This short-lived perennial is a small, flowering shrub that is popular in gardens due to its toughness and low maintenance requirements.
Leucophyta brownii is the only species in the Leucophyta genus. The shrub is endemic to Australia.
Commonly known as a cushion bush due to its mounded, dome shape, it is often grown as a container plant for its silver-colored foliage that reflects the sunlight.
In the wild, it grows in coastal regions, on cliff faces, and in sand dunes. Although it produces small yellow-white flowers in the summer months, the flowers are inconspicuous.
Cushion bush is the only remaining species in the Leucophyta genus. The German botanist Otto Kuntze assigned several species to this genus in the late 1800s, but apart from cushion bush, they have all been re-classified into other genera.
|Scientific name||Leucophyta brownii|
|Common names||Cushion bush|
|Height||Up to 3 feet (1 m)|
|Width||Up to 3 feet (1 m)|
|USDA Plant Hardiness Zone||Zones 10 to 12|
|Plant specific features||Tough, resistant to salt and wind|
How to Plant and Grow a Cushion Bush
Where to Plant
This tough, resistant shrub grows in places where many other plants will not survive. It performs well in poor, dry soil, including that which is rich in salt deposits.
Cushion bush can be planted in windy, coastal locations as it is not affected by sea spray.
Plant cushion bush in a courtyard or Mediterranean garden; it is drought resistant and requires virtually no maintenance.
Leucophyta brownii is popularly grown as a pot plant, poolside, and on patios where it will get full sun. Its leaves and branches are a striking silvery white.
It is this foliage that makes cushion bush an attractive garden plant because it reflects sunlight very well.
The shrub grows in an attractive, dense rounded shape and is particularly well suited to container growing. Its branches will trail attractively over the edge of the container.
Cushion bush also does well in borders, and provides excellent contrast with the greenery of neighboring plants.
When to Plant
The best time to plant cushion bush is in the autumn or winter months. This will give it time to settle into its new growing environment before the onset of the extreme heat of summer.
Cushion Shrub Care and Maintenance
Apart from being well-draining, the cushion bush is not at all fussy. It is a great shrub to plant in areas that are difficult, and it will perform in virtually all soil types.
Leucophyta brownii actually does best in soil that is poor, alkaline, and not rich in nutrients. In the wild, this shrub naturally grows in sandy and stony soil.
L. brownii thrives in well-draining soil. It needs very little water in order to survive. However, a young plant will benefit from occasional watering during prolonged periods of hot, dry weather.
An established cushion bush is drought resistant. If you overwater this shrub, it is likely to die.
Cushion bush prefers soil that is poor. It doesn’t require fertilizing and performs better in soil that is low in nutrients.
For the very best results, plant Leucophyta somewhere that receives full sun.
Pruning and Repotting
You can prune the cushion bush if necessary, but usually, it isn’t required. The shrub naturally grows in a rounded shape, with dense foliage.
Pruning the tips of the branches can sometimes encourage the plant to remain compact and improve its overall dome shape.
The cushion bush doesn’t like to be pruned into the woody growth, so keep the pruning light.
However, although it is a rapidly growing plant, it is often short-lived. It is likely that it will need replacing every couple of years. Failure to do so will probably mean your plant is unshapely and straggly.
The flowers of cushion bush develop seed and can be directly sown. No pre-treatment or scarification is required. The seeds should germinate within a month.
More typically, people propagate cushion bush shrubs from semi-ripe cuttings, taken from the current season’s growth during the summer.
Pests and diseases
Minor problems can be caused by scale insects, but no pest issues are serious. Fungal infection and rot can kill the cushion bush if good growing conditions are not adhered to. In particular, overwatering or poorly draining soil will kill the cushion bush.
Temperature and Humidity
This is a plant that dislikes humidity. It will die if it is grown in waterlogged soil. This is why cushion bush cannot grow in regions that are excessively tropical. They perform well in temperate, coastal gardens.
The cushion bush does tolerate light frost.
Other Uses for Cushion Bush
Apart from its use as a garden ornamental, either in-ground or as a pot plant, a cushion bush makes a useful edging screen for a pathway as it is easily seen in low light conditions.
L. brownii is used as a hedging plant or topiary object, as a low windbreak or screen.
Florists use the foliage in floral arrangements, and landscapers use the cushion bush for erosion control and as a low-maintenance addition in parks, playgrounds, and public spaces.
Due to its drought resistance, L. brownii can be used as part of a xeriscaping project.
Types of Cushion Bush You Can Grow
L. brownii “Moonshine” has very striking foliage which is silver. The plant itself is fairly small, making it a compact and attractive choice for pot growing. In addition to the spectacular foliage, this cultivar of cushion bush also bears lemon-colored flowers.
L. brownii “Nana” or dwarf cushion bush is a compact variety that has velvety, silver foliage that reflects the light very well. In gardens, it forms a compact, dense ball without the need for additional trimming or pruning.
It flowers over a long period in the Summer and shares the same tough and robust qualities.
L. brownii “Silver Nugget” bears mounds of silver foliage and is a perfect choice with which to edge garden flower beds. It is frequently used in mass planting schemes and by public authorities in parks and gardens.
For a low-growing shrub that will tolerate wind, salt, drought, and even frost, it is hard to think of a better choice than a cushion bush.
And, as an added plus, it will reward you with striking contrast, graceful silver foliage that can be seen at night.
*image by simonapavan/depositphotos