A Swedish Ivy, Plectranthus australis, did not originate in Sweden, nor is it a type of ivy plant. It did, however, originally become popular as a houseplant in Sweden, and these do have long cascading stems like a regular ivy plant. Swedish Ivies are part of the Plectranthus genus, and a member of the Lamiaceae family. It is a close relative of the mint plant. Other names for a Swedish Ivy are “Creeping Charlie” and “Swedish Begonia.” This easy-care houseplant, native to South Africa, can also be grown as a hardy, perennial, outdoor plant in areas where the temperature stays above 50°F.
Description of Swedish Ivy
Swedish Ivies are lush, almost succulent – like plants with long, trailing, thick stems. The 1”-1.5” leaves are rounded with scalloped edges. The thick, bright green leaves are shaped more like a coleus leaf than an ivy leaf. When given enough bright light, a Swedish Ivy produces delicate, white, lavender, or purple tubular-shaped flowers throughout the year. Some varieties even have a special aroma when touched.
Swedish Ivy Varieties
White-Edged Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus coleoides “variegatea”) has dark green leaves with white scalloped edges, and grows about 10”-12” tall and 15”-20” wide.
Purple Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus Purpuratus) when placed in bright light, has deeply veined, richly colored greenish purple leaves with purple undersides and tall stalks of small flowers in white, pink, purple, and bluish purple.
Emerald Lace Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus oertendahlii) is a compact plant that has green leaves with silver-colored veins and scalloped edges. The underside of the leaf is purple, and the small flowers are lilac in color.
Plectranthus “Mona Lavender” Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus ecklonii) has 2” dark green leaves with purple undersides. It produces long spikes of showy lavender blossoms from fall into spring.
Vick’s Plant (Plectranthus tomentosus) is commonly known as a “Vicks Plant” because the small, dark green, fuzzy, velvety leaves smell like Vick’s Vap-O-Rub when rubbed. The showy flowers are usually mauve, purple, or white.
Purple Swedish Ivy “Emerald Lace” White edged”Variegated” Swedish Ivy Flowers
Quick Care Tips for a Swedish Ivy
Wait until leaves get a little soft and flexible before watering
Bright indirect light but no direct sun
Easily propagated using stem tip cuttings in spring or summer
Use a fertilizer high in nitrogen
A Swedish Ivy makes a wonderful houseplant, growing quickly even for new plant enthusiasts. It’s best displayed in a hanging basket where its long vines, sometimes 2-3ft in length and covered in colorful tubular flowers, can be enjoyed. This is a non-toxic plant and safe to have around small children, dogs, cats, and other pets.
A Swedish Ivy requires bright indirect light, but no direct sun. Inadequate light causes a Swedish Ivy to “reach’ for the light and become leggy.
Allow the top 30% of the soil to dry out before watering a Swedish Ivy. The easiest way to kill a Swedish Ivy is by over-watering and causing root rot. Yellow leaves indicate the plant is over-watered. The leaves become soft and dull green when a Swedish Ivy needs water.
Fertilize a Swedish Ivy every two weeks in the spring and summer when the plant is actively producing new leaves. Use a plant food high in nitrogen, diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength.
Provide temperatures between 70°-75°F (21.1°-23.9°C) most of the year for a Swedish Ivy. During the winter, when the plant is not actively growing, cooler temperatures of 60°-65°F (15.6°-23.9°C) are best.
Although a Swedish Ivy prefers high humidity, it still grows quickly in regular household humidity.
In ideal growing conditions, a Swedish Ivy produces small purple, lavender, pink, or white tubular flowers during the spring and summer.
Aphids, whitefly, scale, and especially mealy bugs can infest a Swedish Ivy. You can see a picture of these plant pests and read how to identify and treat them, in the Glossary of the website.
Leaf Spot is the most common plant disease that infects a Swedish Ivy. Learn how to identify and treat leaf spot disease in the Glossary of the website.
A Swedish Ivy grows well in an organic, peat moss- based soil that drains well.
Do not rush to move a Swedish Ivy to a larger container. Wait until the roots have filled the current pot and then move the plant to the next size pot and nothing larger. Be sure there are drip holes in the bottom so excess water can escape.
A Swedish Ivy needs constant pruning to keep it looking full and bushy. Trim several inches off the long vines to encourage new growth. The plant cuttings can be used to propagate new plants.
Use stem cuttings to easily propagate a Swedish Ivy. Read more about propagation techniques and exactly how to do it in the Glossary of the website.
Poisonous Plant Info
A Swedish Ivy is a non-poisonous plant.
The main reason Swedish Ivy indoor plants get thin and leggy is not enough light. Prune the tips of the stems of your Swedish Ivy, move it to brighter light, and watch how bushy it becomes.
I always cut the flowers off of my Swedish Ivy plants. When the flowers are left on the plant, it slows down leaf production.
The leaves on a Swedish Ivy are usually soft and droopy when the plant needs more water. Another reason could be that the plant is in a location that is too hot. If the soil is damp and the room not too hot, you may have over-watered your Swedish Ivy and caused root rot. In that case, take some leaf tip cuttings and propagate a new plant before the old one dies.