The exasperating coleus

Green Coleus "canina"

Green Coleus “canina”

How often do you encounter plants that just keep popping up all over your garden? They may show up in flowering beds, across the lawn, with your potted plants, in cracks in cement… You get the picture? When plants do that, we call them weeds – but honestly, they’re just plants that we didn’t plan for and are prejudiced against because they grow better than the plants we actually want.

Well here’s the tale of one such plant that has been spreading happily all around our garden. I know it has been growing “here and there” for several years, but this plant finally got a firm foothold and is now growing in clumps all over the place. Why? Because it has such a quick life cycle and it produces loads of seeds with each plant. They must be tiny and light because, somehow, they are able to find they way onto roofs as well! The consolation about this is that I don’t think they have roots that can damage property, but I’m still peeved about how pervasive it is.

It took me a while to figure out what it was, and let me give you the shortcut I learned. It’s called a Google image search. Instead of typing in your search request, you can actually go to Google images and use an image to submit your query! It’s pretty cool, and allowed me to finally identify my new plant foe as a coleus.

Check out the length of those flower spikes ...then imagine the number of seeds being produced!

Check out the length of those flower spikes …then imagine the number of seeds being produced!

Coleus to me are normally ornamental plants with colourful, patterned leaves that grow in shady conditions. This insidious plant is plain green all over and has a flower spike of pale blue or purplish flowers, and grows not only in shade, but also full sunlight. What I don’t like about it is the weird scent it gives off when it gets bruised when I’m yanking it out.

This belongs to the Plectranthus family of plants which has a multitude of varieties. The closest I’ve come to identifying this one is Coleus “canina”, which describes it right down to the smell. It is apparently also called the “Scaredy Cat” plant as it supposedly repels pest animals (like cats). What interested me was that it supposedly also drives off mosquitoes! Maybe it does, but I’m still not happy at the way it has spread so much.

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