Plectranthus is an old world genus with around 350 species that primarily live in the southern hemisphere’s warm tropical and subtropical regions. Its distribution stretches from Sub-Saharan Africa to Australia and several Pacific islands through Madagascar, India, and the Indonesian archipelago.
Plectranthus is the most prominent genus in the mint and sage family (Lamiaceae) in South Africa, with 44 species native to the nation, the majority of which are found in the eastern side of the country.
Some Plectranthus varieties make excellent pot plants that can be moved around as needed and can quickly fill a 25cm container.
Charles Louis L’Héritier de Brutelle, a French judge and keen botanist, was the first to define the genus Plectranthus in 1788, using Plectranthus fruticosus as the type species. On a combined plant collecting excursion to the Cape with Carl Thunberg in 1774, Scottish botanist Francis Masson, a devoted plant hunter for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, had gathered seed from the wild and delivered it to William Aiton.
The latter grew the seedlings in the glasshouses at Kew. When L’Héritier viewed the plants, he realized they belonged to a new genus, Plectranthus. Plectron refers to a spur, while anthos refers to a flower. However, he may have been a little hasty since he later discovered that his new species is the only member of the genus with a spur.
Some of the showiest garden plants in the genus are found in South Africa, giving a mass display of color in late summer and fall. Pink, lavender, and white are among the color options, with numerous hues in between. There are two kinds of yellow blooms. However, they are not suitable for gardens, and their blossoms are too tiny to be appealing.
Is Plectranthus a fragrant plant?
Yes. Plectranthus is known for its fragrant leaves, which release a wide range of scents when crushed or brushed against, and the genus itself has a wide range of smells. Plectranthus blooms generate a lot of nectar, attracting many insects that transmit pollen from blossom to flower.
Plectranthus is a simple to grow plant that requires little extra care or attention. They like well-composted soils and prefer to grow in semi-shade or cool, south-facing locations. They’re perfect for growing under the shadow of a tree.
They have shallow roots and get plenty of water, yet they store water in their stems and can withstand extended periods of drought. Plectranthus come in various growth patterns, from thick prostrate ground covers to sub-shrubs and huge shrubs, and are typically planted for their beautiful leaves, blooms, or both.
How to care for the Plectranthus plant?
Even though they are frost susceptible, Plectranthus are generally cultivated in shaded, sheltered areas and so have some frost protection. Frost does not affect flowering since they all flower towards the conclusion of the growing season.
If the plants are frost-damaged, they can be trimmed down at the end of the winter and will quickly recover. After a year or more of establishment, the plants grow woodier at the base and more resistant to frost damage.
Most shrubby species will produce healthier, more dense, and beautiful shrubs if they are trimmed down to 1/3 to 1/4 of their original height at the end of the winter before new growth begins for the summer.
After pruning, the best time to cover the soil with a thick layer of compost or organic mulch and apply a balanced fertilizer like 2:3:2 is right thereafter. Except for occasional clearing up of old-growth and flower spikes, ground cover plants seldom require pruning.
The foliage of the ground cover species is frequently highly appealing, and they produce dense, attractive carpets that are 150mm to 450mm thick and bloom in the autumn. They easily root at the nodes wherever they contact the ground and produce dense mats in a short period.
Shrubby species range in height from 50cm to 2m and can be planted in groups or as solitary plants. Most species like to be in the shade, although a few can tolerate full light.
How to Propagate Plectranthus Perennials?
Plectranthus are extremely easy to propagate and may be easily grown with minimal additional treatment. During the early summer and spring, the majority of propagation is done via cuttings. Although the cuttings may be propagated at any time of year, they will have a long summer ahead of them if they are replicated now.
Soft-wood or semi-hardwood cuttings are also acceptable, although tip cuttings are typically the best.
At least two nodes should be preserved in the cuttings, and the leaves from the bottom portion should be removed. Rooting hormone is seldom required and has been known to induce rot in cuttings. The cuttings should be put one-third of their length into clean, double-washed river sand and stored in a warm, shaded location.
Some of the most demanded varietis and cultivars:
1. Plectranthus fruticosus is a kind of Plectranthus (Common name: blue spurflower)
The stunning new cultivar, P. fruticosus’ Liana,‘ is distinguished by its rich blue-mauve flower color and by the fact that it blooms a few weeks later than the other cultivated varieties of this species. Its semi-woody, well-branched perennial growth habit produces a tidy, thick, spherical shrub that grows to a height of 1 – 1.5 meters.
The inflorescence is a branching panicle that emerges from the ends of the branches and the axils of the highest pair of leaves, each panicle reaching up to 300 mm in length and holding around 600 blooms, with six flowers at each node.
The green calyx at the base of the flower is 8 mm long during blossoming and enlarges to 12 mm after the flower has dropped, and it fades to purple near the mouth.
