on a deeply overcast day, the Little Ruby
alternanthera shows out in the landscape.
up another award for Little Ruby. In a period when we
write about, or tout, some new coleus on what seems a
weekly basis, there is one little alternanthera out
there hitting it out of the park.
Ruby is a variety of Alternanthera dentata developed in
South America and becoming one of the hottest trends in
garden color. If the botanical name is a little
confusing, just look at Little Ruby as a Joseph’s Coat
packed with riveting color and tough as nails.
tough and easy to grow is Little Ruby? Well it won the
Dallas Arboretum Flame Proof Award, University of
Georgia’s Classic City Award, Louisiana Super Plant
and in July was designated as a Texas Super Star award
winner. It has won awards in Australia and has been
touted in New Zealand. It will be a winner in your
compared these to Joseph’s coats, but they will be
much larger. At the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens
ours are pushing 18 inches tall and a little wider.
Recommended spacing is 12 inches apart.
will note these plants have a thicker compact habit than
other award winners like Purple Knight and Brazilian Red
Hot. They are incredibly low maintenance plants that
will fit in any style of garden. These are almost always
grown as annuals, and like the small Joseph’s coats
you may be most familiar with they do need fertile,
well-drained soil. They can take anything summer can
dish out, but they do not want to sit in wet soggy soil.
They can still perform with a little mid-afternoon
shade, but it is in full sun where they reach their true
your plants with light applications of a slow-release
fertilizer, about three times during the summer and
early fall. Though they are drought tolerant,
supplemental water during prolonged dry periods will
keep them looking their best. By all means apply a good
layer of mulch after planting.
Ruby produces rich shades of purple and burgundy with a
little olive-grey-green. We have them combined in some
areas with fiery gold and orange lantanas and angelonias
in others. But one our most distinctive combinations of
the summer so far has been with blue plumbago.
foliage will allow them to work in grandma’s cottage
garden with blue salvias and purple coneflowers, as well
as in a tropical island look with bananas, elephant ears
and even gingers.
I have been touting them for the garden, their habit
lends them to being used in mixed containers. The
burgundy and purple foliage will enhance the colors of
all other flowers around. A thriller plant like the Red
Abyssinian banana, Chapel Yellow lantana and Surdiva
scaevola would make a show-stopping container.
you can’t find Little Ruby then by all means look for
the much large Purple Knight and the iridescent
Brazilian Red Hot. The relatively new selection called
Royal Tapestry is a little shorter and has a spreading
habit that allows it to intermingle in artistic fashion
with its chosen companions.