How to Care for a Scaredy Cat Plant – 9 Points Not to Miss!

The Scaredy Cat Plant has a sneaky secret weapon—its leaves emit an odor that’s, shall we say, utterly repulsive to our four-legged furry friends and other animals. While humans may not detect it, it’s like a pungent slap in the snout to dogs and cats.

The Scaredy Cat Plant (aka Coleus caninus or Plectranthus caninus) loves its moist soil and enjoys soaking up sunlight. However, it appreciates shade during the scorching afternoons. It favors a good watering regime but doesn’t like to be drowned in affection.

I was tired of my garden being treated like the neighborhood litter box. I came across this plant at the local nursery, and the Scaredy Cat Plant has been the hero I needed! 

scaredy cat plant

Table of Contents

Does It Require Special Lighting?

Scaredy Cat Plants crave about 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. It prefers full sun, so placing it near a sunny spot where it can soak up a few hours of afternoon rays is just right!

Too much light, and it’ll start looking like a tomato in the midday heat – all crispy and burnt around the edges! If the leaves develop brown spots or become pale, you have a classic case of light overdose.

close up of scaredy cat plant leaves

Deprive it of light, and its leaves will droop and sag. Inevitably leaving you with a seriously sulky plant on your hands.

My sunny south-facing window was intense for my Coleus caninus. I opted for the east-facing window. The gentle morning light gave my Scaredy Cat Plant partial shade, getting enough sunlight without scorching.

How Often Should I Water?

Although Coleus caninus prefers a balanced watering routine and is drought tolerant. Pay attention to its attractive foliage. When the leaves droop, it’s a sign that your Coleus caninus needs a drink. 

Don’t wait for it to collapse– catch the signs early, and it’ll reward you with a lush appearance.

scaredy cat plant blurred background

Let the top inch or so of the soil dry out before you water it again. This way, you’re preventing the dreaded waterlogging, which this plant despises more than a dog hates baths!

In the summer months, your Coleus caninus needs more hydration. On the other paw, during the cooler months, it’s best to ease up on the watering and let it enjoy a dry spell.

How Can I Make Soil?

The Scaredy Cat plant isn’t too demanding with soil preferences.

Here’s how to create the perfect soil habitat:

  • Well-Drained Soil: Coleus Caninus doesn’t like to sit in a puddle. Ensure the soil in its pot or flower beds has good drainage.
  • Loamy Goodness: If you want to pamper your Scaredy Cat with the crème de la crème of soil, go for a loamy mix. Loam combines sand, silt, and clay, providing drainage and nutrient retention.
  • Nutrition Booster: Mix some organic matter, like compost or well-rotted manure, to keep it well-fed.
  • pH in the Sweet Spot: Slightly acidic to neutral. Aim for a pH level between 6.0 to 7.0, and you’ll have a flourishing Scaredy Cat plant!

Check out this DIY Scaredy Cat Plant Soil Recipe:

  • 2 parts high-quality potting soil
  • 1 part perlite or coarse sand
  • 1 part well-rotted compost or organic matter
  • 1 part peat moss or coconut coir
  • 1/2 part vermiculite (optional for extra moisture retention)

black cat amongst plants

Firstly, find an area to mix your soil ingredients comfortably. Ensure you have all the components to create the perfect blend.

Next, start with a foundation by using high-quality potting soil as the base. This forms the backbone of your DIY soil mixture. 

Then, add perlite or coarse sand to prevent the soil from getting compacted and promote drainage. These components act like aerators, giving your Coleus caninus roots the space to breathe and grow.

After that, incorporate well-rotted compost or organic matter into the mix. This provides nutrients and encourages root development.

Add peat moss or coconut coir to balance hydration and promote proper drainage. This ingredient retains moisture without turning the soil into a soggy mess.

Add vermiculite to the mix if you live in a dry climate or want to pamper your Scaredy Cat with extra moisture. 

