Joseph’s Coat is a tender perennial grown for its beautiful foliage. Its striking colors range in warm shades of reds, pinks, yellows, and coppers to cool shades of purples, and greens depending on variety. The leaves may also be found variegated or spotted with contrasting colors. Tiny flowers in the fall are a subtle side note to Joseph’s Coat’s outstanding foliage. This graceful plant is sure to add an eye-catching shock of color to your garden beds or containers.
Joseph’s Coat (Alternanthera) is grown in most regions throughout the U.S. as an annual. It can be grown as a perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones 10 and 11, too. Small varieties are known to grow in mounds and to spread outward as a fast growing ground cover. Larger varieties grow taller and can be used as a hedge.
Joseph’s Coat has a rich history. It has been a gardener’s favorite for centuries. It originated in Central and South America where many varieties still abound. Over time, it made its way into the knot gardens of the Victorian era in Europe. Knot gardens were filled with this aesthetically pleasing beauty. It has been a medicinal go-to plant in Africa and Asia. There many varieties enjoyed here at home in the U.S., too. There is surely at least one cultivar that will win you over for your garden.
How to Grow and Care for Joseph’s Coat
Joseph’s Coat is a tropical plant that loves full sun and warmth. So, be sure to choose the right location for this plant.
If you start with seeds, plant them indoors in late winter. Transplant them to that sunny location after the danger of any frost has passed. Space your plants about 6 inches apart.
You can start Joseph’s Coat with cuttings, too. Take a snip off of the tip of a stem, perhaps when you are pruning during late summer. Place the tip in water until roots begin to take. Transplant your new little start in a sunny location. Or, if you have a short growing season in a cooler region, save yourself the trouble of seeds and fragile transplants. Select a more mature transplant from a nursery.
Supply your Joseph’s Coat plant with rich, organic soil. It will respond well if you feed it a liquid fertilizer, like fish emulsion, every two or three weeks. This plant will require plenty of water, too. An inch of water every week will keep your plant happy.
Joseph’s Coat will grow large and bushy, which if fine for many gardeners. Some gardeners prefer to prune this plant, though. You should only have to prune once during late summer to keep new growth in check.
Joseph’s Coat Pests and Problems
Joseph’s Coat is a pest resistant plant that is easy to maintain. However, it will not tolerate drought well, and it will also drown with soggy feet. Water regularly to maintain the moisture level in the soil around this plant to keep it healthy and strong throughout the growing season.
Joseph’s Coat Varieties to Consider
‘Party Time’ is an undeniably jubilant! This tall variety thrives in shade and boasts a colorful contrast of deep pink and green. This plant is a fun and vibrant accent in your garden. The picture above is this variety.
‘Red Carpet’ is an elegant ground covering variety. It will grow to between 10 and 14 inches tall. It will show its brightest colors in full sun during the spring and the fall.
Want to learn more about growing Joseph’s Coat?
See these resources:
Sharpen up your hedge trimmer and check out this charming modern day knot garden: FAQs about knot gardens YouTube video
Alternanthera from University of Illinois Extension
Joseph’s Coat Enhances Other Colors from NC Cooperative Extension
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of SuperFantastic