The first time I saw a Vicks plant (Plectranthus tomentosa) was at the Union Square greenmarket. Fleshy to the touch, its leaves emit a strong odor of Vick's VapoRub. So much so that its scent is nearly indistinguishable.
Turns out there are 44 types of volatile constituents that give P. tomentosa its scent, including eight types of compounds. Of the 44 constituents, half of them are terpenoids, which are phytochemicals that are the main components of essential oils. Of the terpenoids, limonene (the same smell you get from citrus plants), was the most abundant, so if you're composting this plant, I would keep it away from your worm composting (vermicomposting) units since limonene is toxic to worms.
P. tomentosa is both succulent and hardy. The species name "tomentosa" is Latin for 'cushion stuffing,' and it refers to the tomentum, or the woolly coating on the leaves. You can tell by looking at the overall plant that its a pretty juicy plant. Given its succulent-like nature, I've found that it grows best in full sun but can tolerate partial shade, as I have specimens growing both in south- and north-facing windows. It's a relatively quick grower and can get fairly leggy, so if you want it to be more robust, I would cut it back fairly often.
You'll want a well-draining soil for your Vicks plant because it prefers succulent-like conditions. I mixed together 1 part peat moss with 1 part succulent soil mix. Water it well about once every week or two and then let it drain. In the winter months, you can water it even less.
Propagation is pretty straightforward. All you need to do is take stem cuttings, and as I shared earlier, this specimen can get pretty stemmy, so it doesn't mind getting a haircut :). Make sure that you have 2-4 leaf nodes on a stem and snip the cutting 1/4" below the nodes. It's easy for this plant to get waterlogged, so put your cutting into a moistened growing medium (a potting soil-vermiculite mix will do!). Then let it sit near a windowsill so it can get some diffuse sunlight. You should see the cutting take root in around three weeks time.
This plant can be used as a decongestant, much in the same way as Vicks Vaporub, which I've done in the past for one of my sick friends. I'll show you how to make an all natural vapor rub using P. tomentosa in a forthcoming post! 🌿