Remember the brightly colored bedding plant known as Joseph’s coat back in the ‘50s and ‘60s? Now there are two new relatives of this plant that have achieved Texas SuperStar status. They are Little Ruby and Brazilian Red Hots.
First to be named to this prestigious group was Little Ruby, in 2015. It is a compact groundcover or border plant with deep burgundy top foliage and ruby red undersides. It grows to about 15 inches and spreads to 2 feet in well-drained, moist soil. East Texans should consider it an annual that is very heat and humidity tolerant. The dark burgundy color of its small thumbnail-sized leaves will be brightest in full sun, but it can tolerate part shade.
A second Alternanthera was added to the SuperStar collection in 2016. This one is Brazilian Red Hots. It is like Little Ruby but has hot pink to rose coloration in its foliage. Both plants can benefit from a light pruning in late spring and again in late summer to keep them dense and compact. They may have small white flowers in late fall to early winter, but they are definitely grown for their striking foliage.
The Smith County Master Gardener program is a volunteer organization in connection with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.