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Whether planted outdoors or enjoyed as houseplants, Plectranthus species offer one of the widest arrays of fascinating foliage. They are heavily veined and come in solid colors as well as variegations. Bicolored leaves -- such as green on the top and burgundy on the bottom -- are common. Some species have plump, succulent leaves while the foliage of others is flatter and more hairy -- traits that help them conserve moisture and withstand heat and drought.

Plectranthus are closely related to the Salvia and Coleus genuses. Although their flowers are less spectacular than their leaves, some Plectranthus offer lovely floral displays including blues, lavenders, pinks and whites. Many are fragrant. At Flowers by the Sea, we offer a number of these easy-to-grow plants.

Modern day plant explorer and botanist Ernst van Jaarsveld, author of The Southern African Plectranthus, numbers the genus at about 350 species. Van Jaarsveld says these mint family (Lamiaceae) members are found in Africa, Australia, India and Japan with 53 native to South Africa and the neighboring country of Namibia.

Plectranthus grow well in partial shade with some even thriving in full shade. In the U.S., they are excellent as:

  • Tender garden perennials for USDA Zones 9 to 11
  • Summer annuals in cooler zones
  • Patio plants in beds or containers and
  • Houseplants.

Many Plectranthus seem designed for life in hanging baskets -- indoors or outside -- where they can trail over container edges. At some point (we're not sure exactly when) various species became popular in Scandinavia as houseplants and were commonly called "Swedish Ivy" despite having nothing to do with Ivy (Hedera spp.).

In the 1970s, some types of Plectranthus became popular decorative elements in U.S. restaurants known as "fern bars." A number of species are still referred to as Swedish Ivy. These include P. verticillata (or P. australis), P. oertendahlii and P. strigosus, all of which are native to South Africa. However, Van Jaarsveld only refers to P. oertendahlii as Swedish Ivy.

Use of scientific names is important when shopping for Plectranthus, because some species are tagged with a plethora of common names. For example, we commonly call Plectranthus amboinicus Cuban Oregano. However, it also is known by many other common names in many languages. In English alone, they include: Allherb, Big Thyme, Broadleaf Thyme, Country Borage, French Thyme, Indian Borage, Indian Mint, Mexican Mint, Mexican Thyme, Soup Mint, Three-in-One Herb, Mother of Herbs and Queen of Herbs.

To add to the naming confusion, Plectranthus as a group are commonly called Spurflowers. This is due to the spur, or tubular extension, at the base of P. fruticosus, the first plant identified in the genus. French botanist Charles Louis L'Heritier de Brutelle named the genus and P. fruticosus in 1788. In Latin, plectron means spur and anthos is flower. However, few Plectranthus have spurs, something L'Heritier de Brutelle didn't know.


Inventory Levels to Increase

We're currently growing more of all these favorites and will have plenty available for ordering as the season progresses. Need to plant in May? We'll be ready for you.

  • Plectranthus 'Emerald Mist'

    (Emerald Mist Creeping Charlie) The leaves of this plant have a base color of mottled mid-green, over which lays a silver patterning. The base of the leaves and the petioles are dark purple, as are the furry undersides. This is the smallest Plectranthus we grow, suitable for small pots inside or out.


  • Plectranthus amboinicus 'Nicodemus'

    (Variegated Cuban Oregano) The thick and very fragrant leaves of this spreading plant are marked in at least three shades of green with an irregular white margin. A short trailer, enjoy this plant on a warm day for the spicy, Oregano-like scent of the leaves.


  • Plectranthus amboinicus 'Ochre Flame'

    (Ochre Flame Cuban Oregano) Ochre Flame's lavender-pink blossoms bloom summer to fall. However, it's the fragrant, mild culinary foliage of this Plectranthus that attracts indoor and outdoor gardeners.

  • Plectranthus amboinicus 'Silver Curl'

    (Silver Curl Cuban Oregano) The thick, furry, silvery and very fragrant leaves of this spreading plant are curled and twisted - a charming variation to the common form of this species. This is a seedling from an interspecific cross that regressed - almost - to one of the parents. A short trailer, enjoy this plant where the spicy, Oregano-like scent the leaves give off on a warm day.

  • Plectranthus argentatus 'Silver Mist’

    (Silver Mist Spur Flower) When we first discovered this species, we mistook it for a Salvia. Growing in front of the US Post Office in Mendocino, California, it was glorious and in full flower one September morning. Returning months later for seed, it had gone dormant in the fashion of a herbaceous perennial. It was not until the next year, when we grew out the batch of seedlings from which this superior clone was selected that we positively identified the plant.


  • Plectranthus barbatus var. grandis 'White Rhino'

    (White Rhino Indian Coleus) The largest Plectranthus we grow, both in stature and in leaf size - growing to 3 feet plus tall, with leaves 4 inches long and 3 inches wide. The intricate three-color variegation is enhanced by the golden glow of the new growing leaves. This is a spectacular plant in all ways.