Finally, mix all the ingredients, ensuring an even distribution. Before planting your Scaredy Cat, test the soil. Squeeze a handful – it should hold its shape but crumbles easily when touched. Add more perlite or sand if it feels dense for better aeration.

How Can I Control the Temperature?

scaredy cat plant outside

The best place to keep your Scaredy Cat Plant is indoors, where it can enjoy a controlled climate.

It can tolerate temperatures between 60°F (15°C) to 75°F (24°C) during the day. However, it appreciates a bit of a cool-down at night, so keep it within the range of 55°F (13°C) to 65°F (18°C) when the sun goes down.

Keep it away from drafty windows, doors, or air conditioning units – it doesn’t like temperature swings.

Signs that your Coleus caninus might feel the heat or the chill include droopy leaves, leaf loss, or a lack of vitality. If you see these signs, it’s time to adjust the temperature.

During winter, keep it away from frosty windows or heaters that dry the air like a desert wind. During the summer days, offer it some shade during the hottest hours.

Does It Love Humidity?

The Scaredy Cat Plant appreciates moisture in the air. No stress- you don’t need to transform your home into a rainforest to keep this plant purring.

scaredy cat plant leaf close up

Aim for a humidity level of around 50% to 60%. Keeping humidity in this range will help prevent your Scaredy Cat from feeling like it’s lost in the Sahara.

Now, here are a few tips to maintain the humidity for your green companion:

  • Misting: A misting session every few days will give your Scaredy Cat a breath of moist air.
  • Grouping: Cluster your Scaredy Cat with other indoor plants. They’ll create a microclimate of humidity, like a cozy community pool for plants!
  • Humidifier: If you live in a dry climate or during the winter when indoor air tends to be drier, consider using a humidifier.
  • Pebble Pool: Placing a tray of water and pebbles near your Scaredy Cat will help increase humidity.

If your Scaredy Cat feels parched, you might notice crispy leaf edges, leaf yellowing, or droopy foliage. Conversely, high humidity levels should be avoided for comfort and to prevent fungal diseases and create a breeding ground for pests.

What Fertilizer Does It Require?

The Scaredy Cat prefers a light and balanced diet. Offer your Scaredy Cat a light meal every 4 to 6 weeks during spring and summer.

cat looking behind plant

Opt for a balanced, all-purpose liquid fertilizer, one with equal amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). This 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 blend provides a well-rounded diet for your Coleus canina.

When fertilizing, follow the instructions on the label. Also don’t forget the golden rule – less is more! Dilute the fertilizer to half or quarter strength to avoid overwhelming your Coleus canina with a nutrient overload. Fertilize when the soil is moist, not bone-dry or soaking wet.

Give your Coleus canina a rest from fertilizing during the cooler months.

If you notice leaf burn, yellowing, or an unhappy appearance, it’s a sign that your Scaredy Cat is over-fed. Excess nutrients can stress out our green companion.

Can I Propagate the Scaredy Cat Plant?

There are two ways to propagate this natural deterrent: cuttings and seeds. Let’s dive into each method!

scaredy cat flower black background


  1. Pick a stem about 4-6 inches long, with a few sets of leaves. It should be a healthy, non-flowering stem.
  2. Use a sharp pair of scissors or pruning shears to make a clean cut just below a leaf node (the part where the leaf forms).
  3. Carefully remove the lower leaves from the stem, leaving only a few sets of leaves at the top.
  4. Dip the cut end of the stem into a rooting hormone powder (optional but can boost success rates). Then, place the cutting into a small pot with moist, well-draining soil.
  5. Cover the pot with a plastic bag or use a propagator to create a humid microclimate. This is like a greenhouse and encourages root growth.
  6. Keep the cutting in a warm, bright spot (partial shade). Be patient; you’ll witness the magic of a new rooted cutting in a few weeks!


