Harmony in the Garden Blog

Captivating Coprosmas


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 mirror plant
coprosma foliage

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.  

mirror plant

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‘.

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  • Hi Rebecca, No live in NC! Whaddya think? will they survive? I am think I might know the “Color Guard”, is it variegated yellow and green?

    • Ohhhhh – yes, NC is much warmer than NY! ha! If you don’t have temps that dip too far down into the low 30’s I’d say you should be fine. Even when our winters drop into the 29-30 degree range my phormiums are okay. And yes, the yucca is a really pretty shade of gold and green and looks fantastic when backlit by the sun.

  • Hi, I am originally from Zimbabwe now living in Brevard NC. LUV coprosmas and have never seen them for sale in nurseries in my area. Anyone out there who can tell me where or who I can buy from. Tried contacting Monrovia with no feedback!

    • Hi Linni! I think you’re having difficulty finding them because they’re tender in your zone and are most likely considered annuals. However, I bet you could bring them indoors for the winter? How frustrating that you can’t find them – I tried my usual sources with no luck as well. If I were you I’d try and ping Monrovia again, but in the meantime if I see a catalogue with them I’ll definitely keep you and mind and let you know!

      • Thanks so much Rebecca appreciate it. I saw that it was able to be grown in Zone 9 which is me so wondered. Had originally assumed it was perhaps tender. Th one that really aught my eye was Tequila Sunset(Sunrise???). I am a sucker for variegated plants! Could certainly bring it indoors with the rest of my plants Our home looks like a jungle in the winter! Ha ha

          • Terrific thanx Rebbeca will give it a go and let you know if I am successful. Loving your Gossip in the Garden column!

          • Thank you, Linni. If you’re looking for other plant ordering sources check out Margaret Roach’s blog, ‘A Way to Garden’ – she has a fantastic list of sources there. Her blog rocks!

          • Than again Rebecca. The other species I am interested in is the Phormium Tenax (New Zealand Flax)” great for floral art and I am sure they would be hardy. Also wonderful for contrasting texture in the garden. Are you familiar with them?

          • Hi Linni – phormiums are one of my favorite plants and I’d be lost without them! But didn’t you say you live in NY? They’d be very sad in such a cold climate. Though I do know a few gardeners who don’t mind hauling theirs into the greenhouse for the winter (in containers, of course). Have you tried ‘Color Guard’ yucca? It has a similar form yet is hardy down to zone 4.

  • I love coprosmas too and, reading your post, it occurred to me that ‘Karo’s Red’ might look very nice with the Agonis ‘After Dark’ I’m considering for a new bed in my side yard (after I get rid of some more lawn). My current favorite among the coprosmas is ‘Plum Hussy’ of which I have several. The oldest got a bit tall and sparse before I became vigilant about cutting it back on a regular basis but my other 3 are behaving themselves well (so far at least).

  • I agree, they are such good shrubs. In fact, just brought another one home yesterday, ‘Plum Hussy.’ Size and shape of leaf is very similar to ‘County Park Red,’ but just a little deeper in color. The grower Native Sons lists the size as 4-8 feet high by 3-4 feet wide. Looking forward to seeing more of that garden in Sunset — looks fabulous.

    • Denise – thanks for letting me know about ‘Plum Hussy’ (LOVE the name as much as the color!) I’m going to have to snoop around to see if I can find one for my garden! 🙂

  • I have a couple of the ‘Karo Red’ in pots. I keep them clipped into elegant cones, and place them on either side of the front steps. As the weather gets colder I move them up the steps until they’re on the porch. I can bring them inside over night if I have to. I like them very much.

    • That’s such a great idea, Deirdre! They’re a great alternative to the more common boxwood, providing such a pop of color on either side of the door. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • I do love Coprosma’s, the colors and the shiny leaves always intrigue me, but unfortunately they have to be happy being used as an annual in my container gardens. Denver is more than a tiche too cold for these beauties. I did try to overwinter one in the upstairs ‘nursery’ last year… it was not happy and croaked after a few weeks.

    Congrats on one of your gardens being in the Oct. Sunset mag… Yay!!!

    • Oh, I’m so sorry to hear they’re terrible at overwintering. Boo! 🙁 And thanks for the congrats – fingers crossed it still happens!!

  • HI, What an interesting article. My son is a grower here in San Diego and he has had many comprosma varieties. I agree they are beautiful plants and I am glad you are featuring them. They are slow sellers to the nurseries, so maybe this will let people know how great they are! If we don’t use them we will loose them.

    • Hi Bette, please tell your son that there’s a whole legion of us who adore coprosmas and to keep up the good work! How lucky for you – I bet you’re the first to get some of the latest varieties!!!

  • Congrats on sneaking (!) into Sunset again! Love the coprosmas! Especially County Park Red.

    • Thanks, Jo! It’s very exciting to have a garden featured in one of my favorite magazines (knock on wood I don’t jinx myself!!)

  • One of my favorite plants when was in San Diego as a much younger, aspiring landscape architect! The uber-glossy leaves always captivating, but I like the (new-to-me) reddish varieties. Oh, to be milder…

    • Ah yes, David. I was a little hesitant about writing about such tender beauties for everyone who can’t grow them but I just had to share them! I wonder if they’d overwinter well inside the house? I’ve never tried it….


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