How to Plant and Grow Plectranthus

Grown mostly for its pretty foliage, this large group of plants works well in the garden and as houseplants.

This family of 350 diverse foliage plants includes coleus, Swedish ivy, and Cuban oregano. Many species of plectranthus have fragrant foliage. While some smell pleasant, others have a pungent scent when crushed. With many plectranthus plants, foliage takes center stage, adding texture to the garden space. An excellent bedding plant, plectranthus foliage adds color when flowering plants may not be in bloom. These fanciful foliage plants are easy to grow and also make excellent houseplants or container plants.

The blooms of plectranthus are not usually the main attraction, but there are some exceptions. Several species are known for their flowers, often in pinks, purples, and whites. They flower in the fall, continue through winter in zones where they are hardy, and bloom until spring. They also bloom in cool summer climates.

Plectranthus Overview

Genus Name Plectranthus
Common Name Plectranthus
Plant Type Annual, Houseplant, Perennial
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 6 to 12 inches
Width 1 to 4 feet
Flower Color Blue, Pink, Purple, White
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Chartreuse/Gold, Purple/Burgundy
Season Features Fall Bloom, Spring Bloom, Winter Bloom
Special Features Fragrance, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 11, 8, 9
Propagation Seed, Stem Cuttings

Where to Plant Plectranthus

These plants are popular houseplants, but they also add foliage and color to outside beds and borders in Zones 8-11, where they grow as perennials.

How and When to Plant Plectranthus

Plectranthus plants can be set out in the garden in spring after the last frost. They grow well in shady or partly sunny areas, although when they are grown in sun, the plants tend to be smaller. Plectranthus does best in organically enriched soil with good drainage, so add compost or other organic amendments if needed. Position the plants in the soil at the same depth they are in the pots and water well.

Plectranthus can also be grown in the garden from seed sown shallowly (1/4 inch) in well-draining soil after the weather warms to 70°F or indoors in pots 6-8 weeks before the last frost of the season.

Plectranthus Care Tips


The species you're growing dictates the amount of sun needed and whether the plant will thrive indoors or outside. While some plectranthus can grow in full sun, most prefer a bit of shade, especially in bright afternoon light. Light foliage varieties, especially gold ones, can sometimes burn in full sun, causing unsightly bleached leaves. Some types can handle quite a bit of shade. However, some bright color varieties tend to "green out," with the foliage taking on a green tinge in too much shade.

Plectranthus grown as houseplants do best in lots of sunlight; a southern exposure yields the brightest color. Others do well in eastern or western exposures, but only the most shade tolerant will thrive in northern windows.

Soil and Water

For best results, plant plectranthus in high-quality, well-drained soil. These plants are similar to succulents and can handle short droughts from time to time. One of the surest ways to kill a plectranthus is with overly wet soil or pots that hold too much water. Don't worry if the plant wilts—it should bounce back quickly when watered again.


For houseplants, from mid spring to fall, fertilize plectranthus with a liquid houseplant fertilizer at half strength. In the garden, an organic top dressing is appreciated, as is a monthly application of 10-20-10 fertilizer during the growing season. For the amount to use, follow product package instructions.


Many varieties of plectranthus are quick-growing. To keep them looking tidy, give them an occasional pruning or pinching. It's best to pinch off a few leaves just up from the base of young plants. This encourages good branching early on and helps create a bushy plant. It's also good to pinch off old flower blooms. This coaxes some of the longer-blooming types to rebloom and gives all of them a tidier look.

Potting and Repotting Plectranthus

Any container is suitable as long as it has drainage holes. Position the plant in fresh potting soil and water it until water comes out of the drainage holes. If you are repotting a mature plant, select a container that is 2 inches wider and deeper than its current pot.

Plectranthus Pests and Problems

Mealybugs are a common pest of plectranthus, along with spider mites and aphids. Treat them with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

How to Propagate Plectranthus

If you're pinching back older plants, you can use the cuttings to grow new plants. At the base of the cutting, trim the stem directly below where the bottom leaf attaches. Remove several sets of leaves above the new cut, leaving one to two sets of leaves above that and place the stem in moist soil. In a few weeks, roots will sprout. As an alternative, root the removed stems in a glass of water, making sure to change the water at least once a week.

