February 2012


Plectranthus is a member of the Coleus family; a few have a caudex, such as Plectranthus ernstii which comes from South-Africa and was discovered in 1982 by Ernst van Jaarsveld. There are about 350 species of Plectranthus coming from Madagacar, South-Africa, Indonesia and India, so roughly the countries around the Indian Ocean. They are very easy plants to grow and can take a wide varieties of temperatures; some are even hardy. The ernestii, however, is not, but can take low temperatures as long as they do not drop below 0°C.
The ernestii is very easy to propagate by cuttings. It does produces seed, one seed per flower, but as it is so easy to propagate by cuttings, I have not tried to sow them. Cuttings will always produce a tuber which will, with age, thicken up. Depending on the conditions the plant is grown in, the leaves will either be large or small. Cooler temperatures will result in a more compact plant with smaller leaves. It can be grown in full sun or shade.

Plectranthus ernstii

Plectranthus ernstii

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This species comes from Brazil and it is classed as a tropical/subtropical plant, but it can take low temperatures, down to 5°C, which has surprised me. It is also a plant that will flower in the winter; the pictures below were taken early February. It produces masses of white flowers with a red centre and they last a few days. Unlike some rhipsalis, it produces few berries. Perhaps it needs to be hand-pollinated as perhaps there are not enough insects in the greenhouse in the winter.
It is very easy to propagate by cuttings which need to be left for about a week to dry before being put in the soil or rooting medium. As you can see from the picture, it will grow into a fairly large plant, so give it some space. I grow it in shade and it does very well there; maybe it can take more sun, but I have not tried that yet.

Rhipsalis elliptica

Rhipsalis elliptica

Rhipsalis elliptica

Rhipsalis elliptica detail