When you think of colorful foliage plants that you might add to your landscape, you may target crotons, coleus, or even caladiums. But what about the copperleaf? Copperleaf shrubs today come in a surprising array of colors and leaf shapes that simply pop in the landscape. Many copperleaf shrubs are, just as their name reflects, coppery in color. There is at least one of a different color – ‘Java White’.
First, let’s look at the origins of this popular Fiji and South Pacific native. Copperleaf shrubs can grow upwards to ten feet tall and wide but can be easily pruned to whatever shape is desired. Used informally, the copperleaf is a relatively fast grower and makes a spectacular hedge or privacy screen with individual plants spaced three to five feet apart. Besides the gorgeous leaves, copperleaf often develop fuzzy, cattail-like flowers from the leaf axils. The best foliage color will be realized in full sun. These shrubs will tolerate some shade but may develop sparse branching in low light areas. Copperleaf can be cold sensitive, but any frost-nipped portions quickly re-sprout when warm weather returns. The flamboyant copperleaf will benefit from wind and salty spray protection.
While you may have only seen one or two cultivars of copperleaf, there are about twenty-six types available. Many are rich copper in color with blotches of red, orange, yellow and pink. Many also have serrated leaves, delicately cut foliage, and twisted leaf margins. One cultivar that is very different is called ‘Java White’. This beautiful variety sports large white and green leaves with random patterns of splotches, speckles, and angular color design displays. It is so different that it deserves a second look to be part of your landscape – I really like it!
Like many copperleaf shrub varieties, ‘Java White’ can be found at local garden centers. But if you can find an established specimen plant, and a cooperative owner, copperleaf shrubs are incredibly easy to propagate from cuttings. Propagating your own from cuttings obtained from gardening friends will help you increase your copperleaf collection over time. So, to enhance, or even provide a substitute for flowers, plants with colorful, textured leaves such as the copperleaf can add a layer of splendor and interest to your yard. The copperleaf, another Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ plant, can provide these attributes and more! For more information on shrubs suitable for our area, or to ask a question, please visit https://www.facebook.com/CharlotteMGLifeline/ . Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caldwell, D. (2015) Copperleaf Adds a Little Shine to the Landscape!. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS – Collier County.
Schmidt, E. (2015) Garden View: Copperleaf – Acalypha wilkesiana. Harry P. Leu Garden.
Gilman, E. F. (2018) Acalypha wilkesiana. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design. (2010) The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.