Plectranthus ID/care questions! :)

greenthumbfaerieOctober 24, 2011

I bought this plant from Home Depot this summer. It was incorrectly labeled as Creeping Charlie (aka: Swedish Ivy), which I also have. I know it's Plectranthus, but I'm having a hard time deciding which species/cultivar of Plectranthus it is.

Although the plant looks MUCH better than when I got it, I'm pretty sure I need to make some adjustments in caring for it. While it has plenty of new growth, the new foliage is more lime green and even yellowish with purple veins/undersides, whereas the older foliage is dark green with purple veins and undersides. The new foliage seems healthy otherwise--thick, firm and glossy, with no sign of dropping leaves, dried edges or anything like that. There's even a little flower spike beginning to form on one of the shoots! :P

I bare rooted, root pruned and re-potted it in a well-draining potting mix, but that was about 5 months ago, and with all the new growth it might be time to re-pot again. It gets fertilized about once a month with organic fertilizer and watered every 2-3 days as the top 1-2 inches of soil dries out. Right now it's sitting on the dining room table in front of a south-facing window, where it gets about 2-3 hours of direct sunlight, and dappled shade for the rest of the day.

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Also, I got a Plectranthus Ernstii a few days ago, and have spent countless hours scouring the internet for information on how to properly care for it, and all I've found so far other than descriptions of the plant itself is "Yeah, uuuuhhhh (blah blah blah)"...VERY frustrating! :P If anyone could give me some pointers on how to care for this unique-looking succulent, I'd greatly appreciate it! :)

It's a little beat up from being shipped all the way from DE, but here's a picture:

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Thank you in advance for your help! :D

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

It actually sounds like you're doing most things right. Did you bare-root when you root pruned? The things I would change: I would switch to a soluble fertilizer with a 3:1:2 NPK RATIO. Ratio is different than the NPK %s. 24-8-16, 12-4-8, and 9-3-6 are all 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers. Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 is exceptional because unlike nearly all soluble fertilizers it contains Calcium and Magnesium and gets most of it's N from nitrate sources, which will help reduce the somewhat leggy appearance your plant is developing because it promotes shorter internodes. BTW, what were the NPK %s of the fertilizer you used? If in fact it IS a nutritional issue, most usually the fact that new foliage is green would be taken as indication the plant is having trouble assimilating one of the immobile nutrients, so we then suspect a micro-nutrient deficiency first because the plant is unable to 'rob' the nutrient from older foliage due to its immobility in the plant. Again, the soluble fertilizer would take care of that. If it doesn't, then we consider that pH is causing the minor elements to be insoluble, so we can acidify your irrigation water to make nutrients more soluble and available, but let's try fertilizer change first, if you're up for it.

I would also look closely at my watering regimen. It sounds as though you could be watering too frequently, which could account for the off-color of the foliage. Use a wooden chopstick or skewer stuck deep into the pot to test for moisture & water only when it comes out dry, and then, water profusely so you're flushing the soil thoroughly each time. Finally, though not related to health, I would start pinching immediately to curtail branch extension and stimulate the back-budding that is going to give your plant a fuller look.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 8:00AM
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Al, thank you so much for your input! :) Yes, I did bare-root when I root pruned. As for being leggy, yes it is, but you should have seen it when I got it! It looked like a bowl of purple noodle salad with a few scraggly leaves on the tips! :P There was about 6 inches between each leaf node, no exaggeration! I'm not exactly clear on how often I should be pinching it back, as I haven't been able to find information on that either, so I've just been kinda winging it as far as that goes. After I re-potted it, I gave it a few days to acclimate, then cut every stem back to the first or second node, and since then I've been pinching the growing tips pretty regularly, about once every 3 weeks or so. Is that often enough?
As for the fertilizer, I have no idea what the percentages are. It doesn't say anywhere on the package, which should tell me something about the actual quality of the fertilizer. :P I'll look around for a soluble fertilizer while I'm in town today.
Any idea what species of Plectranthus this might be?

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 12:13PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

For the pinching, I'd let the branches extend to 3-4 pairs of leaves before I pinched them back to 1 pair, letting the branches decide on an individual basis, when they wanted to be pinched, instead of pinching on a regular schedule. Letting them extend a little before you pinch is good insurance against the die-back that CAN occur when you pinch very young branches. Also, look at the plant like you would at a tree in the landscape and prune accordingly. If you have overlapping or crossing branches, or branches growing back toward the center of the plant ...... basically anything you think detracts from the plant's appearance, take it off during a pinching session.

Miracle-Gro and Peter's make an all purpose soluble granular fertilizer in 24-8-16. Miracle-Gro also makes a liquid (yellow qt jug) soluble in 12-4-8 that won't soak up moisture from the air like the granular, and Foliage-Pro makes my favorite in 9-3-6, but it's unlikely you'd find it anywhere other than maybe a hydroponics shop or on the net. I think it's worth the effort & little extra cost because it takes almost all the guesswork out of fertilizing.

I can't tell you what species the plant is. I'm more of a 'how it works' guy than 'what it is', and there are other regulars on the forum far better at ID-ing houseplants than I am, so I'd defer to them.

I'm impressed. It sounds like you're right on top of things, so good job!


    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 4:10PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Don't know which Plectranthus this is, but I WILL tell you that's the common, garden variety "Creeping Charlie/Swedish Ivy that was everywhere when I was in college 30 yrs. ago. I recall it was recommended to pinch the blooms off so their energy goes back to the leaves.

As to the P. ernstii, it seems I've lost 2 of these, am told they go dormant for winter & both did (or died) shortly after they were given to me. I sort of adopted these from other people; wasn't given any care info either & found next to none myself.

Currently I have a 'rescue one' from my Indoor Gardening Society, it's got Euphorbia Milii growing w/ it in the same pot. The Euph is actively growing, the Plectranthus appears dormant. (Shrugging shoulders here.)

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 9:52PM
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Thanks for clearing up the pinching issue for me, Al! I really appreciate your help. :) I'll try watering less, too. ;)
Pirate Girl, I believe you're right, although I think it's a different type of Swedish Ivy. The description that it fits closest is Purple Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus Purpuratus), although the newer foliage is discolored, possibly from over-watering.
Here's some of the other Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus Verticillatus) plants I have, most of them were grown from cuttings of my mother plant. :)

On top: recently potted cuttings from mother plant.
On bottom: mother plant, recently cut waaay back due to old, woody stems.

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Another cutting from the mother plant, started out as a 3 inch stem with 4 leaves. This is one of my favorites!

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    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 3:18PM
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