Flowers over Foliage–or Not?

Hosta about to flower

Have you ever noticed that there seems to be a raging debate in the gardening world this time of year about what to do about plants that are primarily grown for their foliage–like the hosta in my photo above–and their flowers?

The other plant that also seems to get a lot of “press” (if that’s the right word) is coleus. There’s always a raging debate about whether coleus flowers should be left alone or should be immediately cut off as soon as they show signs of forming.

I have never really entered into these debates before but I will tell you what my prior practices have been, how they have changed, and why.

With coleus, I used to cut the flowers off. I thought that they were insignificant and didn’t do anything for the plant. Further, since I was usually growing the coleus as part of an all foliage container, the flowers didn’t really conform to that.

Then of course life happens. I don’t know what exactly happened–I suspect that I had another emergency like this month and I had to go out of town for a bit.

By the time I came back, all my coleus were flowering madly and to my surprise, the flowers were covered with pollinators. So now when I grow them, as much as I may not care for the flowers, they stay as pollinator plants.

With respect to the hosta, I don’t feel the same way. Their flowers at least are interesting and I have one that is quite fragrant. So I have rarely been inclined to deadhead the hosta flowers before they bloom.

They too are attractive to bees, which is another reason for me to keep them.

And they lend some mid-season interest to the garden as well.

I have even seen the dead flower stalks left standing in the winter, giving winter interest to a garden ( not mine–I wish I had thought of it!)

So I guess that I fall clearly into the “don’t cut” camp at this point, although that wasn’t always so. But that’s what’s great about gardening. Every year is different so you can change your mind along with your plant palette.

4 thoughts on “Flowers over Foliage–or Not?

  1. The Chatsworth Lady July 6, 2021 / 11:18 am

    I, too, enjoy hosta flowers, especially if they are white rather than the usual lavender (not that there’s anything wrong with that.) I keep telling myself that I should buy an ‘Aphrodite’ but there are already so many hostas from the previous owners that it seems rather like bringing coals to Newcastle, as the saying goes. I have added a few small varieties but at the moment I don’t have a suitable place for a large one like Aphrodite. I also keep telling myself to try coleus one of these years, but somehow never do! I agree with you that coleus flowers themselves are “meh”!

  2. gardendaze July 6, 2021 / 12:27 pm

    This year, I finally was able to find an African Blue basil after perhaps 15 years of not having one. I remembered it being so great for the bees and growing huge.

    Well, perhaps because I have it in a container, it’s not yet huge (I should put it in a larger container but it’s been a bit distracting at my house in June, to say the least!) And now that it’s finally flowering, again, I am finally thinking, “wait. why did I like this so much?”

    Maybe it’s one of those things that just looks better in the ground. But I fear that I have year another “meh” flowering plant. Sigh. I’ll try potting it up to see if that doesn’t make it better–or at least better for the bees!

    On the plus side, the bees are just loving the verbena I planted. Who knew?


  3. tonytomeo July 7, 2021 / 10:05 pm

    Once coleus starts to bloom, it can be difficult to stop it. When I pluck the floral buds off, they just make more until they look all . . . plucked over. That is why I had not grown it until some showed up at work this year.
    Philodendron selloum is one that I always cut floral buds off of, because they smell so horrid if they bloom!

  4. gardendaze July 8, 2021 / 5:15 am

    I find that to be true of genovese basil. It’s just a constant battle to keep it from blooming. And it too, like the coleus, constantly looks pinched back, and not happily. But maybe we forgive that with herbs because we’re always cutting them for cooking anyway.

    I can’t say that I have had a philodendron of any sort bloom–but then again in containers, they might not. Maybe I haven’t missed anything.


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