Plectranthus neochilus (Lobster Flower) - A perennial, aromatic, succulent herb, which grows as a ground-hugging wide spreading mat under 1 foot tall (a little taller in shade or when well-watered) with rounded slightly scalloped gray-green foliage and deep blue and purple flowers that rise 3 to 6 inches above the foliage from spring through late fall (sometimes blooming year-round). This plant makes an attractive ground cover when not in flower and is spectacular when flowering. It is also useful in hanging baskets and containers.
Plant in bright shade to full sun near the coast. Useful in difficult dry sites so long as soil drains adequately. This plant responds well to winter rains and occasional irrigation in drier months. Hardy to at least 30 °F and treated as an annual in colder climates - here in Santa Barbara the plants are often in bloom year-round, including in the dead of winter. The skunky aromatic foliage makes this plant somewhat deer resistant and in South Africa the plant it is even thought to repel snakes. A gardener in the San Francisco Bay area also tells us that even snails leave it alone. We have also seen references to it being marketed as a repellent to dogs and then grown under the fictitious, but amusing, name Plectranthus x caninus and it seems to also be around under the name Plectranthus 'Lois Woodhull'.
Grows naturally in dry thickets, and rocky woodlands, from the Eastern Cape to the Natal in in South Africa and in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia. The name for the genus comes from the Greek words 'plektron' meaning a "spur" and 'anthos' meaning "flower" in reference to the spur that is found at the base of the corolla tube of the type species, Plectranthus fruticosus.
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): 355–376.). 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 neochilus. The name Coleus comes from the Greek word 'koleus', meaning a sheath, in reference to the manner in which the stamens are enclosed. We have retained the older name for now as this change gets more widely recognized so not to confuse our staff or our customers. The specific epithet comes from the Greek words 'neo' meaning "new" and 'chilus' meaning "lip", presumably referring to the the large lower lip of the flower. We also grow a variegated form that we call Plectranthus neochilus 'Fuzzy Wuzzy'.
Information about Plectranthus neochilus displayed on this page is based on our research about it conducted in our library and gathered from reliable online sources. We include observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well as how the crops have performed in containers in our own nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others about this plant when we feel it adds information and particularly welcome hearing from anyone who has any additional cultural recommendations that would aid others in growing it.