Scaredy Cat Plant

The Scaredy Cat Plant Lives Up to Its Name


The scaredy cat plant is aptly named, as it does to a good job of keeping cats out of places where you would rather not have them. The real name for the plant is Coleus canina, and it is a particularly attractive species of the coleus genus. The plant also goes by the names scaredy cat coleus and pee off plant.


Some Things Work – Some Don’t


Some people go to great lengths to try to keep cats out of their yard and garden. Dogs will sometimes do the job of course, but not everyone wants a dog, and there are some cats who can hold their own against most breeds of dogs. When it comes to fighting, cats sometimes have street smarts that dogs don’t. When a dog chases a cat under a car, things can quickly become one-sided. Shiny things are said to sometimes keep cats at a distance, but shiny things can sometimes attract other visitors. Cats are supposed to be afraid of snakes, and there are some who advocate placing a few rubber snakes around the yard.


The truth is, there are several plants you can grow in your yard that cats can’t seem to stand the scent of. They don’t like anything that has a citrus smell to it, nor do they care for peppermint or lavender scents. Rue is an herb that is both attractive in the garden and has a scent that cats don’t seem to like one bit.


This article however is about the scaredy cat plant, which seems to be as effective in keeping cats away as just about anything else. In fact, it is said to do a good job of keeping dogs, rabbits, and a few other critters away as well. This plant is a member of the mint family. Its odor is, as far as cats are concerned, very similar to the odor of tomcat urine, although it is supposedly not the least bit offensive to humans. The plant has attractive foliage, ironically somewhat similar in shape and color to catnip, and features attractive blue flowers. It can be planted as a bedding plant, or as some gardeners have done, planted in pots, so it can be moved around to strategic locations, should the need arise.


Attractive, But Not All That Friendly


As attractive as this plant is, it is not always all that friendly to people either. Even though the leaves definitely indicate the plant belongs to the mint family, they are poisonous. So are the seeds. In fact all parts of the plants are poisonous. There are also some sharp spines on the plants, making it advisable to wear gloves when handling them, and the pollen will cause an allergic reaction in some people. If you plant a few of these, you’ll keep cats away, but may keep some friends, neighbors, or relatives away as well during pollen season.


Characteristics of the Plant


Coleus canina is listed as an annual, although some growers say it can overwinter. It might be better classified as a half-hardy perennial. It will grow to a height of between 12 and 18 inches, and does best when planted in full sun. The colors of the flowers can vary from a medium blue, to lavender, to violet. The plant blooms repeatedly throughout the growing season. Coleus canina is highly drought tolerant, and it is definitely a low maintenance plant. While it has a tendency to spread slowly, the fact that it is only half hardy keeps it from becoming overly invasive. It does have a wandering characteristic however, so you might not want to plant it where its tendency to creep along the ground might cause a problem. In some gardens this plant is grown as much for its foliage as it is for its blooms. The foliage can provide a nice background that does not distract from other plants. Not everyone grows scaredy cat plants to keep cats away. Some grow the plant strictly on its merits as an attractive addition to a flower garden.


Upon looking at a few owners’ reviews of this plant, it is apparent that is it effective against not only cats, but effective against dogs as well. Some owners say it has an odor similar to that of a skin if brushed up against. Others say the plant smells like a skunk whether you brush up against it or not. Still, almost everyone who has some of these plants seems to be pleased with them, and more than a few keep them as indoors plants.


Those who choose to propagate the plant say it is quite easy to do so from stem cuttings. If the side branches of a plant come into contact with the ground they will usually set roots. When sold at nurseries these plants are often sold in plugs. The plants can also be grown from seeds. If you live in a temperate climate, and have a problem with cats digging in your garden, or chasing after the song birds, you might consider giving a few of these plants a try.