  • Plectranthus caninus 'Fuzzy Wuzzy'

    (Fuzzy Wuzzy Spur Flower) It's difficult to say which is more dramatic, Fuzzy Wuzzy's purple flower spikes that bloom in summer or its handsome foliage. A variegated combination of lime and gray-green, the leaves have white, toothed margins and grow in rosettes.

  • Plectranthus ciliatus 'Troy's Gold'

    (Troy's Gold Spur Flower) An absolutely amazing blend of colors in the leaves of this plant - golden yellow with irregular mid-green blotches on top, velvety purple on the underside. New growth is purplish as are the strong stems, making for a very eye-catching display.

  • Plectranthus coleiodes marginatus tomentosus

    (Fuzzy White Edge Spur Flower) Large growing and sturdy, this beautiful plant is a great choice for a shady corner in summer - or as a container plant anytime. Although the flowers are small and almost insignificant, the white edged, thick deeply wrinkled leaves coupled with a sturdy, upright habit make it a standout in any home or garden. Don't forget the mild minty fragrance when a leaf is bruised or the day is warm!


  • Plectranthus cremnus

    (Geranium Scented Spur Flower) The large, furry leaves of this delightful Australian native are a joy to the eye and the touch. But this is one tough plant, withstanding drought, poor soil, browsing animals and even ocean salt spray. As a small scale ground cover or container plant, you will love the 8 inch spikes or clear sky blue flowers.

  • Plectranthus discolor 'Green and Gold'

    (Green & Gold Creeping Spur Flower) Discolor can refer to variegated foliage. Or it may indicate white flowers without ("dis") color. This Plectranthus , which reportedly blooms in summer, fits both descriptions. It hasn't bloomed for us, but we grow it for the spectacular, succulent foliage.

  • Plectranthus ernstii

    (Bonsai Mint) Swollen stems and succulent leaves mark this rare Plectranthus as being efficient at storing moisture and staving off drought. Its mid-green, oval-to-round leaves are nearly smooth and have attractively serrated edges.


  • Plectranthus forsteri ‘Green on Green’

    (Green on Green Indian Coleus) Lime-green, toothed margins outline the deep green leaves of this showy plant, which is a member of the Plectranthus genus despite its common name.

  • Plectranthus grandidentatus

    (Scented Leaf Spur Flower) As if cut out with pinking sheers, the heart-shaped leaves of this South African plant have large, regular serrations -- or grand dentations as the scientific name implies. They're also pleasingly fuzzy.

  • Plectranthus hilliardiae 'Red Form'

    (Red Spur Flower) Despite its scientific and common names, the tubular flowers of this showy South African relative of the Salvia genus are Mauve mottled with burgundy dots. It blooms from summer into fall and is an excellent companion for shade-loving Salvias.

  • Plectranthus madagascariensis marginatus

    (Variegated Mint Leaf) Minty fragrant with a cascading look and green leaves marked by irregular white margins, this is a dramatic hanging basket plant. At 12 to 18 inches tall, it also makes a fine groundcover in USDA Zones 9 to 11 where it is a tender perennial.

  • Plectranthus neochilus

    (Lobster Flower) This stunning flower, which literally covers the plant for an extended period in the Summer and Fall, is found on ONE TOUGH PLANT. It grows in Southern Africa on the edge of the beach, where it occasionally gets covered with salt water. Heat, drought, sun, shade - this one takes it all. Snails avoid it, deer won't eat it, and it has flowers for us nearly all year. No, it does not iron shirts.

  • Plectranthus parviflorus 'Sapphire Dream'

    (Sapphire Dream Spur Flower) Bright green furry leaves edged in creamy white make this a real standout in any garden. Easier to grow than any other variegated shrubby Plectranthus cultivar: if you have not had success in the past with this type you will be very pleased with Sapphire Dream. The deep violet flowers on large spikes are richly colored and profuse. We are very excited to be offering this unique plant.

  • Plectranthus saccatus 'King Goodwill'

    (King Goodwill Spur Flower) Standing amid a group of mauve-flowered Plectranthus saccatus in the Ngoye Forest of South Africa's northern provinces of KwaZulu Natal, was one white flowered variety. In time, it was named for Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini who helped preserve the forest.

  • Plectranthus zuluensis

    (Zulu Spurflower) Heavily veined, green foliage with burgundy stems forms a sharp contrast with Zulu Spurflower's whorls of pale violet, tubular flowers. The large, oval-shaped leaves of this heat-resistant plant have tooth-like, serrated edges.

Inventory Levels to Increase

We're currently growing more of all these favorites and will have plenty available for ordering as the season progresses. Need to plant in May? We'll be ready for you.

Have questions?
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I bought this one for the Hummingbirds. Was pleasantly surprised plant arrived much larger expected. Healthy green leaves, buds already on it, a little pot bound ( just had to water it often). I fell & hurt my knee, ankle & leg. It has been 3-4 ...
Bonnie Bell
May 4, 2015