This cultivar’s growing needs are particularly unique in that it develops most strongly when exposed to a lot of direct sunlight. It will grow happily in the shade, but the pace of growth will be considerably slower, and the blooms will be paler.
Under the wild, the plant will live for around 5 years, although this may be extended in cultivation by trimming on a regular basis.
2. Plectranthus ecklonii (Common name: large spurflower)
Plectranthus ecklonii is a soft, erect, fast-growing shrub that may reach a height of 3 meters. The square stems have tufts of purple hairs at the nodes, and the leaves are placed in opposing pairs on them. The ovate to elliptical leaves are enormous, ranging from 75 to 190 x 35 to 115 mm, with a wedge-shaped base and a sharp apex.
In the garden, P. ecklonii is a popular and beautiful garden topic. The blue, white, and pink varieties are particularly attractive when planted in large numbers. It’s ideal for cultivating P. ecklonii in partial shade.
It’s not a hardy plant and is best for gardens that don’t get too much frost. It may be cultivated as a container house plant inside in colder areas. P. ecklonii is a fast-growing pioneer shrub that thrives in shaded environments.
The first season after planting, it will bloom profusely—plant at a distance of 60 cm. Midwinter is a good time to prune back aggressively after flowering.
Three cultivars are available: ‘Medley-Wood,’ a typical garden cultivar with blue blooms; ‘Tommy,’ a white flower cultivar; and ‘Erma,’ a pink flower cultivar.
3. Plectranthus verticillatus is a species of Plectranthus (Common names: gossip spurflower, money plant)
Plectranthus verticillatus is a semi-succulent perennial ground cover endemic to Southeast Africa’s woodlands and forest edges. It’s been a favorite garden topic in many areas of the world for a long time, thanks to its beautiful leaves and delicate white to pale mauve blooms.
The popular “Swedish Ivy” pot and basket hanging plectranthus is P. oertendahlii from the wooded coastal river gorges of KwaZulu-Natal, not P. verticillatus, as it is frequently described in the United States. Variegated leaves with silvery patterns distinguish the latter.
Flowers in white, pale mauve or pale pink emerge irregularly in gardens throughout the year, but most abundantly in spring and late fall.
In warmer climates, P. verticillatus is a popular nursery plant. ‘Barberton,’ ‘Blyde,’ ‘Eureka,’ ‘Freckles,’ ‘Gossip,’ ‘Malelaan,’ ‘Money Maker,’ ‘Pink Surprise,’ and ‘Ubombo’ are only a few of the commercial cultivars created here and elsewhere, including numerous variegated varieties.
4. Plectranthus’ Mona Lavender is a kind of Plectranthus (Common names spurflower, Mona Lavender)
Plectranthus’ Mona Lavender‘ is a fast-growing hybrid, herbaceous, perennial shrub that grows to a height of 75 cm and forms a beautiful, rounded, thick bush.
It features dark green, glossy leaves with purple undersides, and lavender flower sprays with purple patterns.
It blossoms infrequently but thrives in less daylight, which begins in October but can be extended until early June, depending on how old the plant is and how far it has been cut back.
Any gardener will enjoy growing ‘Mona Lavender because it is relatively versatile and trouble-free. It thrives in both shady and partially sunny environments. It tends to stay smaller and more compact in the light, and the leaves have a much more vivid coloration, particularly on the purple undersides of the leaf.
Pinching back the plants encourages more significant branching and compactness. They’re a great bedding plant that looks excellent in mass planting or as individual plants in an existing bedding arrangement. They also make excellent pot plants that can be moved around as needed and quickly fill a 25cm container.
How to fertilize Plectranthus?
They also love feeding, which may be done at any time but should not be done before or during blossoming. A basic all-purpose 2-3-2 fertilizer as a granular or liquid feed can be used, but be sure to water it well since it is easy to burn the delicate roots or use a fully organic fertilizer to avoid this.
One of the few drawbacks of ‘Mona Lavender is that it, like other Plectranthus, can not endure extreme cold, but it has been reported to withstand minor frosts.
Plant it in the spring if you live in a region prone to winter frosts, and it will blossom in the autumn before the winter frosts take their toll. It may be planted at any time of year in areas that do not get strong frosts.
5. Plectranthus zuluensis is a kind of Plectranthus (Common name: Zulu spurflower)
Plectranthus zuluensis is a beautiful, gently erect shrub with velvet textured leaves and stunning dark purple blooms, making it a winner for shady places in rainy summer gardens.
P. zuluensis is a soft shrub that grows up to 2 meters tall and has many branching, four-angled, hairy stems that are velvety to the touch when young. The soft, semi-succulent leaves are oval in shape, with coarsely serrated edges and small, colorless glands covering them.
The plant is abundant along stream banks and deep river gorges in humus-rich soil and shady or semi-shady regions on the edges of semi-coastal, subtropical woods in its native habitat. It’s ideal for gardening in warm, frost-free climates.