vibrant lemon yellow has the same vibe as Alternanthera or Duranta in the garden, but with more height and more oomph.

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Yellow connects with the Persian Shield here; the red bridges over to the Olympia Begonia

 TOMORROW’S FOCUS

It’s clear the IFAS is a productive program, based on the 20-year success of their Coleus breeding: durable plants, brighter colors, less fading, lusher habit, consistent performance—all quality traits. Yet the most important aspect is the kids who do the work. IFAS trains tomorrow’s breeders today—they come right out and state it as their mandate.

Students who learn how to produce high quality cultivars like the Coleus we’ve seen from Florida will go on to create other great plants and solve important problems in both ornamental and edible agriculture. It’s an important role in our society and the health of our industry. Interestingly enough, we all participate in this effort. Your royalty dime goes back and pays those students by financing their equipment and since we grow these plants for you, we are part of the solution too.

Coleus ‘Pineapple Splash’ is available this spring in the 4.5 and 6-inch pot sizes.

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