Outside the plant's hardiness zones, taking cuttings in the fall is a good way to save plants for next year's garden, or entire plants can be brought indoors. These are frost-sensitive plants, so if you're planning to grow indoors, take your cuttings before the first frost.

Types of Plectranthus

Blue Yonder Plectranthus

plectranthus blue yonder
Dean Schoeppner

Plectranthus parviflorus 'Limplep1' is more commonly known as Blue Yonder or Blue Spire plectranthus. It was selected from a species native to Australia. Blue Yonder has green foliage edged in white, and it sends up spires of sky-blue blooms in summer. The plant grows 14 inches tall (24 inches in bloom) and spreads 24 inches wide.

'Cerveza 'n Lime' Plectranthus

cuban oregano cerveza n lime
Denny Schrock

Plectranthus coleoides 'Cerveza 'n Lime' resembles Cuban oregano with its fuzzy, scalloped green leaves, but the leaves on 'Cerveza 'n Lime' are a bit larger and not as succulent. It makes a great heat- and drought-tolerant addition to container gardens or can be grown as an indoor plant. It grows 18 inches tall and wide.

Cuban Oregano

plectranthus amboinicus cuban oregano
Marty Baldwin

Plectranthus amboinicus has thick, succulent, hairy gray-green leaves. The plant has short internodes, forming a compact mound of fragrant foliage. It makes an easy-care houseplant or a low-maintenance herb. Leaves of Cuban oregano can be substituted for oregano or sage in poultry and meat dishes. It grows 12-18 inches tall and wide.

'Fuzzy Wuzzy' Plectranthus

plectranthus fuzzy wuzzy
Dean Schoeppner

Plectranthus neochilus 'Fuzzy Wuzzy' forms a ground-hugging mat of gray-green foliage with white leaf margins. It grows less than a foot tall and spreads up to 2 feet wide. It is also called lobster flower for the clawlike shape of its blue-purple bloom spikes that rise 3-6 inches above the foliage.

'Emerald Lace' Plectranthus

Plectranthus Emerald Lace
Dean Schoeppner

Plectranthus oertendahlii 'Emerald Lace' is named for the lacy gray-green pattern of markings on its scalloped, rounded foliage. It is a compact selection of silver plectranthus, growing just 6-8 inches tall and 8-12 inches wide. It sends up spikes of white or pale lavender blooms in fall and spring. Grow it as a houseplant or in annual flower combinations outdoors.

'Drege' Plectranthus

Plectranthus Dredge
Dean Schoeppner

Plectranthus ciliatus 'Drege' is sometimes called spur flower for its small pink flowers, which arrive in spring and summer. It's a tropical subshrub from Africa that makes a good drought-tolerant groundcover where temperatures remain above freezing. Its leaves are green on the upper surface and purplish underneath with stiff white hairs.

'Nico' Plectranthus

Plectranthus coleoides Nico
Denny Schrock

Plectranthus coleoides 'Nico' is a vigorous variety with dark green leaves with purple veins and purplish leaf undersides. It has a semi-prostrate growth pattern that makes it useful as a trailing plant in container gardens or as a groundcover in landscape beds. It grows 8-12 inches tall and spreads 12-36 inches wide.

'Mona Lavender' Plectranthus

Plectranthus Mona Lavender
Marty Baldwin

Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender' shows off rich purple leaves topped by spikes of lavender-purple flowers. It grows 28 inches tall and wide. It makes a lovely houseplant.

'Nicoletta' Plectranthus

Plectranthus coleoides Nicoletta
Denny Schrock

Plectranthus coleoides 'Nicoletta' has large, fuzzy, silvery-gray leaves and purplish stems. This semi-trailing plant grows 8-10 inches tall and spreads up to 36 inches wide.

'Green on Green' Plectranthus

Plectranthus Green on Green
Dean Schoeppner

Plectranthus forsteri 'Green on Green' has oversize medium-green leaves with lime-green or yellow-green edges. It grows up to 24 inches tall and wide and rarely blooms.

Swedish Ivy

Swedish ivy Plectranthus
Dean Schoeppner

Plectranthus verticillatus is a common houseplant. It is native to South Africa and Australia, not Sweden, where it was first popularized. This mint relative has a trailing habit, making it an excellent choice for hanging baskets. The glossy green leaves with scalloped edges are borne on stems that reach 12-18 inches tall and trail up to 3 feet long. It used to be classified as Plectranthus australis.

