Swedish Ivy Care: How To Grow A Swedish Ivy Houseplant

Swedish Ivy Care: How To Grow A Swedish Ivy Houseplant

By: Susan Patterson, Master Gardener

Swedish ivy (Plectranthus australis) is a popular hanging basket houseplant native to northern Australia and the Pacific Islands. The plant is favored for its lovely trailing habit. Also, known as Swedish begonia and creeping charlie (not to be confused with the creeping charlie weed), many gardeners incorporate this ivy as an annual into containers or use it as a ground cover in the garden.

Leaves on a growing Swedish ivy plant are glossy with scalloped edges. Tubular mauve to white flowers appear in spring throughout summer but these are not nearly as showy as the dramatic foliage. The easy care of Swedish ivy houseplants make them great for even the most novice of gardeners.

How to Grow a Swedish Ivy Houseplant

Learning how to grow a Swedish ivy houseplant is not at all difficult. In fact, growing Swedish ivy plant indoors is an excellent project for beginner gardeners.

Swedish ivy does best in a light and loamy potting mix with some perlite mixed in to help with drainage.

The plant will thrive in a location that receives bright, indirect light all year long.

Given these conditions, this plant will grow very rapidly with little Swedish ivy care or maintenance being necessary.

Care of Swedish Ivy Houseplants

Swedish ivy care involves keeping a constant room temperature between 60 and 75 F. (16-24 C.) year round.

Water the ivy once a week and be sure to allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Good drainage is necessary, so do not let the ivy sit in water.

Feed Swedish ivy plants once every two weeks during the spring and summer and once a month during the fall and winter. Use a complete liquid houseplant fertilizer and follow the directions.

Pinch off vine tips after flowering to keep the plant from becoming too leggy. Repot Swedish ivy every two or three years.

Propagating Swedish Ivy

The best way for propagating Swedish ivy is through cuttings. Be sure to cut a healthy stem section with a crown of leaves on the end. Remove the lower ends of the foliage to expose a bare stem. Dip the cutting in rooting hormone and place in a container prepared with potting medium.

For best root development, place the cuttings in indirect sunlight. Spray cuttings frequently with water or place clear plastic over the pot to retain moisture and humidity. Roots should form in three weeks with new plants forming from the base. Transplant individual plants and discard the old leaf.

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Growing Swedish Ivy

The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

Swedish ivy (Plectranthus.australis) is a simple houseplant that grows well indoors and requires little effort on your part to thrive. The ivy produces thick stems that grow erect before cascading, making the plant an ideal option for hanging baskets. In a garden, the plant can also grow as a carpet beneath canopy-forming trees. It is also commonly called the Creeping Charlie.

Growing Swedish Ivy Plants: Learn About The Care Of Swedish Ivy Houseplants - garden

Variegated Swedish Ivy foliage

Variegated Swedish Ivy foliage

Other Names: Candle Vine, Candlestick Vine

Variegated Swedish Ivy's attractive small tomentose round leaves remain grayish green in color with distinctive creamy white edges and tinges of lime green throughout the season. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant.

Variegated Swedish Ivy is an herbaceous annual with a trailing habit of growth, eventually spilling over the edges of hanging baskets and containers. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other garden plants with less refined foliage.

This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and can be pruned at anytime. Deer don't particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Variegated Swedish Ivy is recommended for the following landscape applications

  • General Garden Use
  • Groundcover
  • Container Planting
  • Hanging Baskets

Variegated Swedish Ivy will grow to be about 8 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 18 inches. When grown in masses or used as a bedding plant, individual plants should be spaced approximately 15 inches apart. Its foliage tends to remain low and dense right to the ground. Although it's not a true annual, this plant can be expected to behave as an annual in our climate if left outdoors over the winter, usually needing replacement the following year. As such, gardeners should take into consideration that it will perform differently than it would in its native habitat.

