Amanda MackinnonLoving my Mona Lavender

Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’ is one of the unsung heroes in my garden. I can’t explain why, but I always seem to overlook it when asked what my favourite plants are. Can you think of plants like that at your place?

Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender'

Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’

Mona Lavender is a great plant that forms a low neat shrub in the garden. It seems to pretty much take care of itself. In actual fact, now that I think about it, I never water or feed my specimen. Hmmm…now I feel rather neglectful.

Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender'

Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’

In my defence I think it’s because I have it located in a shady spot that I don’t pay attention to very regularly. However, it’s been the perfect trial of a plant that claims to grow well in dry, shady zones as I can certainly attest to that now!

Despite my neglect (or perhaps I’m doing it a favour), my specimen has thrived. The foliage is always lush and dense and forms an even mounded shape. This is even despite losing a large section due to a mishap during a house renovation. It has bounced right back. I am impressed by its resilience to adverse conditions including the fair share of soccer balls and footballs that get launched into my garden beds.

Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender'

Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’

Like many Plectranthus species, Mona Lavender has interesting foliage in that the undersides of the leaves are a rich port colour whilst the topsides are dark green. This makes for an interesting contrast in the breeze and can be used to create dramatic impact if you like playing around with foliage colours in your plantings. From summer through to autumn the plant also produces lovely spikes of lavender coloured flowers.

Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender'

Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’

Mona Lavender does not spread like other members of this family can, but maintains its neat, low and mounded habit.

For those of you interested in where it came from, Mona Lavender originates from South Africa and was bred at the famous Kirstenbosh Botanical Garden in Capetown. Gotta get there one day!

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Amanda Mackinnon

About Amanda Mackinnon

Amanda's career has taken her on a remarkable journey through science, education, international business and communication. Living in a busy male dominated household – chasing around 2 noisy boys, one friendly golden retriever, a cheeky ginger cat and her husband, it’s no wonder she finds solace in the quiet beauty of plants! Amanda writes regularly for a variety of publications and is passionate about all things happening on the little island at the edge of the world.

23 thoughts on “Loving my Mona Lavender

  1. Hello Amanda
    I have just planted two Monas in dry shade in my garden. I’ll water them for their first summer but then they are on their own. Other plectranthus (argentatus and the old-fashioned one, purpurea? I think) have survived here, so it will be interesting to see whether Mona manages the summers of Adelaide which are longer, hotter and drier than your city.

  2. They are low maintenance and strike easily from a cutting. But one big downside is their ability to attract caterpillars and the larvae of the White butterfly. Dipel slows some of these pets but you need to be vigilant as they can quickly become pock marked.

    • It’s one of my favourite plants but I agree, white butterfly is partial to it, particularly late in the season as its flowers are slowing down.

  3. Garden in Melbourne. Have one in a large pot, which has survived with occasional watering, and doing quite well. One nearby in the ground doing rather badly despite more attention. No pests so far, few white butterflies in that area of the garden. Will pot up some cuttings, to see how they go in different situations.

  4. Hi all…I bought this lovely Mona lavender about 5 weeks ago and it’s going great…that was until I noticed some eaten leaves then on close inspection I found several lime green caterpillars which I quickly destroyed.
    Keeping an eye on it over the last week hasn’t helped much, I must have pulled off atleast 7 fat lil caterpillars yesterday plus 2 more today.
    Such lovely leaves quite shredded now. I was wondering can I cut this plant back to half size to rid a lot of the attacked foliage… Will it grow back well or should I just trim off the affected leaves carefully?
    Thanks…Mona loving Lisa…lol

  5. Oh btw, I’m located in Perth so how much heat can this plant ‘really’ handle…
    I have in a semi shaded area atm but it’s hidden down side of house, I’d rather it more visible in garden but have no shade there.

  6. Hi Lisa,
    Mona Lavender can be frost tender, so best not to cut it back coming into winter, as the soft new growth will be more susceptible.
    I would wait until after winter to prune it back when frost is not an issue. In the meantime, you need to get rid of the caterpillars so have a chat with your local garden centre and see what they recommend in your area.

  7. Thanks Amanda, oopsies tho, I’ve already cut it back. Not a huge amount but maybe 1/3 of the stem length.
    It does have new shoots and am hoping it will keep well leading up to winter.
    The stems that I cropped I’ve placed in water to hopefully propagate.
    Fingers crossed.

  8. Hi all. Can someone tell me where I can buy the plant Mona Lavender from? I live in the UK and have not been able to find it. My mother-in-law Mona has just passed away and would love to buy this plant as a reminder of her x

    • Hi Jan – that’s such a lovely way to remember your Mona. In the UK this plant is often known by the PBR name of Plectranthus ‘Plepalila’. Goodness knows why you’d call it that instead of Mona. The RHS Plantfinder lists it at a specialist Plectranthus mail order nursery in Norwich owned by George Gillespie called Georges Gorgeous Gardens, (email: phone (01508) 518559 / 07592 491234) or you could also see whether your local garden centre can order it in by that name. It’s also grown in the RHS Wisley garden so you might find it for sale there (email Hope you can track it down.

  9. I really like the Mona lavender when it’s in bloom, with pretty light purple flowers. I’m wondering why it hasn’t bloomed at all this year. It’s now early summer, the plant is in partial shade, in a large pot. It gets watered twice per week, in warm weather. I gave it some light seaweed fertilizer. Is there any reason you can think of for it not flowering this year? It did last year.

    • Hi Carol,
      Good question- perhaps not as happy with the sunlight and amount of water this year? It’s always at these times that I defer to my local horticulturalist- take a couple of photos down to your local garden centre- it’s so much easier when they can see it and live in the local area.
      Good luck!

    • HI Carol – I was in a Sydney nursery yesterday which had lots of Plectranthus Mona Lavender for sale. None of them were in flower and I could only find one that even had buds on it. So maybe it’s a bit early for it yet.

    • Carol, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and mine started blooming only in September. I was about to give up on it, and now it is just wonderful! I have it in a large pot at our entryway, some late afternoon sun.

  10. I’m planning on buying a Mona Lavender, as I’ve read that possums are not inclined to eat Lavender. But after seeing some photos of Mona Lavender, it looks very similar to the plant I’m looking to replace…which the possums love and have destroyed (I don’t know the name of this particular plant). Do you know whether possums are likely to leave Mona Lavender alone? Thanks (from Sydney)

    • Hi Stewart – Mona Lavender is not a lavender at all, it’s just named for the flower colour and habit which is similar. It is a Plectranthus which is in the same family (Lamiaceae) but a different genus and they both also have aromatic foliage. Lavenders need full sun whereas Mona Lavender will grow in half shade in Sydney. From my experience with ringtail possums, they will eat pretty much anything except dog bane (also a plectranthus but a very smelly one).

    • Hi Annette, take a little snippet of it into your local garden centre- the professionals in your local area will be able to help you out.

  11. I’ve just retired and am doing some excited research about shade loving plants. In your opinion, or in that of any other readers, do you think the mona lavendar would mingle nicely with tree ferns in a super shady spot or is it searching for a bit of light?

    • From my experience, most Plectranthus grow best in dappled shade but will flower more prolifically in more sun. I would expect that the Mona Lavender cultivar will grow OK in heavier shade but you wouldn’t see many flowers.

  12. Hello , I have four Mona Lavender plants that are planted in a flower bed. I live in Kentucky and we just had our first really good frost. Now my plants look somewhat dead from where the frost got them. I still have a few blocks on them towards the bottom. I am new to gardening and just need to know should I cut off the tops that look dead or leave them till after winter? Any help will greatly appreciated.

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