I was amazed to find out that there are more than 350 referenced types of plectranthus! I found a great article on Dave’s Garden about these stinky, fuzzy little fellows. They make a fantastic ground cover or filler in a planter, are super easy to propagate and care for and smell fantastic. My first plectranthus, tomentosa, was purchased before I became a real plant lady. I bought it with a bunch of colorful coleus plants and it had been hiding underneath them in a shadier part of my garden.
I have Plectranthus amboinicus, also referred to as Cuban Mint, Plectranthrus coerulescens, Plectranthus tomentosa, or Vick’s Plant and Plectranthus neochilus variegated, also called the lobster flower (read about at San Marcos Growers) growing in my gardens and planters. They are all very easy to propagate, so I tend to take a few cuttings and stick them in here and there. I have one large bush that is approximately 2 feet tall and as I keep taking cuttings, it keeps growing taller! There are plectranthus that can reach up to ten feet tall!
Until just recently I thought I only had 2 types of plectranthus however I thought that a few of my cuban mint plants were a little “off”. I did not realize that the funny ones were a different breed. They are not amboinicus, they are tomentosa! They are both equally stinky, but the Vick’s plant seems more fragrant. Here are some other differences that I noted:
- Seems to grow much taller and faster than it’s cousin.
- My larger and older plant has developed a very woody stem.
- Light colored green leaves that are covered with tiny white, fuzzy hairs. Leaves seem thicker and softer to the touch
- The scent smells like vapor rub, hence the name, when your squeeze the leaves.
- Blue-violet and white flowers in the spring and fall compared to the purple leaves of a tomentosa
- Leaves turn yellow and soggy when the plant has too much to drink.
- Grows well indoors and out. Most of ours are in partially sunny areas but we have a large one that is in full sun and doing very well.
- Easy to propagate by cutting
- Adam from Herbs from Distant Lands has a detailed page about the amboinicus.
Plectranthrus coerulescens looks very similar to tomentosa except it seems to have thinner leaves and less hair. It smells more like a skunk than the tomentosa but not as fruity as amboinicus. I only have one of these and I created it from a cutting I took from the plant lady next door.
Feeling confused yet? What I learned today is that the lamiaceae family is huge, over 6,500 species! It is not the worst plant misidentification I have made and many people will make it, even the nursery where I purchased my original “coleus”.
Are you interested in your own Vick’s Plant or Lobster Plant? We now have 4 inch pots of these plants for sale in our store for $4!