This plant does best in partial shade to shade. It prefers dry to average moisture levels with very well-drained soil, and will often die in standing water. It is considered to be drought-tolerant, and thus makes an ideal choice for a low-water garden or xeriscape application. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America. It can be propagated by cuttings however, as a cultivated variety, be aware that it may be subject to certain restrictions or prohibitions on propagation.

Variegated Swedish Ivy is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor containers and hanging baskets. Because of its trailing habit of growth, it is ideally suited for use as a 'spiller' in the 'spiller-thriller-filler' container combination plant it near the edges where it can spill gracefully over the pot. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.

Growing Swedish Ivy Plants: Learn About The Care Of Swedish Ivy Houseplants - garden


Dr. Leonard Perry, Horticulture Professor Emeritus
University of Vermont

Swedish ivy is an easy-to-grow houseplant with few problems, great for beginners or those that don’t have time to fuss with plants. The bright green, scalloped-edged leaves are on trailing succulent vines, making this a common hanging basket plant for indoors.

Swedish ivy (Plectranthus australis) is neither Swedish nor an ivy, and some authorities list it under another species (P. verticillatus). The genus name comes from the Greek words for spur (plectron) and flower (anthos), referring to the spur-shaped flowers. These tubular white small flowers that appear on stalks at the ends of stems aren’t particularly showy.

The species name (australis) means southern, referring to its origin in southern Africa. It is not from Sweden, but became popular there as a houseplant. And it does trail, resembling an ivy. This common member of the mint family is related to the coleus and, like members of this family, has square stems in cross section.

Give a Swedish ivy bright indirect light, but not direct sun for too long as this can burn the leaves. An east or even north window works well, as does a plant grow light for at least 12 (preferably 16) hours a day. Too little light and plants will become “leggy.”

If in doubt don’t water, as these would rather be too dry than too wet. Keeping plants waterlogged is the main cause of death. Leaves yellowing indicate that they’re overwatered. If leaves wilt and turn soft and dull green, give more water. Inexpensive water meters from hardware and garden stores can help if you’re having trouble deciding on watering.

When plants are actively growing—usually in spring and summer—fertilize every couple weeks, but only with half-strength fertilizer of your choice. Also when they’re growing, give them temperatures of 70 to 75 degrees (F) if possible. Other times of year, cooler temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees are best. Don’t let plants get below 50 degrees or leaves may turn black. A somewhat constant temperature between 60 and 75 degrees year round works well, too, for them.

Swedish ivy grows best with high humidity, but it tolerates and usually grows fine in the lower humidity found in most homes and buildings, particularly during winter heating season. The main pests to watch for are brown scales and white mealybugs. If you see these, rub them off with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Giving plants a shower periodically helps to keep them dust free, and to keep pests at bay, as well as giving them more humidity.

Sometimes, particularly in dry indoor rooms, these plants may attract spider mites. Look for the tell-tale webbing between stems and leaves, and under leaves. You may need a magnifying glass to see them. Use a special miticide spray for these pests.

Swedish ivy plants can be rather potbound. If repotting, or potting small plants you may have purchased into a larger pot or hanging basket, use a peat- or organic-based potting soil.

If plants get too long or leggy, prune them back to the desired length. You can then cut stems with leaves into five- to six-inch sections, removing the lower leaves. Place these either into a vase of water, potting mix, or vermiculite or perlite. In a few weeks plants should be rooted, as they are easy to root from such stem cuttings.

While the green-leaved species is the version you usually find, you also may see the cultivar (cultivated variety) ‘Variegata’ with white leaf edges. Another species (P. argentatus) has bright, silvery leaves while Cuban or Caribbean oregano (P. amboinicus) has large, soft green leaves with a pungent oregano flavor and odor.

Return to Perry's Perennial Pages: Green Mountain Gardener Articles-- your reliable source of gardening information for over 50 years.

Plant Swedish ivy in any good quality well drained potting media. When the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch, water your plant well, but never let it sit in water.В

Swedish ivy does best in average temperatures and moderate light year-round. During the winter, this plant can tolerate lower temperatures (40 degrees and up) for short periods of time, but it will need to be brought indoors to protect it from freezing temperatures.

