The Best Spring Ever: Caribbean Copper Bush

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Few plants that overwinter in the greenhouse make the case as well as Caribbean copper bush that this particular sheltering structure is not being used as a conservatory. There, plants are arrayed spaciously, and displayed at their peak. Here, they are packed as tightly as possible, sometimes with one pot side-saddle atop another: If you're going to pay the money for the heat and the space anyway, and the priority is Winter survival, not theatrical display, cram in as many plants as you can.


Many of the plants are anything but showy in the cool months. In particular, stems of Euphorbia cotinifolia drop their leaves readily when greenhouse temperatures "plunge" to the low fifties Fahrenheit. (I don't want to pay enough money for temperatures to remain above sixty, which would be warm enough for almost any tropical to thrive at full throttle.) And so this succulent tropical tree stays dormant—bare-limbed and gawky—for months.


The good news is that, with space and sunlight at a premium, any such leafless plant can be content with a location that doesn't receive the maximum light and warmth. It's fine, then, that branches of the large rosemary at the left (four feet tall and wide) are sprawling through the Euphorbia stems.


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The fluffy rosemary foliage also shows in contrast how clunky the bare Euphorbia stems are. Happily, lengthening days of late Winter have lead to such high daytime temperatures that, by mid-March, the species has finally been convinced that Spring is returning: Intensely burgundy stems have started appearing, along with thrilling dark leaves.


The surface of the greenhouse is milky plastic sheeting that is only translucent, not clear. Even in such comparatively muted light, the leaves of Euphorbia cotinifolia are bright burgundy. Foliage produced after the plants are once again out in the garden for the Summer is even more sumptuous and saturated.


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Although this foliage couldn't be bettered, it isn't the reason I grow a quartet of Caribbean copper bushes even though the greenhouse is clearly crammed already. Euphorbia cotinifolia can be pruned into shapes that are, at once, more visually exciting than the free-range shrub, and conveniently compact given the cheek-by-jowl arrangement that's necessary in any overwintering greenhouse.


In just a few weeks, it will be time for the pruning. I'll revisit Caribbean copper bush then.



Here's how grow Euphorbia cotinifolia

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