Mirror Plant Care: Learning To Grow Coprosma Repens

Found in the coastal regions of New Zealand, Coprosma repens is an attractive evergreen shrub with white and green leaves.

It’s part of the Rubiaceae family of plants and offers dense foliage. These plants are native to grasslands, rocky areas, and forests of Australia, New Zealand, and some Pacific Islands.

Attractive Mirror PlantPin

Because they evolved in a much warmer and dryer climate than we have here in the Pacific Northwest, Coprosma is considered borderline hardy here and will need to be protected or moved to a greenhouse for overwintering.  

Coprosma Repens has earned several common names:

  • Mirror plant
  • Looking-glass bush
  • New Zealand laurel
  • Shiny leaf

The name of the genus comes from the Greek words for dung and smell, referring to the foul odor produced when crushing the leaves.

While it has an odd smell, the mirror plant is easy to cultivate and requires limited maintenance once established.

Coprosma Repens Quick Care Tips

  • Botanical Name: Coprosma repens
  • Common Name(s): Mirror plant, looking glass plant, New Zealand laurel, Shiny leaf
  • Synonyms: Coprosma acerosa, Coprosma baueri, Coprosma grandifolia
  • Pronunciation: kop-ROS-muh, REE-penz
  • Family & Origin: Rubiaceae family, native to Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Islands
  • Growability: Easy to grow
  • Grow Zone: USDA zones 9-11
  • Size: Can grow up to 6 feet tall and wide as a shrub; can grow up to 25′ feet tall in its natural habitat
  • Flowering: Small, inconspicuous flowers in spring and summer
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Humidity: Prefers medium humidity
  • Temperature: Can tolerate temperatures down to 18°F
  • Soil: Well-draining or sandy soil
  • Water: Water regularly, but allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings
  • Fertilizer: Fertilize with slow-release plant fertilizer
  • Pests & Diseases: Can be susceptible to aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, and mealybugs. May develop root rot and fungal growth
  • Propagation: Can be propagated by stem cuttings or seeds
  • Plant Uses: Makes a great hedge or border plant and can also be used as a container plant. The shiny leaves make it a popular choice for ornamental purposes.

Mirror Plant Care

Size and Growth

Depending on the environment, the mirror plant may provide a low-growing ground cover or become a shrub.

In some cases, it may develop into a small tree reaching up to 25′ feet tall.

In North America, the plant is often grown as a shrub, reaching 5′ to 6′ feet tall.

The plant has lime green, rounded glossy leaves that protect the plant from salt when grown near coastal regions.

Flowering and Fragrance

The flowers appear in the spring and summer. Male flowers grow in large, dense clusters, while female flowers appear in smaller clusters.

The male flowers feature funnel-shaped corollas, while the female flowers are tubular-shaped.

After the flowering season, the plant produces orange-red fruit that is less than half an inch in size.

Light and Temperature

The evergreen shrub thrives when grown in full sun to partial shade.

Male and female flowers grow on separate plants, with berries showing on female plants in late summer and autumn. 

It should also receive some protection from the blistering-hot afternoon sun, especially in warmer regions.

The plant is recommended for year-round outdoor growth in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11.

The mirror plant is frost hardy down to 18° degrees Fahrenheit (-8° C).

Watering and Feeding

Mirror plants need frequent watering, especially after planting.

Established plants may only need occasional watering or regular watering. However, hot weather tends to increase the need for moisture.

Moreover, it prefers medium humidity levels.

This species is popular in coastal gardens because it is resistant to salt spray. The scientific name of this species Coprosma repens means “dung smell,” referring to the foul smell that this species emits when the leaves are crushed.

Use a slow-release plant fertilizer at the start of spring before new growth starts.

The fertilizer should offer enough nutrients for the plant throughout the year.

Soil and Transplanting

Plant in well-drained soil or sandy soil as the plant is prone to root rot from overwatering.

Transplant plants in the spring before new growth starts. They do well as specimen plants, grown as a low hedge, or in mass plantings. They also make lovely container plants and can even do well indoors if placed in a bright area. 

Transplanting isn’t required but helps refresh the soil when planting the mirror plant in a container.

Grooming and Maintenance

Trim the plant back as needed in the spring to manage growth.

This provides time for the plant to heal before going dormant in the winter.

Related: How To Grow and Care For Leucadendron Plants

How to Propagate Coprosma Repens

Propagate the mirror plant with seeds or cuttings.

  • Sow seeds in the spring using a cold frame.
  • If the seeds are fresh, they may take up to 12 months to germinate.
  • For best results, allow the seeds to ripen.
  • The plant also needs protection during the first winter.
  • If a cold frame isn’t an option, grow them indoors or in a greenhouse.
  • After the seedlings appear, water the plant occasionally.
  • Wait for the stems to start trailing before transplanting outdoors or to containers.

When propagating with cuttings, only use cuttings from mature wood on the plant.

  • Look for woody branches near the base of the glass plant.
  • Take cuttings in the spring, allowing the base plant to heal during the warmer weather.
  • Remove the lower sets of leaves from the cutting, leaving at least one set at the top.
  • Allow the cutting to dry overnight.
  • Prepare a pot with sandy soil or cactus mix.
  • Dip the end of the cutting in the rooting hormone and place it in the soil.
  • Thoroughly water the soil and cover the pot with a plastic bag.
  • Check the bag daily to prevent mildew or mold growth.
  • After the cutting takes root, wait several weeks before transplanting to ensure it’s hardy enough for the move.

Coprosma Repens Pest or Diseases

Root rot and fungal growth are common problems for Coprosma repens.

Protect against these issues by ensuring the soil has proper drainage.

If fungal growth appears, use fresh soil to transplant the mirror plant.

Trim away the infected areas.

Pests may also threaten the plant. Aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, and whiteflies are common nuisances.

Use a bottle of water or a garden hose to spray the pests away.

If the critters remain, carefully treat the plant with insecticidal soap.

Another potential issue is the spread of the plant. Due to its aggressive growth, the mirror plant may invade nearby plants.

Coprosma Repens is considered an invasive weed in parts of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, California, and Hawaii.

The robust plant grows quickly and survives in a variety of climates, allowing it to spread.

The plant isn’t considered toxic, but the bright red berries may cause digestive distress when humans or small animals ingest it.

Keep children and pets away from the plant when the berries appear.

Suggested Mirror Plant Uses

The hardy plant works well in coastal areas as it can tolerate the salty environment and strong winds.

It also brightens any outdoor landscape but may spread easily in open fields.

Several Hybrids

There are several Coprosma hybrids. Most grow 4′ to 5′ feet tall and nearly as wide. 

‘Evening Glow’ has glossy green leaves that are variegated gold during the growing season and turn orange-red in fall and winter. 

‘Rainbow Surprise’ bears leaves variegated with cream and pink, washed with red in fall and winter. 

‘Tequila Sunrise’ produces shiny green new growth edged with gold; leaves gradually pick up shades of gold and orange before turning bright red and orange in winter. 

‘Coppershine’ grows up to 6 feet tall; leaves are bright green and heavily shaded with copper.

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