Plectranthus oertendahlii is grown as a houseplant and also known as Emerald Green Swedish Ivy, Swedish Mosaic Ivy or the Candle Plant.
Plectranthus [plek-TRAHN-thuss] is both the genus and common name of an extensive group of plants which are closely related to mint, coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides) and salvia (Sage).
Because of the plant’s kinship to coleus, its colorful leaves and rambling growth habits, Plectranthus oertendahlii is sometimes called Prostrate Coleus.
You may also hear it referred to as the Candle Plant because the bright white flowers against the dark backdrop of the leaves look a bit like lit candles.
Where Did The Name “Plectranthus” Come From?
The genus name is derived from the Greek words, plectron (spur) and anthos (flower). The name describes the spur-shaped flowers that are typical of members of this genus.
The entire Plectranthus genus is quite adaptable for a number of yard, garden, outdoor container and in home uses.
Because these plants are so very attractive and easy to grow, they are a great choice for beginning gardeners.
In this article, we focus on Plectranthus oertendahlii. We also share general information about the genus Plectranthus. Read on to learn more.
Plectranthus Oertendahlii The Details
Plectranthus oertendahlii is one of the prettiest species. It hails from South Africa where it grows with wild abandon on forest floors. It tolerates low water conditions and acts as a living mulch to help hold moisture into the soil.
These qualities make the plant well suited for a warm, sheltered, semi-dry indoor setting.
As a member of the mint family, this plant has squarish stems that root easily. The abundant leaves are rounded and a bit hairy. They are marked with pale patterns set against a darker background. Young leaves are entirely green, but as they grow larger and mature, silvery veins and a dark red underside develop.
The plant produces bright, white flowers on erect stalks. Because this is a creeping plant, it makes a good choice for hanging baskets, or pots set high on a pedestal. In warm climates, it makes a great ground cover.
Plectranthus Oertendahlii Care Requirements
Soil: As a houseplant, Plectranthus does well with standard, commercial potting soil. Grown outdoors, a light, well-drained soil is ideal.
Growth Habit: This species of Plectranthus is a creeping plant.
Growth Rate & Size:Plectranthus oertendahlii does not grow to be very tall (6-8″), but it does tend to have a long reach. The stems may creep or hang 1-3‘ or more.
Light & Temperature: Houseplants are generally happy at normal room temperature, for most of the year.
It is best to move them to a cooler setting (50°-60° degrees Fahrenheit) during the winter months.
Placement near a south facing window during the winter can provide ample light along with the cooler temperature that is typical near windows.
Watering & Feeding: Water deeply and then allow the plant to dry before watering again. Reduce watering in the wintertime. Feed the plant regularly throughout the spring and summer months.
Soil & Transplanting: Use standard potting soil for houseplants. Amend soil for outdoor plants to provide ample drainage. Transplant/repot early in the springtime, just ahead of the growing season.
Bloom Time: When kept outdoors, the plant will bloom from mid-summer to late October. When kept as a houseplant, it blooms from November through December.
Flowers: Blossoms are white and slightly fragrant. They are attractive to pollinators.
Features: Many different types of solitary bees, butterflies, day-flying hawk moths and beneficial flies are very attracted to Plectranthus flowers.
Even so, when used in an outdoor setting this genus is deer resistant.
Plant Type: This is a perennial plant, but it tends to get ragged from year-to-year. Replacing or refreshing plants with young cuttings is a good idea.
Uses: In a very mild climate, Plectranthus can do well as a ground cover, bedding, border or specimen plant.
On patios and porches or indoors it does well as a hanging plant or container plant or placed on a high pedestal, as long as it has plenty of room to dangle and ramble.
Grooming and Maintenance: When your plant has finished flowering, pinch the stems back leaving just a couple of pairs of leaves.
If you prefer a more bushy growth habit, pinch off the shoots’ tips regularly, early in the growing season.
USDA Hardiness Zones: 10 – 11
Environment/Culture: One of the best ways to keep this plant as a houseplant is to set it up as a hanging basket in an east, west or north facing window.
It should get plenty of bright light, but be sure to protect it from harsh, direct sunlight.
The video below shares advice on caring for Plectranthus australis (aka: Creeping Charlie or Swedish Ivy) a close cousin of Plectranthus oertendahlii. Care for these (and for most of Plectranthus species) is quite similar.
How Do You Propagate Plectranthus?
When pinching the plant back after its bloom cycle, use the “piched” pieces to start brand new plants.
Remove leaves from the bottom couple of inches of stem and place the cuttings in a vase of water. Replace the water every couple of days to prevent stagnation and mold.
You can also root cuttings in damp, sandy soil.
When the cuttings grow a good set of roots, repot the plants to a container of standard well-draining potting soil. These happy plants root easily from cuttings and grow very fast.
It’s important to choose a pot that’s big enough and a setting that provides ample room for rapid growth.
Keep the soil slightly moist until your plants are well-established, then reduce watering. Water deeply when the soil begins to feel dry.
Don’t fertilize until the cuttings begin to show new growth. Use a standard, general purpose, water soluble houseplant fertilizer. Follow packaging instructions.