  1. If your Scaredy Cat Plant produces seeds (after flowering), gather them once they’ve matured.
  2. Sow the seeds in a small pot filled with moist, well-draining soil. Press the seeds into the soil, but don’t bury them too deep.
  1. Cover the pot with plastic wrap or use a propagator to maintain humidity. Place it in a warm spot and wait just a few days for the seeds to work their magic!
  2. Once the seeds sprout, remove the plastic cover and give them space to grow.

You can now create new Coleus canina companions and share them with fellow plant lovers.

How Toxic Is A Scaredy Cat Plant?

The Coleus canina toxicity isn’t deadly or life-threatening but can cause discomfort and mild irritation if ingested by pets. 

It contains toxic compounds for our furry friends, including dogs and cats. Taking precautions and keeping Coleus canina away from curious paws and sniffing noses is essential! 

To ensure the safety of your pets, keep the Scaredy Cat Plant out of their reach. 

I place it on a high shelf, a plant stand, or a hanging basket to proudly display its quirky charm while remaining safe from my curious pets.

Is it Prone to Pests and Common Problems?

Watch out for invaders like aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites that try to nibble on its leaves. Regularly inspect your Coleus canina to combat these pests, and use natural remedies like neem oil or insecticidal soap. 

many scaredy cat plants

You can tackle unwanted visitors with regular inspections. Avoid overwatering, which might cause root rot or leaf yellowing.

About Scaredy Cat Plant

The Scaredy Cat Plant, named for its pet-repelling abilities, is a low-growing ground cover perennial that reaches a height of 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm). Its tooth-edged leaves boast a vibrant green hue, with splashes of cream and purple.

This mint family member’s claim to fame is its unique defense mechanism –the plant smells repulsive (like dog urine) to our furry friends. While humans can’t detect it, cats and dogs avoid this fragrant barrier, sparing your garden from becoming a pet’s playground.

The Scaredy Cat Plant’s versatility extends from outdoor gardens to indoor spaces, making it a popular choice among plant lovers.


Does scaredy cat plant work?

The Scaredy Cat Plant works like a charm when repelling pets, especially cats and dogs. Its leaves emit an unappealing odor to our furry friends, keeping them at bay.

What is the common name for plectranthus caninus?

The common name for Plectranthus Caninus is the Scaredy Cat Plant. This quirky name perfectly captures its unique ability to deter pets from exploring areas where it’s planted. The plant is also known by other names such as “Dogbane” or “Coleus Canina.”

What does scaredy cat plant smell like?

The Scaredy Cat Plant has an unnoticeable scent to humans but emits a foul strong odor to cats and dogs, similar to the urine smell.

Is scaredy cat plant toxic?

The Scaredy Cat Plant is not considered highly toxic but contains certain compounds that can cause mild irritation if pets ingest it.

What plants help with cat anxiety?

If you’re looking for plants to help soothe your feline friend’s anxiety, consider options like Catnip (Nepeta cataria), known for its stimulating effect on cats, or Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), with a calming effect and can help reduce stress.

Furry Friend Repeller: The Purr-Fection of the Scaredy Cat Plant 

From its tooth-edged leaves with cream and purple splashes to its modest height, the Scaredy Cat Plant adds whimsy to any indoor space. Not only does its unique, strong scent make it repugnant to cats and dogs it also makes it a clever and effective garden guardian. Therefore ensuring a pet-free zone without harmful consequences.

Beyond nature’s peculiarities lies a surprisingly easy plant to care for. With a preference for well-drained soil and moderate sunlight, it rewards even novice gardeners with its vibrant appearance and resilience.

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Photo of author
Alex Tinsman
An avid plant and flower lover! Ever since he was little, plants, flowers, and shrubbery of all kinds filled his life. Alex credits this fascination with nature's beauty to his mother and grandmother who were - and still are - dedicated gardeners. It's now Alex's mission to pass that same love for plants onto others and show them it's as easy as pie to bring nature inside.

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