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Snow Bush ranks among hottest tropicals around
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
This year it looks like the snow bush will again be one of the hottest plants at the garden and patio shows, but you had shop early if you want one or more.
Some may ask, "What in the world is a snow bush? Isn't the winter long, cold and wet enough without mentioning snow?"
Actually, the snow bush is a tropical that has seen less snow than we have. Snow bush is known botanically as Breynia nivosa and is in the Euphorbia family making it related to the poinsettia. It is native to places like the South Pacific, Australia and Asia.
Indeed it is a bush, reaching around 5 feet in height. Frost-free areas may see them grow up to 10 feet. The snow bush is sought after for its colorful foliage and unique habit rather than its bloom. It produces slender, burgundy-colored zigzagging stems with leaves painted in green, cream and pink.
Everyone seems to plant it as the centerpiece in a large mixed container. I have seen it combined with Indian Summer black-eyed Susan, Million Bells Cherry calibrachoa and New Gold lantana.
I have seen containers where it was combined with blue perennial salvia and burgundy-leafed coleus. Others had it with dragon wing begonias. The one thing I can say for sure is that once you start growing it, you will want it forever -- and forever is within the realm of possibility even though it is a tropical. Soft wood cuttings taken in early summer are easy to root.
The snow bush really performs well in fertile, well-drained soil. Don't skimp when buying your potting mix. If you need help carrying it, select a better brand that is good, light and airy.
Plant it in the middle of your container at the same depth it is currently growing. Then work your way down planting another layer. All of the plants mentioned above will work.
Also consider caladiums, which are known to take full sun. It would look exceptional with Mississippi Summer sun coleus, a Mississippi Medallion award winner from a couple of years ago. Also try it with Purple Knight althernanthera.
Once the container is planted, pay attention to watering and nutrition. As you water daily during the summer, you'll most likely be leaching out all of the nutrients. So use controlled-release granules or a diluted water-soluble fertilizer to keep the plant growing vigorously.
Snow bush is normally a good buy warranting using it in the landscape and treating it as an annual. Plant them 3 feet apart in the landscape. The snow bush needs full sun to stay compact and vividly color-up. Don't be afraid to prune a little from time to time to maintain a bushy habit.
The snow bush is just one of thousands of great plants that you will find at Mississippi garden and patio shows: Feb. 28-29 at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi; March 13-14 at the A & I Building on the State Fairgrounds in Jackson; March 27-28 at the Desoto Civic Center in Southaven; and April 3-4 at the Leflore Civic Center in Greenwood.