Emerald Green Swedish Ivy Pests & Problems
Common Houseplant Pests
For the most part, these plants are pest resistant. Aphids may be a problem for young shoots.
Indoor plants are naturally susceptible to any common houseplant pest that may be present on other plants. These may include red spider mites, scale insects and whiteflies.
As with all plants, overwatering can lead to problems with root rot, stem rot and leaf spots.
Too much direct sunlight will scorch your plants’ leaves, and if the plant is kept in a hot, dry atmosphere, the leaves will wither and turn brown.
Remember that these plants like temperatures ranging from 50°-80° degrees Fahrenheit. During the spring and summer, protect the plants from very high temperatures. During the winter months, indoor plants should be kept between 50°-60° degrees Fahrenheit.
Use of a humidifier can keep the air in your home comfortable for all your plants and you! Regular misting is a good idea.
For a plant set on a pedestal or other surface, you could set up an evaporation tray with a layer of pebbles.
Pour in just enough water to cover the pebbles and set the plant on top of the damp stones.
As the water evaporates, the humidity will rise around the plant. Be careful not to let the water touch the bottom of the soil, though. Soggy soil will cause root rot.
Buying Tips For Emerald Green Swedish Ivy
Because Plectranthus oertendahlii has been kept as a houseplant for centuries, you may actually have a hard time finding it for sale in shops.
If you have friends who keep houseplants, or if you belong to a local garden club, you will surely be able to locate cuttings easily.
These plants grow very readily from cuttings. In fact, they propagate so easily and are so adaptable that you need to be a bit careful about planting them if you live in a very mild climate.
It is easy for them to become invasive when circumstances are just right.
Avoid purchasing Plectranthus species identified as invasive, and be aware that it doesn’t take much for enthusiastic, highly adaptable plants to become invasive.
One African species (Plectranthus ciliatus E.Mey. ex Benth.) is currently listed as invasive in New Zealand. An Ethiopian species (Plectranthus comosus Sims) is considered invasive in South Africa.
How Many Species Plectranthus Are There?
The Plectranthus genus consists of around 350 different species of semi-succulents, perennials, evergreens, annuals and shrubs, which come from many locations around the world, including:
- Pacific Islands
Most types of Plectranthus are easy to grow from cuttings and take very little care and maintenance. Several species of Plectranthus have been popular as houseplants throughout Europe form many decades.
Many species do very well as container, potted and hanging plants. Of these, Plectranthus oertendahlii has been kept as a houseplant in Sweden for more than a century.
In its native South Africa, Plectranthus is a popular landscaping plant. Larger species can be used as shrubs and hedges.
Low-growing, rambling varieties do well as ground covers, and still, other small species are nice additions to succulent and rock gardens.
Does Plectranthus Have Any Medicinal Uses?
Medicinal use accounts for fully 85% of the use of Plectranthus in South Africa. Many species have been used in traditional medicine for centuries. Today, some are being developed for use in modern medicine.
Most members of the Plectranthus genus are grown for their interesting leaves, which are typically large, succulent and toothed. The stems are thick and branching and may grow three feet long or more.
Flowers are a secondary calling card for most species of Plectranthus, but there are some newer cultivars that produce very showy blossoms.
All species of Plectranthus are lovely, useful and very cold sensitive. They grow abundantly and enthusiastically in their native tropical settings and in USDA zones 10-11.
In cooler settings, they can do very well outdoors during the warm months of the year but must be brought in when the temperature drops below 50° degrees Fahrenheit.
In the garden, these plants do best in amended, well-drained soil that allows for the growth of a healthy and spreading root system.
If the soil does not provide good drainage, root rot will set in quickly and the plant will fail.
They should be fertilized regularly throughout the growing season using a complete, all-purpose, water-soluble mix.
Most Plectranthus prefer to be in a protected area that does not get direct sunlight all day long.
While it is possible to grow some species of Plectranthus in full sun, plants exhibit a healthier growth habit and brighter colors in partial shade.
Enjoy Easy-Breezy Plectranthus!
This pretty, vigorous, adaptable, shade and drought tolerant flowering plant has a lot to recommend it as a garden addition in warm, water-challenged climates.
If you have several different species of Plectranthus, you may find yourself effortlessly developing hybrids.
When several plants of this species are planted near one another outdoors and share a pollinator, hybridization is only natural.
The many new, interesting cultivars with their unusual leaf coloration and large, showy flowers are usually hybrids.
In addition to impressively good looks, another advantage of hybridization is that the plants tend to be sterile, so won’t be as likely to become invasive in a conducive setting.
No matter which type of Plectranthus you choose, this is a very easy houseplant to grow. Most species do well in relatively low light. They can be kept as outdoor plants in temperate climates or as houseplants year round.
When grown outdoors, Plectranthus provides attractive leaves and pretty blossoms throughout the spring and summer and into the fall.
When kept as a houseplant, they provide a burst of colorful blossoms in the late fall and early winter months.
Information pertaining to pollinators, Plectranthus hybridization, invasive species status and uses in South Africa is from the South African Journal of Botany, Volume 7, Issue 4, Oct. 2011, Pages 947-959