Plectranthus hail from warm temperate to tropical areas of the world and grow in shadier parts of the garden under trees in very ordinary soil where many plants do not thrive. They grow quickly and are tolerant of drought and root-competition.
Plectranthus 'Nico' (ht 20cm) was apparently developed from Plectranthus ambiguus, a groundcover plant from South Africa. However, in appearance it resembles a superior version of Plectranthus ciliatus. Like that plant, it has an autumn veil of long spires of dainty lilac-tinged flowers across its purple-veined and purple-backed foliage; however, its leaves are larger and more textured, and the veins are more pronounced. It is just as tough and will grow in the most uncongenial shady places and can form a dense, weed-suppressing carpet under trees or shrubs, or can cascade over retaining walls. It is stunning when in full bloom.
It associates well with dark purple-leafed foliage plants such as bromeliads, Tradescantia pallida 'Purple Heart', Strobilanthes anisophylla or black taro (Colocasia esculenta 'Black Magic'), to echo its darker tints. It makes an excellent carpet beneath autumn-flowering Camellia sasanqua or shrub and cane Begonia and Justicia carnea. Like most groundcover Plectranthus, it looks effective grown in a hanging basket.
The stems should be cut back fairly hard after flowering (or in early spring in cooler areas if there is the risk of frosts). The plant dislikes hard frosts, but if grown under a canopy of trees, will usually be well protected from milder frosts. It enjoys being mulched and fed occasionally but is really a plant that will grow despite being neglected! It is very easily propagated from cuttings in spring and autumn. All Plectranthus need to be replaced by new cuttings every so often as they get a bit straggly after a few years.
Flowers in March, April, May.