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Products > Plants - Browse By Plant Category > Groundcover > Plectranthus amboinicus
Plectranthus amboinicus - Mexican Mint

Note: This plant is not currently for sale. This is an archive page preserved for informational use.  
Image of Plectranthus amboinicus
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Shrub
Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae) (Mints)
Origin: South Africa (Africa)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Violet
Bloomtime: Fall/Winter
Fragrant Flowers: Yes
Synonyms: [Coleus amboinicus, P. aromaticus]
Height: 1-2 feet
Width: 1-2 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 20-25 F
Plectranthus amboinicus (Mexican Mint)- A tender fleshy pleasantly aromatic evergreen subshrub that grows 12 to 18 inches tall by a bit wider with small ovate gray green leaves that have dentate margins towards the leaf tip and with a velvety texture. The small violet-colored flowers appear in a short inflorescence from fall into winter and sometime on to mid spring.

Plant in full coastal sun to light shade and irrigate occasionally to very little. Hardy to 20 F. A useful plant as a groundcover or even a windowsill plant and useful with its foliage that has an oregano-like flavor and odor that can be used to flavor food.

This plant is native from Kenya to South Africa (northern KwaZulu-Natal), where it grows in open grasslands and within succulent thickets on rocky outcrops and cliff faces. Joo de Loureiro (1717-1791), a Portuguese botanist who traveled throughout Asia and Indonesia initially described this plant in 1790 as Coleus amboinicus with the specific epithet referencing Ambon, an island in the Maluku Islands in Indonesia, which are also known as Moluccas Islands and commonly called the "Spice Islands. Kurt Polycarp Joachim Sprengel in 1825 transferred the plant into the genus Plectranthus. The most used common name seems to be Mexican Mint, confusing as this plant does not originate in Mexico but it has naturalized or is cultivated throughout the Old and New World Tropics; some references list it as native to these areas, but current thought is because of its long history of cultivation, it was transported great distances by earlier traders. In South Africa, the land of its origin, it is called Soup Mint, Country Borage or by the interesting names French Thyme and Indian Mint. In other parts of the world it is also called Big Thyme, Spanish Thyme, Cuban Oregano and Indian Borage.

Though this plant is widely grown, the first plant we received under this name turned out to be Plectranthus montanus. In 2018 Alan Paton, Head of Collections at the Royal Botanic Garden Kew, did a revision of Plectranthus and related plants (Paton, A.; Mwanyambo, M. & Culham, A. (2018). "Phylogenetic study of Plectranthus, Coleus and allies (Lamiaceae): Taxonomy, distribution and medicinal use". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 188 (4): 355376.). The new names were clarified in 2019 in an article titled "Nomenclatural changes in Coleus and Plectranthus (Lamiaceae): a tale of more than two genera" in PhytoKeys (PhytoKeys 129 (2019) which transferred many of the Plectranthus species, including this into the genus Coleus, making the valid name of this plant Coleus amboinicus. The name Coleus comes from the Greek word 'koleus', meaning a sheath, in reference to the manner in which the stamens are enclosed. Though we no longer grow this plant, we have retained the older name for now as this change gets more widely recognized so not to confuse our staff or our customers who may have purchased this plant from us. 

This information about Plectranthus amboinicus displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.