Plectranthus: Not Exactly a Household Word

Plectranthus australis aka Swedish Ivy

I’m always on the lookout for easy plants, ones that can take a fair amount of abuse. Not that I actually abuse plants, but sometimes plants do get lost in the shuffle of the garden, and end up the worse for wear. One plant group that has emerged as being extraordinarily tough is the genus Plectranthus. I know that Plectranthus is not a household word, and that it may sound like some sort of dinosaur, but it is actually a genus of warm-weather plants related to coleus. There are many varieties, some sold as houseplants and others for containers. Why am I so sold on Plectranthus? Well, they are beautiful, tough, drought-resistant plants that can be used in containers in the summer, but are genuinely easy to overwinter. They can take some neglect. And they are easy to propagate, whether in water, soil, or sand.

Plectranthus argentatus. Photo by Peter Halasz, Wikipedia Commons

You may already be familiar with at least one Plectranthus: Swedish Ivy. Swedish Ivy, which is neither Swedish nor an ivy, is an Australian Plectranthus that became popular in Sweden.  There are many other varieties. In the past few years Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’ has been available at many nurseries, and the silvery Plectranthus argentatus is commonly available, as well. With more than 350 varieties available, there are plenty to choose from.

Plectranthus varieties just unpacked.

So I’m getting bitten by the Plectranthus bug, and a few weeks ago I logged on to the Glasshouse Works online catalog at This is an amazing greenhouse with an incredible online catalog. If you are interested in houseplants, ferns, tropical bulbs and herbs, plants from the Amazon, fragrant plants such as jasmine, weird plants, this is your website. I ordered a five-plant Plectranthus assortment, and they just came today, big plants, beautifully packaged. This will be so much fun this winter to grow and tend.

What really makes Plectranthus different from other container plants? Come fall, when you have tossed the other plants away, plants that may have been expensive, you really will be able to overwinter any Plectranthus variety you may have, and propagate more plants for your containers next year, even if you have a “black thumb.” These are easy plants!

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