Quick-growing Swedish ivy (Plectranthus verticillatus), native to South Africa, is a frost-tender perennial that thrives inside your house and as a hanging plant in a sheltered garden. Several Plectranthus types as well as other unrelated species share the same common name of "Swedish ivy." Hardy in partial shade, a necessity when planted in hanging baskets or flowerpots outdoors, Swedish ivy thrives in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11.
About the Plectranthus Types
Approximately 350 species make up the Plectranthus genus, part of the mint family (Lamiaceae), which includes coleus and Swedish ivy. When purchasing a Swedish ivy plant, it may be labeled as creeping Charlie, Swedish begonia, money plant, Plectranthus australis or Plectranthus forsteri. True creeping Charlie plants (Pilea nummulariifolia) are somewhat similar, but the leaves appear puffy and crinkled when compared to Swedish ivy leaves.
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Dark green or purple semisucculent branches hold smooth 1 1/2-inch-wide oval to round leaves with toothed edges. The cultivar 'Variegata,' also called marbled Swedish ivy, has green leaves edged in white. The small white, blue or purple blossoms appear on up to 8-inch-long clusters at any time during the year. While the younger stems are erect, as the branches grow longer, they begin to trail over the edges of the flowerpot.
Taking the Cutting
Take cuttings in spring or fall for best results. Put on gloves and safety goggles and sterilize your scissors or pruners in rubbing alcohol or Lysol before taking the cuttings.
Snip a 3- to 5-inch stem from the plant just below a leaf node. In general, choose a thinner stem, as it will root easier than a thicker stem. If the parent plant is still fairly small, a 2- to 3-inch tip cutting taken from a healthy stem will suffice for starting in perlite or a sterile potting mix.
Whether rooting in water or a potting mix, remove the leaves on the bottom two-thirds of the stem. Swirl it in rooting compound if desired.
Starting in Water
Swedish ivy is one of the best plants to propagate in water. Begin by sterilizing the container. Submerge the cutting in a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water for 10 minutes. Rinse well and allow it to air dry.
Fill the container with clean, room-temperature water and place the cutting inside. If any leaves are below water, remove the cutting, pinch off the leaves and reinsert it. Place the container in a warm location in bright, filtered light. Change the water every three to four days or if it becomes cloudy.
Roots should appear within one to two weeks. Allow the roots to develop for another week and then plant it in a well-drained potting mix.
Sprouting in Soil
Sterilize a small flowerpot in a bleach and water solution. Rinse it and air dry. Fill the pot with a moist potting mix or create your own mix by combining equal parts coconut coir or peat moss, compost and perlite. Moisten thoroughly and then use a pencil to make a hole in the mix.
Insert the cutting and press the mix around the stem. Cover the entire pot and cutting with a plastic bag or plastic or glass cloche. Place it in bright, filtered light. Water occasionally to keep the potting mix moist but not waterlogged.
When new growth appears, remove the cover. Keep the new plant out of drafts in a warm location. Transplant it into a larger container when the plant outgrows the smaller flowerpot.
Caring for Swedish Ivy
Water Swedish ivy when the soil is dry to the touch. Don't allow the pot to dry out completely. Hanging plants on the porch or patio may require daily watering in hot weather.
Fertilize every two to three weeks when the plant is actively growing in spring and summer. Apply a balanced 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer according to the manufacturer's directions. Stop fertilizing in winter; let the plant rest.
Pinch back the stems as needed to keep the plant compact and bushy. Use the trimmings for propagating Swedish ivy plants for the house or to share with family and friends.