Sun exposure:
Full sun, partial shade
East facing, south facing, west facing
Position in border:
Front, middle


Clay / Heavy / Moist / Well Drained / Light / Sandy

Coleus caninus is known as the scaredy cat or scat plant, as its smell is said to deter cats, as well as other mammals including dogs, rabbits, and foxes. Reports suggest that this plant deters around two-thirds of all cats, so it’s not a fail-safe solution, but worth trying where neighbouring cats are visiting your garden and using flower or vegetable borders for their toilet.

Cat deterring aside, Coleus caninus is an attractive frost-tender perennial plant that forms a neat bush of lush foliage and bears blue flowers in summer. The rounded to scallop-edged green or grey-green leaves have a pungent unpleasant smell to humans, though mostly only when touched or bruised. Pale blue to violet blue flowers form lavender-like spires and are borne through summer, although not in the same abundance as lavender. Once established, Coleus caninus tolerates drought and is easy to grow, needing little attention apart from pruning stems that become straggly (wear gloves, as pruning releases the plants’ unpleasant smell).

Plant Coleus caninus in borders or pots – the advantage of growing in containers is being able to readily move plants under cover for the winter to a frost-free place. A space-saving alternative is to take cuttings from mid- to late-summer, pot individually into small pots, and overwinter on a windowsill.

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Advice on buying Coleus caninus

  • Coleus caninus is sold online as plug plants for delivery in spring. Pot up individually into 9cm pots and grow on in a well-lit spot under cover until the frosts are past, then harden off (acclimatise to the outside) for at least a week before planting out
  • Other names that this plant may be sold under are Solenostemon canina and Plectranthus caninus.
  • Always check plants for signs of damage or disease before planting. Alocasia 'Black Velvet' can be prone to spider mites, so it would be worth quarantining new plants, particularly before adding to a terrarium.

Where to buy Coleus caninus

Plant calendar

Take cuttingsyes

Coleus and wildlife

Coleus is known for attracting bees.

Is known to attract Bees
Is not known to attract Beneficial insects
Beneficial insects
Is not known to attract Birds
Is not known to attract Butterflies/​Moths
Is not known to attract Other pollinators
Other pollinators

Is Coleus poisonous?

Coleus causes an upset stomach.

Toxic to:
Is known to attract Cats
Is known to attract Dogs
No reported toxicity to:
Is not known to attract Birds
Is not known to attract Horses
Is not known to attract Livestock
Is not known to attract People