How to Care for Joseph's Coat
Joseph's coat (Amaranthus tricolor) is an annual plant native to Asia. Ornamental cultivars of this plant are grown for their foliage, which features bold combinations of yellow, red and pink.
It can be used as borders and mass plantings but also makes a statement as a specimen. All parts of this tropical plant are edible, and some cultivars have green foliage that is consumed as a vegetable in some Asian cuisines.
Joseph's Coat Identification
Joseph's coat plants are bushy and have a height between 1 and 4 feet. Individual leaves may be anywhere between 3 and 6 inches in length, with widths between 2 and 4 inches.
Many Joseph's coat cultivars require staking to stand upright, though certain compact cultivars, such as ‘Pigmy Touch’ and ‘Green Thumb,' are compact enough that they don't need staking.
The leaves of the species Joseph's coat plant, which is also known as tampala, feature a combination of green and purple. In some parts of the world, species Joseph's coat plants are consumed as vegetables.
However, you'll find many cultivars with foliage that is variegated with shades of red, pink and yellow, including Splendens and Early Splendor. Joseph's coat flowers may be green or red; however, they are small and not showy.
Joseph's coat plants are tender annuals that cannot withstand freezing temperatures and survive for just one growing season. But in the fall, you can collect seeds to sow again in the spring.
Joseph's Coat Plant Temperature Needs
Like many annuals, Joseph's coat plants are typically grown from seed. It is a tender annual though, meaning it cannot withstand freezing temperatures.
Joseph's coat seeds germinate best when planted in soils with temperatures at or above 68°F. As a tropical species, this plant performs best when it develops at temperatures between 70 and 85°F.
Depending on the climate where you live, if you want to get a head start on growing Joseph's coat, you may opt to start the seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost of spring.
How to Plant Joseph's Coat
Joseph's coat plants can grow in a wide variety of soils as long as they offer proper drainage. When planting the seeds, allow 8 to 12 inches between small specimens and approximately 18 inches between larger cultivars.
Joseph's coat plants grow best when they receive full sun, which is equivalent to six or more hours of sunlight a day. This brings out the colors in the leaves. Shade in the afternoon during the hot summer months is recommended, however.
As annuals, Joseph's coat plants survive for just one growing season. In the fall, you can collect seeds from your plants to sow again in the spring.
Joseph's Coat Care
- Avoid Overwatering: Joseph's coat plants are low maintenance and can handle dry conditions, so be sure not to overwater the plant, which can lead to root rot.
Fertilizer Guidelines: Joseph's coat plants can grow in very poor soil. Therefore, these plants do not need a lot of fertilizer. In fact, excessive fertilizer can diminish the color of the plant's foliage. Nitrogen fertilizer should be avoided when growing species Joseph's coat plants as vegetables, as this can result in nitrate levels building up in the leaves.
Pinching to Promote Growth: Pruning, or pinching, the flowers of the Joseph's coat plant can help promote bushy growth and enhance the plant's appearance.
- Some varietals of Joseph's coat can reach up to 48 inches in height at maturity, and staking can be helpful in keeping an orderly, upright display.
Since beginning her career as a professional journalist in 2007, Nathalie Alonso has covered a myriad of topics, including arts, culture and travel, for newspapers and magazines in New York City. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Columbia University and lives in Queens with her two cats.