What is a Snow Bush?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

The snow bush is a round, tropical perennial plant. A broad leaf, tender evergreen, the shrub is scientifically known as Breynia disticha. The bush is primarily cultivated as a container plant for its vibrant, colorful stems and bright foliage.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Most snow bushes grow up to 5 feet (1.5 m) in height, though in the warmest of climates the thriving plants can reach up to 10 feet (3 m). Though the plants grow small flowers, they are not considered showy, nor are they the reason why most growers of these plants choose to cultivate them. Instead, it is the mottled white, or sometimes pink, coloration of the plant that most gardeners seek. One popular variety of this plant, the Hawaiian Snowbush, can be even more striking, often with darker coloration.

Coloration patterns of the snow bush, which can also be in shades of purple, make the shrub appear to have been snowed upon, and give it its name. The bush's stems are also vibrant in color, often portraying a bright red hue that can add depth to garden arrangements. When placed in different locations, the snow bush can also change color. To avoid brown leaves, snow bush plants should be kept safely at temperatures higher than 60° Fahrenheit (16° C).

Other names for the shrub include snow-on-the-mountain or sweetpea bush. They are native to Australia and Asia, and members of the Phyllanthaceae family. Found in warm climates, these garden plants normally cannot survive harsh winters in colder areas. Growers who wish to cultivate the plants in cooler climates should plan on moving the shrubs indoors, or into a greenhouse, during the winter months.

These plants require medium watering. Its best growing conditions are in full sun to partial shade. Keeping the plants well-moistened in a partly-shaded area during the summer months will normally ensure their survival throughout the heat. A popular strategy for planting the snow bush is centering it in large containers, and surrounding it with smaller plants with similar care requirements. The shrubs are also sometimes used as ground cover or as a bedding shrub.

Propagation of snow bush shrubs can be done with root cuttings. This should be executed during the summer months for best results. Many growers prefer to prune their snow bushes, as they naturally form a long, vase-like shape if left unattended. The drought tolerant plant generally does not require fertilization once established.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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