Pruning your plant is an important part of encouraging new growth. When flowers fade, pinch back the stems to encourage new growth and branching individual stems can also be pruned at any time of the year. Swedish ivy's tolerance of even severe pruning is another reason why it's a great plant for beginners.

If your Swedish ivy isn't looking as healthy as it once did, there are some easy ways to troubleshoot your problems:

  • Leaves are dull and droopy – It's likely your plant is receiving too much light and should be moved to a shadier location.
  • Not blooming – A lack of blooms can be caused by too much nitrogen fertilizer and/or insufficient light. To get your Swedish ivy blooming again, switch to a high phosphorous (low nitrogen) fertilizer during spring and move your plant to an area where it receives more natural light.
  • Wilting – If your entire Swedish ivy plant is wilting, and does not recover when you water it, root rot is likely the cause. To recover, take stem tip cuttings from the healthiest branches of your plant and root them in a clean rooting media.В It's best to dispose of the diseased parent plant.
  • Cottony masses on your plant – White bits of fluff on stems and the undersides of leaves signify the presence of mealybugs. Swedish ivy is often the first plant in an area to be infested with these pests. You can use an insecticidal soap to treat the infestation.
  • Pale leaves and a webby material on leaf undersides – Spider mites may be the cause of your plant's troubles. Two applications of a insecticidal soap product product should help to get them under control.В Be sure to follow any label instructions.

Repotting and propagation

Your plant can have a long life with annual repotting in spring or midsummer. By propagating your Swedish ivy from rooted stem cuttings, your plant can survive indefinitely and allow you to share it with friends and family. Stem tip cuttings will root within a month in a clean rooting media. В

How to Propagate Swedish Ivy

Swedish ivy is a fast-growing, easy-to-grow house plant that is best planted in a hanging basket so its glossy leaves can freely cascade over the sides. Interestingly, Swedish ivy isn't an actual ivy, but is a member of the mint family, and you'll notice a light, refreshing mint aroma if you gently squeeze the plant's leaves. Swedish ivy is easily propagated by taking stem cuttings in spring or summer.

Wipe a sharp knife with rubbing alcohol to kill any bacteria before you begin, then cut a 4 to 5-inch stem cutting from the tip of a healthy Swedish ivy. The cutting should have at least three or four leaves.

Fill a pot with a good quality commercial potting mixture. The mixture should made of materials that will drain well, such as perlite, peat, vermiculite, or sand.

  • Swedish ivy is a fast-growing, easy-to-grow house plant that is best planted in a hanging basket so its glossy leaves can freely cascade over the sides.
  • Wipe a sharp knife with rubbing alcohol to kill any bacteria before you begin, then cut a 4 to 5-inch stem cutting from the tip of a healthy Swedish ivy.

Set the pot in a saucer of water, and allow the potting mixture to wick up water until the potting mixture if moist clear through, but not dripping wet.

Pinch the lower leaves off the Swedish ivy cutting, leaving the top two leaves intact. Dip the tip of the cutting in rooting hormone, and plant it in the pot with the leaves above, and not touching the potting mixture.

Put a plastic bag over the pot, and secure it with a rubber band. If necessary, put some stakes in the pot to keep the plastic from touching the Swedish ivy leaves.

Put the pot a warm room, in bright, but indirect light. Although the plastic will act as a miniature greenhouse, and will keep the atmosphere humid, the soil should never be allowed to dry out. If the top of the soil feels dry to the touch, mist it lightly with a spray bottle.

  • Set the pot in a saucer of water, and allow the potting mixture to wick up water until the potting mixture if moist clear through, but not dripping wet.

Remove the plastic from the pot when the Swedish ivy cutting has developed roots. You can determine this by pulling gently on the cutting, and if you feel a tug, the cutting has probably rooted. You may be able to see the tiny roots through the pot's drainage hole.

