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How to Grow Swedish Ivy — Plectranthus

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Plectranthus–commonly called Swedish ivy–is a shrublike or trailing tropical plant with fleshy, square stems and green leaves that may be heart-shaped, oval, or rounded often with a velvety texture

The leaves of Plectranthus have scalloped edges, veining, and a bronzy or purple cast. Small, tubular flowers are borne in terminal spikes throughout the year.

In mild-winter regions, Plectranthus can be grown outdoors in a border. In temperate regions, it can be set outdoors in summer, and grown indoors in winter. It is a good choice for hanging baskets.

Plectranthus is a genus of about 350 species of annuals, perennials, and semi-succulents. Plectranthus is native to Africa, Madagascar, Asia, Australasia, and the Pacific Islands.

Get to know Plectranthus

  • Plant type: Tropical perennial
  • Growing Zones and range: Zones 11-12
  • Hardiness: Tender
  • Optimal growing temperature: day 60° to 70°F (16°-21°C), night 55° to 60°F (13°-16°C)
  • Light: Medium to high light
  • Height and width: Trailing stems to 8 inches long or longer
  • Foliage: Scalloped, round or oval, green, fleshy leaves on trailing stems
  • Flowers: Occasionally, small, light purple flowers
  • Uses: Tropical garden, houseplant, hanging basket
  • Common name: Swedish Ivy
  • Botanical name: Plectranthus australis
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Origin: Africa, Madagascar, Asia

Where to plant Plectranthus

  • Light oudoors: Grow Plectranthus in dappled shade.
  • Light indoors: Grow Plectranthus in medium to high light.
  • Soil outdoors: Grow Plectranthus in moderately fertile, well-drained soil.
  • Soil indoors: Plant Plectranthus in all-purpose mix.
Plectranthus purpuratus or Swedish ivy
Plectranthus purpuratus or Swedish ivy

How to water and feed Plectranthus

  • Keep the soil evenly moist for Plectranthus.
  • Fertilize Plectranthus twice a month from spring to fall.

Plectranthus care

  • Pinch off the stems of new growth often to keep the plant full and compact.
  • Repot Plectranthus yearly.

Growing Plectranthus as a houseplant

  • Plectranthus grows best in bright light, an average temperature, and medium humidity.
  • It can be grown in a warm place with increased humidity.
  • The soil should be allowed to dry moderately between thorough waterings.
  • Fertilizer should be applied regularly in spring and summer.

Plectranthus common problems

  • Wash the cottony mealybugs off Plectranthus with a strong spray of water or spray with insecticidal soap.
  • Strong sun can cause tan patches on Plectranthus leaves; move the plant out of direct sunlight.

Plectranthus propagation

  • Root new plants from young stem cuttings.
  • Take Plectranthus tip cuttings and root them in all-purpose potting mix to root.

Plectranthus varieties to grow

  • Plectranthus australis. Grows to 2 feet long; shiny, dark green rounded leaves; small flowers are light blue.
  • P. coleoides. Trailing to 3 feet long; furry, heat-shaped gray-green leaves on purple stems; cultivar ‘Marginatus’ has leaves with white edges.
  • P. oertendahlii, candle plant, has dark green, silver-veined leaves are red underneath.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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