Plectranthus scutellarioides (numerous cultivars)

Plant of the month: November

Plectranthus scuttelarioides cultivars

Plectranthus scutellarioides (numerous cultivars)

Also Known As: Coleus or Solenostemon

Native To: Tropical and subtropical Asia to northern Australia

Blooms: small, blue flowers not showy; insignificant

Habitat: Margins of tropical rainforest

Where Found At Birmingham Botanical Gardens: Mediterranean House


The famous “coleus” or “painted nettle” has been cultivated in gardens, bedding schemes and conservatories worldwide since Victorian times. It is grown for its popular evergreen, brightly coloured leaves. These leaves can be of a single colour or a kaleidoscope of many colour combinations. Plectranthus are easily grown from seed in a warm greenhouse or a sunny windowsill in spring. Named cultivars, however, must be propagated by cuttings as seed collected from these may revert back to one of the parents and won’t be “true” to type.

New cultivars arise as a natural genetic mutation, showing morphological differences (or different coloured leaves in this case) from the parent plant. These mutations are known as a “sport”, “break” or “chimera” in the horticultural industry.

Leaf colours range from green through to yellow, oranges, reds and purples. The small, blue flowers are not as showy as the leaves and should be removed as these, if left on, can cause the plants to lose the lower leaves and detract from the symmetry of the plant. Plants which have been planted outside for the summer, must be brought inside or propagated by cuttings in the autumn as they are not hardy.

The genus; Plectranthus, comes from the Greek words plectron meaning spur and anthos meaning flower. This refers to the spur-shaped flowers of some members of the genus. The specific epithet; scutellarioides means Scutellaria- like. Scutellaria is a relative of Plectranthus and is also in the mint or sage family; Lamiaceae.