Plant Profile: Coleus graveolens

Also known as:

  • Plectranthus graveolens
  • Native Coleus
  • Bush Basil
  • Mountain Plectranthus
  • Sticky Cockspur
  • Five Spice Plant
My Native Coleus is thriving in a raised bed between a perennial basil and rainbow chard.

Growing conditions:

  • Part sun/shade
  • Most soils/prefers moist fertile soil/doesn’t do well in sandy soils
  • Low growing shrub


  • Cuttings
My first cutting took well but deteriorated inside the greenhouse. It now has two healthy new leaves and more on the way in its new spot beside the Bronze Fennel.

I have been trying to get a native Coleus for years so I was very excited when I saw this plant available. As soon as I got it home, I took a cutting.  In only a few days the roots appeared on the stalk suspended in water! I popped it into some soil and put it in the greenhouse. In a few days the leaves started to crinkle and brown. It didn’t like the constant humidity, I thought. After a few days outside it perked up, confirming my suspicions.  In my experience the fleshy members of the Coleus and Plectranthus species don’t enjoy constant humidity.  They seem to prefer at least a break overnight.  At first I was perplexed by this, considering it’s endemic to the East coast of Queensland including rainforest areas, but upon reflection it makes sense. Having lived in rainforest areas when I was growing up,  I remember cool nights for most of the year, sweet releases from the sometimes oppressive humidity.

The plant in the raised bed has already grown and I am surprised by how big some of the fleshy leaves have become.

In the early Australian colonies this plant was known as “Five Spice Plant”, referencing flavours of basil, mint and sage. For thousands of years before that, the Aboriginal people used it as a medicinal and ceremonial herb. In the present day, the young leaves are used in pesto, pizzas and Mediterranean salads. Leaves can be used fresh or dried, but apparently the flavour does diminish as the drying process progresses.

My second cutting is doing much better outside the greenhouse.

I am looking forward to having enough new leaves to harvest and experiment with in the kitchen, but I will have to stop the propagation experiments first!

Wishing you lots of successful propagation experiments,


PS This plant is on my Ten Australian Bush Food Plants for Your Garden list. Click here to read the full article.

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