Jazz up your patio and garden with some luscious and extremely rewarding mirror bushes

Pink Splendour' in winterPink Splendour' in winterCoprosma hybrids are low-maintenance, water-wise and problem free shrubs, which remain firm favourites with South African gardeners because they are available from dwarfs to taller growers, and their colourful glossy leaves are perfect for pots and filling gaps in shady and sunny garden beds. Read all about them in this article.

Coprosma repens is a native of New Zealand where it is called by many names: Taupata, Tee Bedstraw, Mirror Bush, Looking-glass Bush, New Zealand Laurel, and Shiny Leaf. This shrub or small tree with its glossy green leaves can be found growing on exposed coastal cliffs as well as in more sheltered areas. The spring or summer flowers are insignificant, and the female plants produce orange-red fruits, which are a valuable food source for birds in their native habitat.

In many coastal areas of Australia it has become naturalised, and its growth habit varies greatly according to the situation in which it is grown. In exposed coastal regions it has small leaves and assumes a prostrate habit, and in more sheltered positions it has larger leaves and can grow as a small tree up to 8 metres in height.

'Rainbow Surprise''Rainbow Surprise'The bad news is that when the highly adaptive green-leaved Coprosma repens is grown in optimum climatic conditions, like hot frost free regions with an annual rainfall of over 600mm or more, and on good soils, it tends to become a weed. This fact has forced many countries like Australia and South Africa to ban its marketing.

The good news is that the colourful plant varieties available for gardeners are not invasive because they are reproduced only from cuttings from selected male or female plants, and many do not bloom at all.

Thanks to talented plant breeders who saw the potential of Coprosma repens, many wonderful variegated varieties are available today in many exciting colours. The plants also vary greatly in size from groundcovers and small shrubs to larger growing specimens.

(Coprosma repens 'Marble Chips') grows +-2m tall and spreads almost as wide. Its green leaves are irregularly margined or speckled with creamy-white.

(Coprosma repens ‘Taupata Gold’) grows +-2m tall with almost equal spread and has decorative dark yellow leaves with bright green centres.

(Coprosma repens 'Coffee & Cream') grows +-2m tall and has green leaves with prominent creamy-yellow leaf margins.

(Coprosma repens ‘Variegata’) grows +-1.5m tall and has green leaves with a creamy-white border.

(Coprosma repens 'Copper Shine') grows +-1.5m tall and has dark green leaves overlaid with copper hues.

(Coprosma repens 'Silver Queen') grows +-1.5m tall and has a neat and compact growth habit. It has deep green leaves with silvery sheen and silvery creamy-white margins.

(Coprosma repens 'Taupata Gold') grows +-1.5m tall and has soft golden yellow leaves with dark green centres.

(Coprosma repens 'Pink Splendour') grows +-1 to 1.5m tall and has green, pink and cream leaves, which darken in winter, putting on a spectacular show.  

(Coprosma repens 'Marginata') grows +-1 to 1.5m tall and has light yellow margined leaves.

(Coprosma repens 'Picturata') grows +-1m tall and spreads wider than it is tall. It has green leaves, blotched with gold in the centre.

(Coprosma repens ‘Pacific Night’) has an upright growth habit +-1m tall, with lovely purple to burgundy leaves.

(Coprosma repens ‘Pacific Sunrise’) grows +-1m tall and has yummy chocolate coloured foliage highlighted in hot pink.

(Coprosma repens ‘Pacific Sunset’) grows no taller than 1m and has wave-shaped leaves consisting of vivid red centres framed by burgundy to chocolate brown margins.  The colour is most intense in autumn and winter, and it is sure to be a ‘head turner’.

(Coprosma 'Yvonne') grows +-1m tall and has a compact form with brownish-green leaves, which soften to chocolate-brown.

(Coprosma 'Rainbow Surprise') grows +-80cm tall and is a small cultivar with small pink and yellow-green leaves, which darken in winter.

'Coffee Cream' Picture courtesy Tuberflora'Coffee Cream' Picture courtesy TuberfloraIn the Garden:

Mirror bushes are very versatile low maintenance and water-wise plants which are used to add interest and contrast to garden beds. And because they grow beautifully in pots and come in all sizes, mirror bushes are good choices for gardens large and small.

They are excellent for coastal re-vegetation planting because they tolerate salt, wind and poor soil, making them excellent windbreaks in windswept coastal gardens.

Their dense growth habit and high-gloss leaves make them great background and foreground screening shrubs. And because they can be trimmed into shape at any time during the year, they also make lovely topiaries, hedging and screening plants.

They are excellent planted on banks and are wonderful to plant underneath trees, and if used as a filler plant underneath palms, will help to create a tropical look in your garden.

'Marble Chips' Picture courtesy Tuberflora'Marble Chips' Picture courtesy Tuberflora

All varieties, but especially the smaller growing types, are enchanting when planted in pots.

Their colourful foliage is prized by floral artists because it lasts well in a vase and gives a polished appearance to arrangements.


Mirror bushes are evergreen and will grow in semi-shade or full sun. They are extremely tolerant to coastal exposure, and in humid coastal regions they can be planted in full sun. In hot inland gardens they are best planted in semi-shade, and in other regions they are perfect in shade or sun. They are tender to severe frost, but will tolerate moderate frost if they are grown in a protected part of the garden, or are covered in winter.

'Picturata' Picture courtesy Tuberflora'Picturata' Picture courtesy TuberfloraAlthough they thrive in sandy well drained soils at the coast, mirror bushes will grow in almost all garden soils, even well-prepared clay. In very sandy soils adding generous quantities of compost when planting, together with regular mulching, will encourage good growth and save on watering. Apply a balanced organic fertiliser in spring, and prune into shape as required.

Although the mirror bush is water wise and drought tolerant once it is established, to keep it looking at its best in the garden water regularly during dry and hot summer months. Watch out for overwatering as this causes the leaves to drop.

Propagation is extremely easy from semi-hardwood cuttings taken in late summer and autumn.

'Taupata Gold' Picture courtesy Tuberflora'Taupata Gold' Picture courtesy Tuberflora

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

When Coprosma is grown correctly it is almost completely pest and disease free, making it ideal for eco conscious gardeners. Sometimes, and especially if grown under a roof, scales, mealy bugs and aphids can affect the plant, but they are easily treated with the appropriate formulations.


Coprosma repens has no toxic effects reported, but it is always best to supervise small children in a garden and to discourage pets from chewing on plants.