Florida Copperleaf Comes with Caveats

Florida Copperleaf is one of those “Great Choice But” plants. For the most part, ArtisTree’s panel of experts likes this tropical evergreen but suggests things you need to watch for if you’re going to plant these fiery beauties. Given the right care and placement, Copperleaf will reward you with its trademark jewel tones.

ArtisTree “Plantopinions” experts weigh in on Copperleaf:

“I want to add Copperleaf to our landscape but have been told it’s finicky. Still, I love the colors. Please advise.”

M.G., Sarasota

Joe Mantkowski, VP Landscape Design, thumbs up:

My dad grew them for many years and I loved them. Since then, Florida Copperleaf has been a staple in my designs. You have lots of color options that provide a brilliant pop to any landscape. Can install as a large hedge, accent/ornamental or a lower hedge/massing if pruned regularly. Depending on your viewpoint, a downside could be their fast growth rate, plus they’re susceptible to cold damage (be sure to cover before a frost). Scale and aphids may show up occasionally but can be treated.

Florida Copperleaf
A perfect example of Copperleaf that’s been allowed to become leggy vs. being well maintained.

Clinton Lak, Landscape Designer, thumbs down:

I have mixed feelings about Copperleaf. It has a fantastic “look at me” presence with great tropical appeal. It also adds sustainable color to any garden and thrives in most locations, regardless of most environmental conditions. The downfall is that it grows extremely fast and will begin to get leggy after just a few years. During the summer rains you can practically watch these plants grow! Additionally, deer graze on them. Copperleaf is cold sensitive and experiences damage even after a light frost.

Florida Copperleaf
Expertly pruned Florida Copperleaf provides beautiful contrast with Travelers Palm, Podocarpus & Arboricola (schefflera).

Chris Culp, Landscape Designer, thumbs up:

Copperleaf has been around in the landscape industry for as long as I can remember. Interestingly, it’s an overlooked plant despite its bold, striking look. I think it works very nicely paired with contrasting plants in front of it. Since it grows tall, you should use Copperleaf as a backdrop unless you keep it as a short hedge or specimen plant. But if you want a truly hardy, low-maintenance hedge, I suggest you look elsewhere. It’s very cold sensitive and branches are a bit brittle. Wonderful color choices, though.

Brian Clouser, Landscape Designer, thumbs up:

I’m a big fan. It’s a cool plant that rarely gets the opportunity to succeed because it’s trimmed so often. Over pruning can make it look terrible. Selective pruning can make it look incredible. Shearing can make you hate it. This five-foot tall plant can easily push up to eight feet and is ideal for those tired of planting Arboricola (schefflera) in seasonally shady areas. It’s also a great alternative to crotons if you’re looking for year-round color. I like Florida Copperleaf as a background layer for residential properties where immediate height is desired. If you want a stand-alone plant with lots of color, consider the multi-color variety. Tolerates shade and sun but does best in sun. 

Conan Michel, Purchasing Manager, thumbs up:

I really like Copperleaf. Acalypha Wilkesiana is the most common variety that we use, although there are many different types in varying sizes and colors. It’s bright, bold and extremely easy to grow. While it’s typically chosen for residential landscapes, you’ll also see it used to create buffers on large landscape berms. Copperleaf grows medium to fast and requires frequent pruning to maintain a formal look (just make sure to not overdo it). Or, you can just let it grow wild and hard prune once a year. Very easy to manage. I recommend at least one in every yard!

ArtisTree “Plantopinions” is a roundtable debate between multiple ArtisTree experts on the virtues of various plant specimens. Sometimes there’s consensus and sometimes not. In the end, you are the judge!

ArtisTree Landscape


ArtisTree Landscape Maintenance & Design has proudly served Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties since 1990.


Want to get your Sarasota landscape renovation started now? Check out ArtisTree’s portfolio and then call Jenni Lassen at 941.488.8897 to meet with one of our award-winning designers. We proudly serve Sarasota, Manatee, and Charlotte counties.

ArtisTree also provides complete landscape maintenance services for HOA communities throughout Southwest Florida. Contact Michael Casper at 941.488.8897 for your custom proposal.  

Category ,

Tagged with: , , , ,