Brass Buttons Plant: Growing The Leptinella Squalida

Leptinella squalida [lep-tin-EL-luh, SKWA-lee-duh] (Syn. Cotula squalida) is a flowering species of the daisy family, Asteraceae.

Its nativity in New Zealand has earned it the common name New Zealand Brass Button.

It is also simply known as the “brass button” or “yellow brass button.”

unique foliage of the Brass button plant - Leptinella Squalida
Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The “brass buttons” is a reference to the yellow button-like flowers the plant produces.

Either way, the low-growing plant is a favorite among gardeners as a ground cover plant.

The bright flowers and dark green foliage has gained it some popularity as an ornamental grass.

Brass Button Care

Size & Growth

Known for its luscious foliage, the plant is a low-growing plant reaching up to 2” inches in height with an indefinite spread.

It spreads via rhizomes and grows fern-like green leaves.

The leaves are oval and about 2” inches long and half an inch wide.

They have a fast growth rate and spread vigorously during the growing season when all the right conditions are met.

Flowering and Fragrance

Surprisingly, unlike other species of the daisy family, this plant is not known for its flowers.

The tiny yellow flowers are produced but are not showy at all.

The central bulbous disk is similar to the one in other daisy flowers, just without the petals.

They look more like miniature buttons, giving the plant its name.

Similarly, the flowers lack any fragrance.

The buttons’ bloom time is in early summer or late spring.

Once the flowers have bloomed, they are followed by a tiny fruit.

Light & Temperature

While the brass button plants are originally native to New Zealand, they are more widespread now.

They’re hardy and have evergreen foliage in Hardiness Zones 4 through 9 (USDA Zones).

They do well with part shade in hotter climates and thrive in full sun in cooler climates.

However, the brass button cannot thrive in full shade.

Watering and Feeding

The brass button plant is not drought-tolerant and requires moisture to grow.

Make sure the soil never dries out completely. You may have to mulch in the winter.

At the same time avoid overwatering your plant. Too much water around the roots can lead to root rot or stem rot.

If you’re using organically fertile soil, fertilizing is not necessary. The plant should be only fed if the plant is well-established.

They react well to annual fertilization due to a shallow root system.

Feed the plants with a half-strength, all-purpose fertilizer in early spring or in early summer.

Since the plant’s growth rate slows down in winter, you don’t need to feed it in the colder months.

Soil & Transplanting

Light, fertile, and well-drained soils are this plant’s best friends.

Slightly acidic pH and organically-with loams are the most appropriate for brass buttons.

It won’t tolerate heavy compact soils.

New Zealand Brass Buttons transplant easily.

Divide the plant and transplant in bare spots presented after winter or a drought.

Grooming and Maintenance

There is not much maintenance or grooming needed by these plants.

The leaves die back once winter comes and new ones arise, giving the plant a feathery look.

Once the flowering season has passed, deadhead spent flowers.

How to Propagate Leptinella Squalida

The plant is easily propagated with division.

In late spring or early fall, dig up a clump of the plant.

Divide into pieces and plant in individual pots or in the ground, spacing them 9” – 12” inches apart in moist soil.

In cooler temperatures, the plants do better in full sun rather than in partial shade.

If the soil type is right, the plant will spread by the rhizomes quickly.

Leptinella Squalida Pest or Diseases

Like many other evergreen plants, New Zealand Brass Buttons are susceptible to stem rot, verticillium wilt, and leaf spots.

When it comes to pests, there might be occasional problems with aphids, mites or leaf miners.

Visit your local gardening center or nursery for a solution.

Besides these, the species is not vulnerable to any serious disease or pest problem.

Brass Button Uses

One of the most popular cultivars of this species is the one known as Leptinella squalida ‘Platt’s black’.

It is grown as an ornamental plant for its almost black foliage.

The plant also makes an excellent addition to rock gardens and fairy gardens.

Use the plant to cover small areas between other plants in sunny landscapes.

Cultivars with brighter foliage are used in areas having light foot traffic.

The brass button looks great planted between stepping stones or flagstones.

Lastly, use it as turf or lawn substitute in zones where Brass Button is evergreen.

JOIN Our FREE Plant Care Newsletter 

By entering your email address you agree to receive a daily email newsletter from Plant Care Today. We'll respect your privacy and unsubscribe at any time.