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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - September 26, 2007

From: Rochester, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Container Gardens
Title: Plectranthus (native of South Africa) winter care and insects
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I was recently given a beautiful plant which is now in a pot in my yard. I live in Rochester, NY and need to know what to do with this plant in the fall. The plant is 'Mona Lavender' Plectranthus pp 13858. Is this an annual or perennial? Should I bring it inside when the weather gets cold? If I do bring it in, do I have to worry about bugs on the leaves or in the soil contaminating my house plants? I would appreciate any advice on this matter.

ANSWER:

At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we concentrate on the protection and propagation of plants native to North America. While the Plectranthus is a native of South Africa, we are happy to pass along the information we found on it.

The Plectranthus "Mona Lavender" is the result of very intensive hybridizing in its native South Africa. It is a quick-growing perennial shrub, reaching 24 to 30 inches in height. When it receives sun, it tends to stay smaller and more compact, and does very well in either shaded or partly sunny positions. In your location in New York, you will certainly need to bring the plant in before the first frost. It needs a rich soil, and watering every few days, as well as fertilizing every 6 to 10 weeks. We really can't help you much with whether infestations on the leaves or the soil will damage your house plants. The best practice is to examine it very closely before you bring it in, perhaps using a strong spray of water on the leaves to dislodge any very small pests. If the soil began as a sterilized potting soil, there shouldn't be much danger of pests in that. If you are still concerned, you might "quarantine" it for a while, away from the other house plants, perhaps in a garage, and see if the warmer interior air brings out any bugs.

Since this plant is a native of a much-warmer climate, we don't feel it's necesssary to warn you about allowing the plant to grow in the soil outside. If it can't survive your winters, it's unlikely to escape from cultivation and become an invasive.

 

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