Plectranthus neochilus 'Mike's Fuzzy Wuzzy' (Variegated Lobster Flower) - A perennial, aromatic, succulent herb, which grows as a ground-hugging mat under 1 foot tall (a little taller in shade or when well-watered) with rounded slightly scalloped gray-green foliage with cream margins and deep blue and purple flowers that rise 3 to 6 inches above the foliage from spring through late fall to nearly 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 and responds well to winter rains and occasional irrigation. Hardy to around 30 F and is treated as an annual in colder climates. The skunky aromatic foliage makes this plant somewhat deer resistant and in South Africa the green foliage species is even thought to repel snakes. A gardener in the San Francisco Bay area also tells us that even snails leave Plectranthus neochilus alone.
We received this variegated plant from Mike Tully of Terra Sol Garden Center in Santa Barbara who told us he found it at Michael Kartuz's nursery Kartuz Greenhouses. To honor both men we christened it "Mike's Fuzzy Wuzzy" and we have grown it since 2012 using this name.
Plectranthus neochilus 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. This plant has slightly shorter inflorescence than the typical Plectranthus neochilus in the California nursery trade, which might make it fit better with the very similar Plectranthus ornatus and some suggest it might be a selection of Plectranthus carinus, but we feel this off base as this species is an upright shrub with smaller flowers in evenly and closely spaced whorls. 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 neochilus comes from the Greek words 'neo' meaning "new" and 'chilus' meaning "lip", presumably referring to the large lower lip of the flower and the ethymology of the name 'ornatus' is Latin for "showy" or "ornamental". We also grow the non-variegated species Plectranthus neochilus.
Information about Plectranthus neochilus 'Mike's Fuzzy Wuzzy' 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.