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Plectranthus Pleases Foliage Lovers

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Plectranthus forsteriGreen on Green Robert E. Lyons ©

Plectranthus forsteri
Green on Green
Robert E. Lyons ©

The genus Plectranthus is a member of the mint family and commonly grown for its interesting foliage. (The common name is also plectranthus.) These plants have large, succulent, toothed leaves on thick, branching stems and frequently reach 3 feet or more in length. Flowers may not be their strongest ornamental feature but some newer cultivars like ‘Mona Lavender’ can have striking floral displays. Plectranthus is an adaptable and variable genus grown for use as tender perennials in hanging baskets or houseplants. Some species, such as Swedish ivy, are grown specifically for container gardens. Plectranthus is closely related to coleus and salvias.

Plectranthus species are beautiful plants that are very frost sensitive and must either be brought indoors for winter or have cuttings taken for rooting. Plectranthus are very adaptable for garden use. They perform best in well-drained and amended soils where they can establish good root systems, especially if fertilized periodically with a complete, water-soluble product. Poorly drained soils will quickly lead to root rot and overall plant decline. To promote bushy growth, pinch the tips of the shoots occasionally during the early part of the growing season. Plectranthus seem to perform best in protected areas that do not receive direct sun all day. Although they can grow in full sun, their foliage color and plant habit will be at their best with some shade.

Plectranthus ciliatus Robert E. Lyons ©

Plectranthus ciliatus
Robert E. Lyons ©

The majority of Plectranthus species are easy to propagate from cuttings. Take cuttings in the early fall and root small plants to overwinter indoors. Pest problems for Plectranthus are rarely found but can include whiteflies, aphids and red spider mites during summer months. Diseases include leaf spots, stem rots and root rots.

Plectranthus species are becoming more popular as landscape plants and the JC Raulston Arboretum often has some of the best of the new as well as the more familiar in their gardens. These are generally found in the Entry Bed along Beryl Road.

Diane Ashburn