Swedish Ivy Plant Care: How To Grow Plectranthus Australis

The Swedish Ivy plant – Plectranthus australis (plek-TRAN-thus aw-STRAL-iss) is one of our most common house plants and popular hanging basket plants. It is one of the easiest to grow and eventually form a dense green ball of foliage.

The luxuriant scalloped edges of the leaves of Swedish ivy plants grow densely along the stems to form a large green ball.

swedish ivy plant the variegated form

The Swedish Ivy Plectranthus australis was first grown as a houseplant in Sweden. Swedish Ivy is not an ivy and not from Sweden.

It belongs to the family Lamiaceae and a member of the Plectranthus genus. This is a large group in the mint family found mostly in Africa and Australia.

You will find Swedish Ivy referred to by other names such as:

  • Creeping Charlie houseplant
  • Swedish begonia
  • Whorled plectranthus

The name Plectranthus comes from the Greek and can loosely be translated to spurred flowers. Australis alludes to the origins of the plant, from South Australia.

Swedish Ivy Care

Water Swedish ivy plants completely, allow soil to dry before watering again. Use a complete liquid houseplant fertilizer. Feed every two weeks during the spring and summer growing season. Feed once a month during fall and winter. Pinch tips to keep the plant full and from becoming too leggy. Repot Swedish ivy every two or three years.

Size & Growth

The trailing stems of Swedish ivy grow between 18” to 24” inches or more. The 1″ inch wide round, fleshy leaves have scalloped edges.  

Two other varieties grown are:

  • Plectranthus oertendahlii, the Candle Plant, featuring rounded, hairy, bronzy green leaves with silvery veins.
  • Plectranthus coleoides ‘Marginatus’ (aka variegated Swedish Ivy) with pointed, oval, toothed green leaves and irregular white margins. Coleoides very much resembles its cousin the Coleus.
  • Plectranthus purpuratus – a species of purple ivy plants

Flowering and Fragrance

The flowers bloom once per season in spring or summer. They present in white or pale purple. You will also find there are various accents of colors adding character to the plants. They can be described as whorled and tubular.

Many species have aromatic foliage, as is typical for the mint family.

Light & Temperature

For the best performance, this plant should be kept in bright indirect light. When the plants are exposed to full sunlight the growth of the plants tends to be upward. It reduces their capacity to spread sideways. 

Swedish Ivy plants should not be exposed to temperature below a range of 50° to 55° degrees Fahrenheit. 

They do not fare particularly well in frosty conditions. A normal household room temperature is ideal.

Watering and Feeding

The plant should be watered thoroughly. Allow the soil to dry slightly before you water plants again. This is a plant that is resistant to drought and generally dry soil. 

During the growing season, feed Swedish ivy a balanced liquid fertilizer diet 1-2 times per month. Stop feeding and reduce water during winter. 

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Soil & Transplanting

When planting Swedish Ivy plants can use all-purpose, potting soil mix. Moderately fertile well-drained soil will suffice. 

Add perlite to the mix to facilitate drainage. 

The roots are quite easy to separate. This makes it much easier to transplant. 

Annual repotting is not required, but root-bound plants can be repotted as needed at any time of the year. It is recommended to repot every two or three years.

Grooming and Maintenance

Although Swedish ivy is an easy plant to care for, it derives great benefit from being pruned. This encourages the growth of new branches. 

If you are hoping to propagate from cuttings, your plant to provide you with lots of cuttings. 

It will also grow a bushier looking plant, which is better for hanging baskets or table decorating plants. 

Depending on the shape that you have in mind when growing this plant. It may be worth regularly trimming new shots as they sprout. 

This will help you control the plant’s growth and retain its shape. 

How To Propagate Swedish Ivy

Propagation of Swedish ivy can be done through various methods. You can use cuttings, rooted branches, seeds or by placing roots in water. 

When propagating from seeds the best temperature to do it would be between 66° – 75° degrees Fahrenheit. This can only be done after the plants have ripened to produce the seeds.

Propagating from seeds requires that they are covered lightly with soil. The seeds will take up to two weeks to germinate. Once they have germinated, keep the plants indoors to grow before they can be placed outside. 

Propagating From Cuttings

  • Propagate from cuttings at any time of the year. The best time to take a softwood cutting is in spring or the summer. 
  • Take 2″-3″ tips cuttings from fresh, young branches and cut just below a node.
  • Remove the lowest leaves. These will give the best good results as they develop roots quicker than older branches. 
  • Cuttings are to be watered frequently.
  • Cuttings root quickly in a glass of water or place them directly in a pot of moistened potting mix.
  • Stand the pot in bright filtered light
  • Keep the potting mix moist.
  • Plant 3 or more rooted cuttings in a 6″ – 8″ inch pot for a full bushy plant.

Swedish Ivy Pest or Disease Problems

Plants Droop and the Foliage Begins to Turn Yellow and Drop

This indicates that the potting mix is too dry. Plectranthus is a thirsty plant requiring frequent watering. Plants growing outdoors often need watering daily in the summer.

Stems Become Soft and Rot at the Base If the Soil Is Too Wet

This condition occurs more often in cooler conditions. Plants should be watered less during winter. Remove or cut away the infected stems. Allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings.

Leaves Become Pale When Plants Are in Too Much Sun

Shade from the midday sun in the summer.

Spider Mites Appear in Dry, Warm Conditions

Misting helps keep the spider mites away. If they appear, wash them away with warm water.

Spray with Neem oil natural insecticide if the infestation gets worse. More on homemade spider mite killer. Make sure to spray the undersides of the leaves.

Mealybugs Appear Along Stems and in Leaf Axils

For mealybug control – remove the affected leaves and stems (they return quickly) or spray with a Neem oil pesticide.

Carefully inspect the plants’ foliage, roots and stems to find any obvious issues or pests. 

Suggested Uses For Swedish Ivy

The most common use is growing as a hanging basket or as pedestal plants. They hang elegantly from the basket. This is the same reason you will often find them planted on the edge of a container garden. 

Other uses include taking advantage of the sideway spreading growth. This makes it ideal for use as ground cover.

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