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Coleus amboinicus Lour.

Family Name: Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
Synonyms: Coleus aromaticus, Plectranthus aromaticus, Plectranthus amboinicus
Common Name: Mexican Mint, Spanish Thyme, Cuban Oregano, Indian Borage, 左手香, 到手香, 印度薄荷
Semi Shade Moderate Water Herb or Spice Indoor Plant Fragrant Plant Herbaceous Plant


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Authority
Name Status (botanical)
Common Names

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Herbaceous Plant
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Maximum Height 0.3 m to 1 m


Native Distribution Uncertain, but thought to be from the southern and eastern parts of Africa, India or SE Asia
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Grassland / Savannah/ Scrubland, Disturbed Area / Open Ground)
Preferred Climate Zone Sub-Tropical / Monsoonal

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Perennial herb with a life cycle of 3 – 10 years, fleshy and highly aromatic. It has a tendency to climb or creep, and can reach up to 1 m tall. 
Foliage Leaves simple, thick and fleshy, light green with opposite leaf arrangement (2.5 – 3 cm long, 2.5 – 3 cm wide). Leaves are broadly ovate or triangular in shape (truncate leaf base and a broadly acute apex). Leaf margin is crenate. Lower surface contains numerous glandular hairs, giving a frosty appearance. 
Stems Stems are tomentose (densely covered with short, soft hairs). 
Flowers 10 – 20 flowers are arranged in a verticil inflorescence (10 – 20 cm long). The flowers encircle the floral stalk at several points along the floral stalk, with points closer together at the tip than at the base. Flower has bell shaped calyx. 
Fruits Fruits are smooth nutlets, pale brown n colour. In Singapore, this plant rarely flowers and fruits. 
Habitat In Fiji, naturalized plants occur at low altitudes (0 – 250 m) in forests or brush where soil is rocky or sandy. In Tonga, naturalized plants occur in abandoned lands or near roads. It is considered an invasive plant in the Virgin Islands.
Cultivation Plant individuals 40 - 45 cm apart. Requires sandy soil that drains well. It has a fast growth rate. Stems are susceptible to breakage. 
Etymology The genus name “Plectranthus” is a combination of 2 Greek words that mean “spur” (plectron) and “flower” (anthos). The species epithet “amboinicus” is derived from Ambon, an island in the East Indies where Rumphius, a well-known botanist, is from.
Ethnobotanical Uses Food (Herb and Spice : The leaves are used to add flavor to meat and bean dishes, especially in Caribbean cuisine. The flavor is described as being a combination of thyme and oregano. )
Medicinal ( In Taiwan, the plant is used in traditional medicine to treat inflammation or swelling. A study by Chang et al. (2007) indicates that it has potential to treat rheumatoid arthritis. In Indonesia, Philippines and India, the plant is used as a treatment for coughing. Indonesian women that have given birth sometimes drink soups made with the leaves to promote lactation. )
[Others]: Volatile oils extracted from the plant have antifungal properties that could potentially protect stored foods from fungal contamination (Murthy et al. 2009). The essential oils are toxic to some insects.

Landscaping Features

Landscaping Sometimes used as a ground cover. Can be grown in pots or hanging containers. Prized for its ornamental foliage.
Desirable Plant Features Fragrant (Foliage)
Plant & Rootzone Preference - Tolerance Well-Drained Soils
Landscape Uses Container Planting, Interiorscape/ Indoor Plant
Thematic Landscaping Economic Garden
Plant & Rootzone Preference or Tolerance Remarks Sandy soil is ideal.

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Semi-Shade
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Fast
Planting Distance From 0
Planting Distance To 0
Propagation Method Seed, Stem Cutting, Leaf Cutting


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Hairy / Hirsute, Thick
Prominent Young Flush Colour(s) Green, Green - Light Green
Young Flush Texture(s) Hairy / Hirsute
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Opposite
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Ovate)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Crenate
Foliar Apex - Tip Acute
Foliar Base Truncate / Square
Typical Foliar Area Microphyll ( 2.25cm2 - 20.25 cm2 )

Non - Foliar and Storage

Stem Type & Modification Herbaceous
Root Type Underground (Tap Root)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower Colour(s) Blue, Pink, Purple
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Symmetry Bilateral
Individual Flower Shape Labiate / Lipped, Campaulate / Bell-shaped
Inflorescence Type Verticel
Flowering Period Rarely

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) - Angiosperms and Gymnosperms Brown
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type 1 Indehiscent Dry Fruit
Fruit Type 2 Nut / Nutlet

Image Repository



Master ID 29408
Species ID 3717
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 23 February 2022.