Australia has given us many one-of-a-kind lifeforms, ranging from the platypus to to echidna. Strange plants like the kangaroo paw are commonplace down under, and now we can add the unique brass buttons plant to this list. Unlike some plants that are endemic to Australia, brass buttons can adapt easily to life in other climates, giving gardeners an alternative ground cover plant to add interest to terrariums, fairy gardens, and flowerbeds. The purplish ferny foliage is ornamental on its own, but the contrasting yellow disc blooms are the icing on the cake.
- Botanical Name: Leptinella squalida, formerly known as Cotula squalida
- Common Name: Brass buttons, button weed, golden buttons
- Plant Type: Hardy perennial ground cover
- Mature Size: Two inches tall; spreads up to 18 inches
- Sun Exposure: Partial sun
- Soil Type: Rich and loamy
- Soil pH: Acidic; 5.5-6.8
- Bloom Time: Late spring
- Flower Color: Yellow
- Hardiness Zones: 4-9
- Native Area: New Zealand
How to Grow Brass Buttons
The deeply divided foliage and vibrant yellow spring flowers of brass buttons form a dense mat where growing conditions are right, making it ideal as a path edging, a way to fill the void between stepping stones, or even as a lawn alternative. Brass buttons plants are appealing to beginning gardeners, because they tolerate a wide variety of light and soil situations.
In the cool climate of New Zealand, brass button plants thrive in the sun. In areas with hot summers, brass buttons can easily scorch in too much sun and needs afternoon shade. In fact, brass buttons can grow in full shade, although flowers will be sparse.
Brass buttons plants have shallow roots and need a light soil that has been well-worked before planting. Heavy soils or clay will slow down the plant's growth, limiting its ability to act as a ground cover. If your landscape has compacted soil, amend generously with compost, peat, or leaf mold before planting.
In its native habitat, brass buttons plants grow in damp areas. Keep your plants consistently moist for best color and plant health. Brass buttons plants that dry out may exhibit browning of leaf edges or loss of foliage.
Temperature and Humidity
The best climate for growing brass buttons plants is cool and drizzly, like your typical spring day in Seattle or London. This climate isn't widespread, so it's fortunate that brass buttons plants are tolerant of a wide variety of growing conditions. In hot, dry areas, help plants cope by giving them a shadier locale and an occasional misting.
When you provide the right kind of soil, fertilizing brass buttons plants is unnecessary. In areas with lean soils, a side dressing of compost will be enough to enrich the plants.
Potting and Repotting
Brass buttons plants grow well in just about any commercial potting mix, whether soil-free, sandy cactus mix, or rich loam. When potting up the plants, don't dig a hole, as the shallow roots don't need a large volume of soil cover. Lay the plants on the soil surface, and gently pat and scoop the soil around the plants to secure them in place.
Propagating Brass Buttons
It's easy to propagate brass buttons, as the plants spread vigorously by rhizomes when growing conditions are ideal. Simply dig up a patch of the plant with roots attached and replant. Keep the transplant moist while it becomes established. Spring is the best time for propagating brass buttons.
Varieties of Brass Buttons
'Platt's Black' is the one named alternative to the typical black buttons species plants that you might find in garden centers. Named after Jane Platt, who discovered the sport in her landscape, this variety has darker foliage than most, with pale green leaf tips.
Toxicity of Brass Buttons
Brass buttons plants are not poisonous to pets, wildlife, or people.
Because of its short stature, deadheading isn't necessary for black buttons plants. If you grow the plant as a lawn alternative, you can mow it at the end of summer to tidy the plants.
Being Grown in Containers
Brass buttons plants add interest to terrariums and fairy gardens, where their ferny foliage and purplish hue contrast nicely with other petite plants such as baby's tears or kalanchoe. In the pampered environment of a container, plants will spread quickly, so divide them as needed to keep them in bounds.
Aphids can be a nuisance on newly emerging foliage in the spring. Blast them away with a strong jet of water. Plants stressed by dry conditions are susceptible to mites.
Brass Buttons vs Tansy
With their similar fern-like foliage and yellow disc flowers, the tansy plant (Tanacetum vulgare) looks like a close relative of the brass buttons plant. A perennial herb hardy in zones 3 to 11, tansy quickly distinguishes itself from brass buttons with its stature: Tansy plants grow to four feet, while brass buttons never exceeds a few inches. If you add some tansy plants to your garden, deadhead the flowers after bloom to keep the numerous volunteers from taking over your flowerbed.