This family of 350 diverse foliage plants includes coleus, Swedish ivy, and Cuban oregano. Many species of plectranthus have fragrant foliage, like their close relative the mint family. While some smell pleasant, others have a much more pungent scent when crushed. The blooms of plectranthus are generally not the main attraction in this group, but there are some exceptions.
The many plectranthus hues and the various sizes, shapes, and textures available provide options for gardeners. Several species are known for their spectacular flowers, often in pinks, purples, and whites. Its foliage takes center stage, adding plenty of texture to the garden space.
Plectranthus Care Must-Knows
These fanciful foliage plants are easy to grow and make excellent houseplants or container plants. The flowering types generally bloom outdoors. They begin flowering in the fall and continue until spring. They flower through the short days of the year in winter hardy plant zones. They also bloom in cool summer climates. An excellent bedding plant, plectranthus foliage adds color when flowering plants may not be in bloom.
For best results, plant plectranthus in high-quality, well-drained soil. These plants are similar to a succulent 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.
The species you're growing dictates the amount of sun needed and whether the plant will thrive indoors or outside. While almost all plectranthus can grow in full sun, most will 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 will tend to "green out," with the foliage taking on a green tinge in too much shade. Indoors, most plectranthus will do best in lots of sunlight; a southern exposure yields the brightest color. Others will do well in eastern or western exposures, but only the most shade tolerant will thrive in northern windows.
Many varieties of plectranthus are quick-growing. To keep them looking nice and 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.
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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 1 to 2 sets of leaves above that, and place the stem in moist soil. In a few weeks, roots will sprout. Or, root removed stems in a glass of water, making sure to change the water at least once a week. 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. This is also a good way to start a new plant if you find mealybugs, a common pest of plectranthus. It is much easier to clean up a small cutting from an outbreak of these pesky bugs than a whole plant.