Information on Swedish Ivy Plants
Swedish ivy plants (Plectranthus spp.) have endeared themselves to generations of gardeners with their lush foliage and fuss-free care requirements. They are typically grown as houseplants and will survive outdoors in frost-free climates within USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11, although hardiness varies between species.
Several species and cultivars share the common name Swedish ivy, all of which have a similar appearance with variations in their foliage color and size. Learning about Swedish ivy and its various uses can help you determine which variety to plant and grow at home.
About Swedish Ivy Plants
Swedish ivy plants belong to the genus Plectranthus, which is in the mint family. Contrary to its common name, Swedish ivy is not a true ivy, nor is it native to Sweden—it originated in Asia, Africa and islands around the Pacific Ocean.
All Swedish ivy plants have attractive foliage with scalloped edges and a trailing growth habit, although the color of foliage varies widely between cultivars.
Swedish Ivy Uses
Swedish ivy plants are versatile, undemanding and low maintenance. When grown outdoors, Swedish ivy makes a great groundcover that will stand up to foot traffic and provide lush green foliage and delicate white or pink flowers during the spring and summer months. It can also be planted in hanging baskets or in window boxes, adding a pop of green to any space.
Indoors, Swedish ivy plants make excellent houseplants for areas of the home that receive less light. One interesting fact about Swedish ivies is that they can help improve indoor air quality.
Swedish Ivy Varieties
Let's take a look at some of the different varieties of Swedish ivy.
The most commonly cultivated Swedish ivy is also called creeping charlie (Plectranthus parviflorus), which is grown as a houseplant or as a creeping groundcover in USDA plant hardiness zones 8 to 11. It has lush green foliage and a trailing habit but is not as showy as other cultivars and varieties of Swedish ivy.
Creeping charlie is sometimes identified using the outdated scientific name Plectranthus australis.
Mona Lavender Swedish Ivy
A showy, colorful cultivar of Swedish ivy called Mona Lavender (Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender,’ zones 10a to 11b) stands out because of its purplish stems, lavender flowers and the purple undersides of its shiny, dark-green leaves. This purple Swedish ivy variety grows nicely in hanging baskets where its colorful foliage and flowers can be fully appreciated.
Creeping Spur Flower
Creeping spur flower (Plectranthus strigosus) is a Swedish ivy species that grows best in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11. It is less widely cultivated than other Swedish ivies, but its light green foliage and airy, tubular white flowers do offer ornamental value to landscaping and home interiors.
Variegated Swedish Ivy
Variegated Swedish ivy cultivars such as Marginatus (Plectranthus forsteri ‘Marginatus’) make an eye-catching alternative to more common green-leaved cultivars. It grows outdoors year round in USDA plant hardiness zones 10a to 11b and will grow anywhere as a houseplant or summer patio plant.
Its green and white foliage emits a mild, citrus-like fragrance when handled, which adds to its appeal.
Growing Swedish Ivy
Swedish ivy makes an ideal plant choice for beginner gardeners, because it requires little care or upkeep and will tolerate challenging growing conditions.
Swedish ivy grows best with bright light, but sustained direct sunlight can stress the plant or bleach its leaves. For the best foliage color, choose a location with bright, indirect light or some direct morning sun. Indoor plants should be positioned near a window with eastern or western exposure.
Standard potting mix enriched with perlite or organically rich garden soil is best for growing Swedish ivy.
Good drainage is required for these plants, because they can develop root rot when grown in wet soil. Use fresh potting soil in a clay pot with holes at the base, if possible.
When planting Swedish ivy, hanging baskets are always a good idea, whether you are growing it indoors or outdoors.
Plastic pots also work well and are a lightweight alternative to clay.
Watering Requirements: Swedish ivy plants need regular watering, but they must not be allowed to become soggy around the roots. Water whenever the soil feels dry below the surface, adding water until it drains from the base of the pot.
Fertilizer Needs: Fertilizer is a good idea during the growing season. Feed with 1/2 teaspoon of 15-15-15 fertilizer or liquid plant food diluted in 1 gallon of water each month from spring until just after midsummer. Stop feeding in autumn when growth slows so that the plant has a chance to rest during the winter months.
Repotting Tips: Repotting is an important part of Swedish ivy plant care, because they are vigorous growers that will outgrow their pot every few years. Repot them in spring before new growth emerges using well-draining potting soil and a pot with drainage holes that is not more than 1 to 2 inches larger than the previous pot.
Pruning Requirements: Swedish ivy plants sometimes develop leggy growth when grown out of direct sun. Pruning will help correct legginess and encourage dense, bushy growth. Prune back the stems in spring using sharp, clean pruning snips. Make the cut just above a set of leaves.
Starting Swedish Ivy
Swedish ivy plants are among the easiest plants for home propagation, especially for beginners.
Swedish ivy cuttings do not need rooting hormone to successfully root, but it can be used to hasten rooting, if desired.
- Pinch off a 2- to 3-inch-long stem tip and strip off the lowest set of leaves to expose the nodes, which is where roots will form.
- Place the cutting in a small pot of moist perlite or potting soil. Be sure to use a pot with drainage holes at the bottom.
- Stick the base of the stem into the rooting mix up to the lowest set of leaves. Press the rooting mix against the stem.
- Set the pot indoors in bright, indirect light. Keep the rooting mix moist. Watch for wilting, and water if the rooting mix feels dry.
- Swedish ivy cuttings can take one month to root, but the time usually faster.
- North Carolina State Extension: Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender'
- North Carolina State Extension: Plectranthus Parviflorus
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Plectranthus Strigosus
- North Carolina State Extension: Plectranthus Forsteri 'Marginatus'
- Logee's Plants: Cultural Information-Plectranthus
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Swedish Ivy
Sasha Degnan holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Anthropology. Her written work has appeared in both online and print publications. She is a certified Master Gardener and dedicated plant enthusiast with decades of experience growing and propagating native and exotic plant varieties.