'Ochre Flame' Cuban Oregano

Plectranthus amboinicus Ochre Flame
Dean Schoeppner

Plectranthus amboinicus 'Ochre Flame' is a highly ornamental form of Cuban oregano. Each avocado-green leaf is splashed with an irregular central patch of pale lime. The leaves are both scalloped and wavy at their margins. In winter, the plant bears lavender-pink blooms. It grows 12 inches tall and wide.

Plectranthus Argentatus

Plectranthus argentatus
Marty Baldwin

Plectranthus argentatus displays hairy, silvery leaves and is easy to grow indoors or out. It grows 3 feet tall and wide.

'Silver Shield' Plectranthus

Silver Shield plectranthus
Dean Schoeppner

Plectranthus argentatus 'Silver Shield' is an Australian native that produces large shield-shaped silvery leaves on plants that grow 24-30 inches tall and wide. It bears pale blue to white flowers in summer. Since they're not particularly showy, pinch the flowers back or deadhead them to show off the foliage, which is the main attraction of this plant.

Variegated Swedish Ivy

Plectranthus coleoides Variegata
Denny Schrock

Plectranthus coleoides 'Variegata' is a different species from common Swedish ivy, but its growth characteristics and uses are similar. This trailing plant has scalloped leaves with white margins. The plant cascades nicely from container gardens or hanging baskets. It grows 6-12 inches tall and trails 24-26 inches.

'Troy's Gold' Plectranthus

red coleus and plectranthus
Jeff McNamara

Plectranthus ciliatus 'Troy's Gold' offers golden foliage variegated with purple and green. It grows 12 inches tall and 24 inches wide. It can be grown as a houseplant in a sunny window.

Silver Plectranthus

Silver plectranthus
Marty Baldwin

Plectranthus oertendahlii is a spreading plant that grows just 8 inches tall but can spread up to 3 feet wide. This growth habit makes it an excellent choice for hanging baskets or as a groundcover. It's sometimes called prostrate coleus, silver Swedish ivy, or candle plant.

Variegated Plectranthus

Marty Baldwin
Plectranthus forsteri Marginatus

Plectranthus forsteri 'Marginatus' offers large hairy leaves edged in white. It grows 18 inches tall and 36 inches wide. It can be grown as a houseplant.

Vick's Plant

vicks plant Plectranthus
Dean Schoeppner

Plectranthus tomentosa is also called mentholatum plant because of the aroma it gives off when brushed. It has fuzzy gray-green leaves and bears lavender-purple flowers. It can grow up to 30 inches tall and 24 inches wide, sometimes becoming woody at the base of its stems.

Plectranthus Companion Plants


merlin blue morn petunia
Peter Krumhardt

Petunias are failproof favorites for gardeners everywhere. They're vigorous growers and prolific bloomers from mid spring through late fall. Color choices are nearly limitless, with some sporting beautiful veining and intriguing hues. Many varieties are sweetly fragrant (sniff blooms in the garden center to be sure.) Some also tout themselves as "weatherproof," meaning the flowers don't close up when water splashes them. Wave petunias have made this plant even more popular. Reaching 4 feet long, it's excellent as a groundcover or when cascading from window boxes and pots. All petunias do best and grow more bushy and full if you pinch or cut them back by one- to two-thirds in midsummer.


Shocking Pink coleus
Marty Baldwin

Shade-loving coleus with blended leaf color provides vivid color and wild markings even in the darkest corners of your yard. The mottled colors often change in intensity depending on the amount of sunlight and heat. These varieties are easy to grow—just plant them in a shady but warm spot; give them enough water to keep the soil moist but not wet, and add a little fertilizer. When frost threatens, pot them up and enjoy them as houseplants in a sunny window until spring. Then plant them outdoors once again!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do plectranthus attract birds?

    When grown outdoors, plectranthus plants attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. These pollinators are usually active in late summer into winter, the time that coincides with the blooming periods of many of the plectranthus species.

  • How tall do plectranthus plants grow?

    In the garden, most plectranthus plants grow from 12 to 28 inches tall. Only a few grow to 36 inches. Indoors, the plants typically remain somewhat shorter. Gardeners are encouraged to pinch the tips off the plants (indoors or out) in early spring to encourage branching.

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