Houseplants forum→I am seeking the advice from a Creeping Charlie expert please

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I hope you all have had an amazing year. For the first time in a while, I have some time off so I am catching up on my 'to do' list. One thing that I have been meaning to do for a very long time is to seek some advice on the proper care of the Creeping Charlie houseplant. For those that have grown these successfully to the point where the plant reached its full potential, I would love to hear from you please.

I remember as a kid my mom tried growing this plant but she had a lot of trouble with it so finally gave up. Every now and again I will see wonderful specimens at a garden center and then I will have a flashback to my mom's grief and think better of the purchase. Couple that with the cost and it became easy to look the other way. Well, when I lived in Arizona, I bought one of these and planted it outside in the shade. I don't think it got any sun and if it did it was very early morning sun and that was it. It was constantly being watered. I do remember that. And this plant grew like the proverbial weed! It was glorious. I had it in a custom made raised planter along with some Australian violets and the foliage draped over nearly to the ground. The stand stood 5'. :)

We had to move away from Arizona and had to adapt once again to growing in a completely different climate -- the arid, unpredictable conditions of Colorado. I sold the planter box with contents before we left and of course I cannot grow a Creeping Charlie outside here (well maybe put it out in the summer) I never thought once to try it as a houseplant. until.

We were at a local nursery and they had a beautiful specimen growing as a hanging plant. It was marked down and I bought it. I thought I would go about this in the best way possible so I bought a very large clay pot for it and put in some of that beautiful Black Gold potting soil. When transplanting it, I lost MANY branches. They break so easily! It took a bit to recover and then, when growing its first location, I noticed leaves were turning black and falling. Too much sun? Perhaps? I moved it to an area that would get filtered western sun and it seems to do okay and by okay, the problem with the leaves blackening and falling seemed to have subsided but it looked sickly. Not enough nutrients? Perhaps? I decided to water it very regularly (every four days on average -- thinking back to the conditions in which it thrived in Arizona) and each time I put in a packet of Optimara for houseplants and perhaps it is me imagining things but it does appear the leaves are greening up a bit. but..

The plant still does not have that beautiful, deep, emerald green I remember from my specimen in Arizona and I do sometimes get a couple leaves falling. In the images I am providing, there is an example of the mottled leaves. This concerns me. Couple this with it not growing fast and well, here I am. So, for those wonderful folks who have successfully grown these to where they are taking over your living room, please reply. I know, given the right conditions, these plants can go nuts. I want my plant to do that. It has a whole corner devoted to it.

I did not mean to turn this into an essay but I thank you for reading and look forward to hearing from you.

I tried a few times with no success. Now I have one that is variegated, and it's limping through winter, but doing pretty well compared to my past experiences in a dry climate. I mist it every day, and it has an asparagus fern next to it that gets misted too, and this helps with humidity. The fact though, that you had one in Arizona goes to show humidity may not be as important as we think.

Could yours possibly be variegated? Or is this happening on only a few leaves? I can see where it is more pale on some parts of some leaves, that's why I ask. Mine did get a few black leaves at first too. Mine is very small, in a 3" pot right now, and I sure hope it decides to thrive, because once you have one of these plants, you always want another when you lose it! I hear in some places it's practically a weed.

You say yours gets dappled sun. They don't like a WHOLE LOT of sun, so mine gets just the smallest amount of dappling in late afternoon, because they can and do burn easily. Bright light without direct sun is also favorable for this plant.

Name: Lin Vosbury
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

I'm an old gal who still loves playing in the dirt!

Playing in the dirt is my therapy . and I'm in therapy a lot!

Thank you for your input on this thread. I really appreciate it! :)

It is not variegated and this is only happening on a few leaves.

As far as humidity, I would say that the corner where this plant box was kept rather humid actually. It was constantly being watered and there was a general feeling of moist soil in this area as it did not receive the sun. It was a very nice micro climate. In this same general area, I had Patchouli growing as well.

I have the blinds tilted up so that the area is more or less bright but no direct sun hits it.

Thank you very kindly for your input as well. Yes, this is traditionally known as Swedish Ivy but using a common name form. Like you I hope someone who grows it will come along with suggestions.

