Plant Description

Plectranthus oertendahlii

Plectranthus oertendahlii?

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.

This newly available plant is marketed as 'Emerald Lace' but appears to be Plectranthus oertendahlii, one of the original species and a trailing groundcover from forest areas in South Africa. It one of the few Plectranthus species with leaves that are naturally variegated. The foliage is very beautiful, with lovely silvery veins across rounded leaves. The underleaves tend to be purplish in colour. It grows about 20cm tall and spreads to about a metre wide. It has spires of dainty white flowers throughout autumn. It makes a wonderful carpet beneath Camellia sasanqua or any other shrub, such as shrub and cane Begonia, or Justicia carnea. It is effective grown with the pure silver shrubby Plectranthus argentatus. It also makes an attractive hanging basket specimen and is used as a house plant in cold climates.

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. 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.

Postscript: I have tried growing this lovely plant a few times, but it seems to slowly fade away. It doesn't seem as robust as other Plectranthus. It may do better in a pot.

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