When spotting the smooth and shiny foliage of a colorful coprosma, it’s only a matter of seconds before my client asks ‘What IS that plant?’
Commonly known as a ‘Mirror Plant’, coprosma’s foliage looks like someone meticulously shellacked each perfectly shaped oval leaf. Yes, they’re that shiny.
Finding foliage with smooth and reflective surfaces isn’t always easy, which is just one of the reasons why I’m such a fan of these evergreen shrubs.
Contrast the mirror-like foliage with a nearby rough and crinkly Leatherleaf Viburnum or Rodgersia, and the result will be a textural delight.
In addition to the ultra-shiny foliage, coprosmas come in a wide variety of amazing colors. They often have variegated leaves with colors that change dramatically throughout the seasons.
Whether it’s crisp green and white, or solid red, or pink variegated, or orange variegated, or even deep maroon (like in this gardener’s beautiful garden, left) there’s bound to be a color just right for your garden.
Alas, these jewel-like evergreen shrubs would be perfect if they were just a little hardier, able to survive cold, cold winters.
But they’re not, preferring to live in zones 9 and warmer.
HOWEVER, I’ve known several cold-climate gardeners who overwinter their containers of coprosmas in the house. Voila – problem solved!
Once established, coprosmas are fairly drought tolerant, and in really hot climates like mine, are happiest in partial shade.
Oh, and did I mention they’re deer-resistant, too?
Below are a few of my favorite varieties and how I like to use them in the garden.
Coprosma ‘Pink Splendor’
This is my go-to shrub when I want something to put on a colorful performance throughout the year.
‘Pink Splendor’ grows to 5’x5′ (though I usually see it closer to 3’x3′ in my area.)
When planted in full sun, the colder temperatures cause the leaves to turn into a kaleidescope of colors.
With each leaf containing shades of pink, orange, green and cream, this shrub begs to be paired with a terra cotta pot.
However, if you’d like to tone down the warm colors just a bit, all that’s needed is a little manipulation!
Coprosmas will grow just as happily in partial shade as they will in the sun, however the colors in their foliage will be muted.
In my previous garden, I loved how the soft peach tones echoed the nearby fall colors of the viburnum, hydrangea, and eupatorium.
Coprosma ‘Roy’s Red’
‘Roy’s Red’ is another colorful chameleon, with winter foliage tinged with chocolate, bronze and olive green.
In mid-summer, however, the tawny colors give way to deep olive green.
This lush color is such a welcome site in the glaring summer sun, providing a ‘visually cool’ element to the garden (bottom, left.)
‘Roy’s Red’ is a taller variety, topping out at about 6’x3′.
I love plants with dimensions that are taller than they are wide, making them ideal for placing along the back of the border in tight spaces (below, right.)
Coprosma ‘County Park Red’
Now this coprosma definitely deserves to have ‘red’ in its name! ‘County Park Red’ puts on a long-lasting fiery show once colder winter temperatures hit.
Whereas the ‘Roy’s Red’ (above) loses most of its color mid-summer, ‘County Park’ retains its warm tones throughout the year.
Its compact 3’x3′ size makes it perfect for anchoring the middle of a border, which I’ve done below.
When designing this bed, I wanted to create a colorful garden bed that would last well into January.
So, I combined coprosma ‘County Park Red’ with the oversized orange/red blooms of grevillea ‘Superb, and Creeping Plumbago’s dark maroon fall foliage (at the front of the border.)
Coprosma ‘Karo’s Red’
It seems red is a favorite color among coprosma breeders, even though the colors are more chocolate brown than anything.
‘Karo’s Red’ grows to a tidy 3’x3′ mound and has smaller oval leaves than the varieties mentioned above.
This is a more dense and compact variety, perfect for the mid-border.
I absolutely love ‘Karo’s Red’ foliage when placed near glaucous leaves of this calendrinia succulent. (not sure what ‘glaucous’ is? Click here!)
Here in my client’s fairly new garden, we planted ‘Karo’s Red’ along the base of this stucco wall to someday create a colorful and ‘shadowy’ ribbon behind the fountain.
My intent was to soften the hardness of the wall with a moody color that allows the vibrant purple lavender to ‘pop.’
Now that a few years have passed, I need to pay another visit to this garden for updated pics!
(click here to see more of this low-water, lawn-free garden.)
Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunrise’
Anytime the word ‘tequila’ is in a plant’s name you know it’ll be a party! This coprosma is no exception.
Similar to ‘Karo’s Red’ (above’, this variety also has smaller and more compact leaves. Its bright orange and red colors definitely make a statement in the garden, especially when combined with a coral colored diascia.
Over time, this ‘Tequila Sunrise’ will grow to about 4′ tall with an unusual pyramidal shape. I like to keep mine pruned to a smaller size, however, as shown in the photo to the left.
These are just a few of the many colorful coprosma varieties on the market. I’d love to know what some of your favorites are as I always have room in my garden for ‘just one more‘.