Beginner's questions about Swedish Ivy and other Plectranthus

greenthumbfaerieAugust 7, 2011

Hello everyone! :) I'm new to the forum (and still pretty new to house plants), and I have a few questions on some plants that I've collected over the past couple of years. I'll give you some history on the plants I have now to give you an idea of what I'm dealing with...

In the fall of 2009 a friend gave me a Swedish Ivy. Since I've found that there are several varieties of Plectranthus that are commonly mislabeled as Swedish Ivy, I should clarify that this one is Plectranthus Verticillatus. My friend's mom had it for a couple years before it was given to me, and had left it out on her porch all summer in the dry Arizona heat. Needless to say, it was NOT a happy camper when it came to me.

For the first year I had it I had no idea what it was or how to care for it. Luckily, Swedish Ivy is a sturdy little plant, and seemed happy enough with just being indoors and being watered once or twice a week until I could figure out exactly what it was.

I make my own fertilizer "smoothies" for all of my house plants about once a month during the spring-summer months, and the Swedish Ivy particularly seemed to like it. By the next summer it was overflowing out of its pot and onto the table it was sitting on! :)

Early this spring I noticed that the stems were getting woody and the older growth was turning yellowish, so I cut it back to a few inches from the soil and repotted it. I put a handful of the cuttings in water, which started getting roots within a week or two. I was worried that I might have killed the mother plant, but about a week later I was pleasantly surprised to find little clusters of green leaves sprouting from the stems! :)

Now all of the cuttings are in pots and seem to be happy and healthy! They're all about 6 inches tall, with nice shiny dark green leaves. The growing tips aren't growing much, but the leaves and stems are getting bigger, and tiny new sprouts are growing from the leaf bases on the bottom set of leaves. Now my question for the cuttings is, should I pinch off the growing tips now so that they'll fill out a bit, or is it too soon?

The mother plant has doubled (almost tripled) its leaf volume and size since I cut it back, and has a few long, leafy stems trailing down the side of the pot. I fertilize about once a month, water whenever the top 2 inches feel dry and pinch off the growing tips whenever it starts to look leggy. Is there anything else I should be doing? Am I doing too much? :P

Also, I rescued what appears to be a very sad-looking Plectranthus Ciliatus (Zulu Wonder, maybe?) that was mislabeled as a "creeping charlie" from Home Depot several weeks ago. When I bought it the leaves looked pale, dull and droopy, and the soil was downright soggy. I repotted it, fertilized it, pruned off the dead and dying stuff and then just watched it for a few weeks to see what it would do...but it hasn't improved much, and maybe even looks a little worse. :/ I have several cuttings from this plant, most of which already look much better than the mother plant. They are rooting pretty well in water, and will be potted up pretty soon.

Today I took the mother plant out of the pot to look at the roots, just on a hunch. Now, I don't know what root rot looks like, but judging by the way the roots look I'm pretty sure that's what the problem is. The bottom of the roots were black and dead, so I (very carefully) removed the soil from the root ball, removed all the dead and dying roots, dipped what live roots were left in rooting hormone powder, thoroughly rinsed the pot that I had it in, mixed a little rooting hormone in some new soil, put the new soil and the plant back in the pot and watered it with a solution of 5 drops of SuperThrive in a 1/2 gallon watering can. Is there anything I can do to save this plant? Or should I just take cuttings from the healthier parts and toss the rest of the plant?

Thanks in advance for your responses, and sorry if this is long-winded. "New mom" syndrome, I guess! :P

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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)


Sounds like you've done everything possible & more. I'd suggest leaving it alone for a 2 wks. to a month (just water it) & give it time to recover, then you can re-assess. Good luck w/ it.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 9:31AM
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Thank you for your response pirate girl, I will do just that! :) Any suggestions for the other plants?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 2:56PM
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wiccadgardener(z8 CA)

Sounds like you're doing a great job!
Now, about your fertilizer "smoothie" recipes, share?:)

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 4:01PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

When pinching plants to maximize foliage density and/or promote lots of branches, it's a pretty safe bet that if you allow the branches or vines to extend to 4 or more leaves before cutting the branch back to 2 leaves, there is little chance of die-back. New branches should grow from both remaining leaf axils, doubling the number of branches with each pinching operation.

You need to be careful with rooting hormone. There are several synthetic forms of auxin (rooting hormones are synthetic forms of this hormone/growth regulator) that act as defoliants if used excessively. The infamous agent orange defoliant used during the Viet Nam war was simply synthetic auxin. The broad leaf herbicides like Weed-b-gone are also man-made forms of auxin. A 30 second dip in a 10% solution of unscented household bleach or a 10% solution of 3% hydrogen peroxide, or a dusting with powdered sulfur would have been an excellent way to combat the fungaluglies that cause root rot. Bare-rooting and repotting (hopefully into a fast draining and durable soil) was a good thing.


    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 6:19PM
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Wicca, here's the recipe for the fertilizer smoothie:

You will need:
A blender
1 whole raw egg w/ crushed eggshell (if you're not comfortable with putting eggshells in the blender, you can substitute eggshell w/ 1 teaspoon of plain yogurt)
1/2 over-ripe banana & peel cut into approx. 1" sections
2 tbsp used coffee grounds
1/4 cup of finely chopped raw green vegetable scraps
1/2 can of beer
1 cup + 1 gallon of water

1. If you're using tap water, let 1 gallon of water stand for a minimum of 24 hours before use.
2. Pour 1 cup of water into blender
3. Add all ingredients and blend on puree.
4. Add mixture to 1 gallon of water and mix thoroughly.
5. Use mixture the same day, discard any leftovers or add to your compost (if you have it).

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 6:24AM
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GTF...I am very much into organic remedies, and always interested hearing which natural methods work.

Your fertilizer recepie is healthy enough for a human to survive on, lol. My only concern is, does it attract ants?

As it is, I'm battling ants in and outdoors. I've spoke to neighbors and people across the globe, only to discover ants and ant mounds have literally increased 10 times higher than there were last year..And in 2010, the ant population increased by huge numbers.
Just a little history about

At one time I assumed ants mainly ate sweets, but it appears they eat most edibles.. including eggs, Yogurt, banana, and veggies. Not sure about beer or coffee since I don't drink either beverage.
When thirsty, they drink water.

What is your opinion about ants or other bugs? Thanks, Toni

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 12:38AM
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hopefulauthor,I've found that a good old fashioned natural tobacco "tea" misted over plants with a spray bottle works pretty well for keeping the ants and other pests away, and it doesn't seem to bother the plants at all. :)

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 2:04AM
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Thanks, GTF. How exactly is tobacco tea made? I'm not sure what natural tobacco is. Can you please give me the recepie? Thanks, Toni

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 12:46AM
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Any regular additive free dried tobacco will work. What I've done in the past is just put a handful of dried tobacco in a large pitcher full of water and let it sit in the sun for a day, then run it through a strainer or cheesecloth (to get out the tobacco leaves) into another container, and from there I just pour it into a spray bottle and mist it generously over any plant that bugs/ants are attacking. :)

Oh, and to Al, thanks for the advice and input, I really do appreciate it! :)

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 3:21AM
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If the roots rot, then just pinch some healthy cuttings and stick them in just about any kind of plant medium/soil. And the plant is sometimes called Sweedish ivy, although it is not really ivy. People in Sweeden grow these plants in containers and they call it Sweedish Ivy. It is one of the easiest plants to root, as is the Mint plants which are in the same family.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 2:27AM
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