The Hawaiian Snowbush, or Breynia nivosa, is a delicate looking shrub that is native to the Pacific Ocean Islands. In zones 10-11 this plant is the closest visual reinterpretation of snow that one may get. Graceful in form, the snowbush's leaves are round and papery thin with white variegation, looking as if the shrub has just dug in for winter and the first snowfall has just rolled through, thus giving Breynia its common name. Toward the center of the plant, the leaves can be mostly green. As you follow the branches to the stem, tips become whiter and brighter colors purvey. There are two varieties of Breynia, each with distinctive color variations. The Atropurpurea exhibits shades of purple and the roseo-picta has pink to red tones.
Flickr photo by Randy Read
Planted outside, the Snowbush thrives in full sun and is often used as a hedge plant in Hawaii. It does have an aggressive nature and root system however, so be prepared to see it pop up where you might not expect it to. As a houseplant, utilize a rich and well-drained soil when transplanting. Even though they enjoy full sun when planted outside, after you transplant a Snowbush give it a break from the full sun until it has subsided from any shock and has become used to its new surroundings. At that time, you can graduate it to the full sun again if you wish. It can tolerate part-shade as well, but the Snowbush's leaves will not be as colorful. Besides taking light conditions in to consideration, you can also avoid repotting it every year in order to foster as much color as possible. Breynia best develop color tinges when their roots are cramped. Keep the soil evenly moist, to slightly dry to the touch, especially in spring through fall. With cooler winter weather you can lighten up slightly on the watering. Their delicate, papery leaves appreciate humidity, so keep up on the misting when you can.
I enjoy planting smaller and younger specimens in terrariums where they can act as a tall tree amongst the groundcovers, creating depth and variation. As an outdoor container plant, they can lighten up a visual dark space and look great with plants which play against the brighter variegations of the Snowbush. A nice visual companion for a Snowbush is the salmon blooming Fuchsia 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt.' Just be careful not to place these in a wind tunnel as they will dry out quite readily. That being said, with such a beautiful plant, I for one welcome the snow.