Easy Houseplants - Swedish Ivy
by Leonard Perry
by Leonard Perry


In extension I serve as an advisor and consultant to the greenhouse and nursery industry, primarily in Vermont but throughout the region and beyond as well.

I give presentations on my research to the industry, and to home groups. In Research, my focus is "herbaceous perennial production systems".

His website is at  Leonards zone of gardening: home with my trials, generally USDA 4a. Campus in Burlington is 5.

February 25, 2018

Swedish ivy is an easy-to-grow houseplant with few problems, great for beginners or those that don’t have time to fuss with plants. The bright green, scalloped-edged leaves are on trailing succulent vines, making this a common hanging basket plant for indoors.

Swedish ivy (Plectranthus australis) is neither Swedish nor an ivy, and some authorities list it under another species (P. verticillatus). The genus name comes from the Greek words for spur (plectron) and flower (anthos), referring to the spur-shaped flowers. These tubular white small flowers that appear on stalks at the ends of stems aren’t particularly showy.

The species name (australis) means southern, referring to its origin in southern Africa. It is not from Sweden, but became popular there as a houseplant. And it does trail, resembling an ivy. This common member of the mint family is related to the coleus and, like members of this family, has square stems in cross section.

Give a Swedish ivy bright indirect light, but not direct sun for too long as this can burn the leaves. An east or even north window works well, as does a plant grow light for at least 12 (preferably 16) hours a day. Too little light and plants will become “leggy.”

If in doubt don’t water, as these would rather be too dry than too wet. Keeping plants waterlogged is the main cause of death. Leaves yellowing indicate that they’re overwatered. If leaves wilt and turn soft and dull green, give more water. Inexpensive water meters from hardware and garden stores can help if you’re having trouble deciding on watering.

When plants are actively growing—usually in spring and summer—fertilize every couple weeks, but only with half-strength fertilizer of your choice. Also when they’re growing, give them temperatures of 70 to 75 degrees (F) if possible. Other times of year, cooler temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees are best. Don’t let plants get below 50 degrees or leaves may turn black. A somewhat constant temperature between 60 and 75 degrees year round works well, too, for them. Swedish ivy grows best with high humidity, but it tolerates and usually grows fine in the lower humidity found in most homes and buildings, particularly during winter heating season. The main pests to watch for are brown scales and white mealybugs. If you see these, rub them off with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Giving plants a shower periodically helps to keep them dust free, and to keep pests at bay, as well as giving them more humidity.

Sometimes, particularly in dry indoor rooms, these plants may attract spider mites. Look for the tell-tale webbing between stems and leaves, and under leaves. You may need a magnifying glass to see them. Use a special miticide spray for these pests.

Swedish ivy plants can be rather potbound. If repotting, or potting small plants you may have purchased into a larger pot or hanging basket, use a peat- or organic-based potting soil.

If plants get too long or leggy, prune them back to the desired length. You can then cut stems with leaves into five- to six-inch sections, removing the lower leaves. Place these either into a vase of water, potting mix, or vermiculite or perlite. In a few weeks plants should be rooted, as they are easy to root from such stem cuttings. While the green-leaved species is the version you usually find, you also may see the cultivar (cultivated variety) ‘Variegata’ with white leaf edges. Another species (P. argentatus) has bright, silvery leaves while Cuban or Caribbean oregano (P. amboinicus) has large, soft green leaves with a pungent oregano flavor and odor.

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