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Barbara Pleasant: Swedish Ivy

 
Thank You, Readers 
For most of 2016, my Houseplant Survival Manual was the top-selling book on houseplants in America, with 4.5 stars on Amazon. It makes me so happy that people are into houseplants. Thanks, readers!
I have a popular information page on Oxalis shamrock plant), too.
To learn more about pretty prayer plants (red marantas), see my Maranta information page for tips and trivia.

Prefer to shop local? Find copies of my  Houseplant Survival Manual at independent bookstores through IndieBound.org.

 

 

I’m half Swedish, so of course one of the first houseplants I ever grew was Swedish ivy, a super easy plant that’s at home in a pot or a basket.

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What's Swedish About Swedish Ivy?

During World War II, Swedish botanist Vivi Laurent-Tackholm helped to organize and run a flower club that offered rare exotic plants to Swedish housewives. The club introduced several popular houseplants including pothos (Epipremnum aureum) and two types of Plectranthus, green-leafed and variegated. As the popularity of Plectranthus verticillatus grew, it became known as Swedish ivy.

Vivi Laurent-Tackholm

What’s in a Name?

In my book and elsewhere you will see Swedish ivy listed as Plectranthus australis, but its updated botanic name is Plectranthus verticillatus. Native to the tropical and semi-tropical woodland edges of South Africa, wild Plectranthus verticillatus grows into a rangy groundcover topped by flushes of flowers in winter. Among houseplants, Swedish ivy (sometimes called creeping Charlie) is among the best choices for hanging baskets.  

To Bloom or Not To Bloom?

 

Indoor blossoms make us happy until it’s time to clean up the shriveled flowers that litter the floor. Swedish ivy plants grown in low light usually bloom very little, but produce plenty of big, shiny leaves. I’m a fool for the little flowers, so I encourage strong blooming by giving the plants some tough love in summer. I move the plants outdoors after the weather turns warm and cut them back by at least half their size. Then I let them grow in the shade all summer, where they get pitifully parched from time to time. When brought back indoors in early fall, summer-stressed Swedish ivy plants quickly produce spikes of pale pink flowers.  

One Plant Makes Many

Stem cuttings will root in moist potting soil or even water, so Swedish ivy plants are easy to propagate and share. My current plant came from a cutting brought back from the local fabric shop, Schoolhouse Fabrics, where an enormous Swedish ivy plant has been growing for years. When I asked permission to pinch off a tip, it was quickly granted.

  
The mother of many local specimens of Plectranthus verticillatus lives on the stairway landing at Schoolhouse Fabrics in Floyd, VA.
Copyright 2018 by Barbara Pleasant