I thank you both and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Yes! The Swedish Ivy (it is neither Swedish--nor an ivy) has fallen out of popularity. Don't know why.

I had a customer (I work at HD in garden) come to me and ask if I had ever seen it in the last years--
and I said "Sure!" I grow a couple full HB's of it every summer--taking them in for the winter.
I promised her some rooted cutting--and she was the happiest person on earth.

I have always grown Swedish Ivy--in HB's. For years and years. I love the shiny leaves and how fast it grows.
If it gets a bit leggy--I just snip off the ends and start a new plant in a 6" pot-making the old basket more full.

---SOOO--If you were starting a new 6" pot of Sw. ivy--you will make 3 finger-holes in the soil and in EACH
finger-hole, you will put in 3 cuttings, So--9 total. Just shove them all in in a bunch.

---In an 8" pot--you would make 5 holes with 3 cuttings in each.

---10" pot--make about 8-10 holes-(3 cuttings each)--water it in and put it someplace to start growing.
Outside in summer would be ideal. in bright shade. No full sun is needed.
They will root quite fast--just be patient--as they will look wilted for a while. busy growing roots.

With this # of cuttings--once they root in--you will have a nice, full growing HB in a couple of months.
Be patient! it takes a while for it to get really full. It has to make new tip growth--which will also make new tip growth, etc. Pinch out just the small growing tips to make it fuller.

Come summertime--I hang them from my high patio roof edge, kind of shaded by a nearby tree--
and they live there all summer. Our high humidity here in the summer helps this.
I water them when I turn the hose on my other plants outside. Never fertilize them --nothing.
I never do anything special--this plant is easy-peazy to grow. Believe me.

Now--there is a variegated one that looks like a Sw.Ivy--but it is not. It is called something else.

From your description, Benny--seems you are fussing too much over these plants.
If you are just doing one cutting to a pot--it will not look like anything. Do the bunches as i wrote above.
Sometimes--ignorance is bliss when it comes to plants.


--You cannot compare the climate in AZ and how you watered it and took care of it with that in CO.
The climates are sooo different. You now live in CO! Not in the arid AZ!
--You are definitely watering it too much!! Every 4 days. . Plus adding a fertilizer. YIKES.

--planting the Sw Ivy in a " VERY LARGE CLAY POT" is, probably, your biggest mistake.
-- Big pots=too much soil in them Too much soil=too much water in the soil--which a plant cannot possibly absorb. The roots and plant may be sitting in very wet soil at all times. NO O2 for the roots!
=too much moisture =roots rotting =plant leaves turning black, etc. etc. I bet the roots arethe same.

You should re-pot this plant on an appropriate size pot (how big a pot was it in?). Maybe 8" or 10" pot--
depending on the size of the plant. AND--use very well draining soil Mix--like Pro Mix.
That is the kind of 'soil" most houseplants come potted in in any Nursery. Take a look.

Benny--I hope others will chime in here with their advice. Hang arounf here--you WILL get an education.

Here are a couple of my big HB of Swedish Ivies---2011 and 2013 This is what mine usually look like.

Name: Lin Vosbury
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

I'm an old gal who still loves playing in the dirt!

Playing in the dirt is my therapy . and I'm in therapy a lot!

Thank you so much for all this information. I really appreciate it. The plant was in a very large hanging basked when I bought it and was root bound in that so thought this would be a good home to grow up in. :)

At any rate, I am comforted that your specimens look a bit like mine. I will curtail the watering and won't feed again until summer and see how it goes.

From your experience, do these plants grow a bit on the slower side for you?

I thank you so much again!

I did mean to say how nice the Swedish Ivy looked in the pictures you posted. You must be doing
something right. DON'T loose this plant. Take cuttings to propagate it
and to share with your friends. As we have noted--this plant is pretty scarce to find nowadays.

Thank you very kindly. I will get some cuttings going absolutely. It is a shame this plant is scarce. It is so beautiful.

It will be "leggy" as the cuttings start to grow out. Just pinch out the very growing tips
to make them grow fuller.