My obsession with Breynia ‘Ironstone’

Technically this is Breynia cernua ‘Ironstone Range’ and I absolutely adore it, these images are taken in a friends garden, he is a very talented “master” gardener and treats his Breynia ‘Ironstone’ mean….and it loves him for it 😉

I have written about Breynia ‘Ironstone’ before and have been patiently waiting to photograph a fine specimen like this to sing its praise once more. I am a bit taken with this native shrub for two main reasons the first is its obviously striking foliage and interesting habit.

I love the way it is weeping but the branches are held gracefully horizontal, it really doesn’t look like any other native Australian shrub.

The second reason I encourage every second person to plant it, is its highly contrasting colours, when mixed in with lime greens it makes a fantastic feature shrub.

So apparently the secret to keeping Breynia ‘Ironstone’ looking this lovely is to cut it back hard once a year, and by hard I mean almost down to the ground.

The leaves are quite thin and are prone to looking a little ratty after dry or windy periods, so cutting it back encourages fresh, red new growth. Plant it in part shade in a sheltered position and keep up the water in the drier months and you will be rewarded with a soft, delicate feature shrub to add contrast and interest in your native garden. In the image below you can see a large spun copper dish, cool and enticing for the birds in the Breynia’s shade 😉

27 thoughts on “My obsession with Breynia ‘Ironstone’

  1. Bronwynne on

    It sure looks nice. But can it become invasive? Do birds eat and spread the berries? Is it in the euphorbia family ?

    • Kath Gadd on

      Hi Bronwynne,

      Yes it can become a little invasive, the seed is very viable and spreads easily,

      Best Wishes,


  2. Louise on

    Been growing it in Far North Qld. Yes, it is in the euphorbiaceae family. Haven’t seen it become invasive, though it did send up a few suckers (easily controlled). Also attracts the common grass yellow butterfly which look great contrasted against the purple. Caterpillars will defoliate the shrub if enough of them but a pruning once the caterpillars are gone will do wonders. Not very long lived I think but luckily grows easily from cuttings.

    • Patrick McCormick on

      Hi Louise

      Do you have any suggestions for controlling the caterpillars? I have a very young native Breynia and those little yellow butterfly caterpillars are decimating it! I am trying spraying with soapy water and also picking the caterpillars off by hand, but any other ideas would be welcome! I live in Darwin.

      • Heather Waldron on

        Let the catepillars have it, it has a natural ability to recover quickly and put out lovely fresh new growth.

  3. Gena Garside on

    What is the best time of year to cut back your Breynia ironstone?

    • Kath Gadd on

      Hi Gena,

      You can prune back your Breynia in late Autumn to early winter, then you should get a good flush of new growth for the warmer months, don’t hesitate to give it a generous cut back too, they quite like it!

      Best Wishes,


  4. Wendy on

    I love these too, and have a few in my backyard in Brisbane, but one of them is suffering a bit and I’m thinking of digging it up and moving it, as I think it needs more sun. How do they respond to transplanting?

    • Lol on

      Did you find out the answer to the question about transplanting. I have one near a pile of trees I gave to burn and I don’t want to lose it. I have them in my forest but feel they are so precious

      • Kath Gadd on

        Hi Wendy,

        This plant reseeds very easily so I think it should be fairly hardy to transplant, however that depends how long it has been in the ground for? if it is under a year I would give it a go.

        Good Luck!


  5. Jo on

    I’m in the dry tropics (Townsville), considering using it as a formal hedge which is something it’s supposedly recommended for … But looking at these comments and at three plant itself which has a more “open/spreading ” habit, I’m not certain it will be suitable. Thoughts?

    • Kath Gadd on

      Hi Jo,

      I’m not sure of its suitability as a hedge, when I grow it here in the Sydney region it can become quite sparse in the winter and if its particularly dry. It loves being pruned though, and perhaps as your climate is warmer it might be ok?

      Best Wishes,


      • Esther on

        Hi, I am thinking of putting my Breynia into a spot where it gets sun in summer but none in winter. Does anyone have experience with that? Does the plant thrive? I live in SE Qld, 500m above sea level, very good red soil. Thanks!

    • Nick on

      hi Jo. this photo is my former tree on Magnetic Island. I never ever pruned it. It provided a reasonable screen, as you can see. This tree was completely severed at the base by a strong wind, twice, and simply grew back. The plant will go into a sprouting frenzy if the roots are cut. The roots appear to spread quite wide in distance. My neighbour decided to pave their property to the fence and possibly they cut the root, causing it to sprout through their pavers. Unfortunately, I decided to remove the tree, for their sake, which was very sad, given it was one of my most beautiful trees. Also, it was near my main water pipe so I was concerned.

    • Mihiri E on

      We live in Brisbane and noticed our Braynia is loosing leaves. Any idea why that might be? (Its not cold yet here but its been raining and quite a bit windy). Should we be fertilising it a bit morecto help it?

  6. Vanessa Lushey on

    Hi I have a Breynia Ironstone that is suddenly losing its leaves, what is wrong?

    • Kath Gadd on

      Hi Vanessa,

      Breynia ‘Ironstone’ can drop leaves when there is a cold change in the weather or an exceptionally dry or windy period, could that be what is affecting it?

      Best Wishes,


    • Kath Gadd on

      Hi Lydia,

      You would need to protect it from frost and also keep the water up in the summer, it really likes to have a moist soil and loves humidity.



  7. Barbara on

    I live in Brisbane and my breynia plant leaves are being eaten by something leaving holes in the leaves. Any idea what the pest or bug might be and how to stop this from destroying the leaves of the plant. Thanks

    • Kath Gadd on

      Hi Barbara,

      Are you able to send me a photo please so I can best advise?



        • Kath Gadd on

          Hi Frances and Barbara,

          It sounds like your Breynia are being eaten by a seasonal pest, you can apply a pest oil 10 days apart 3 times and this should break their life cycle.
          Hope this info helps,

          Best Wishes,


  8. Nick NAHLOUS on

    Hi Kath. What is the best time of year to prune this back? I planted some new specimens 12 months ago and they need pruning back. Thank you

    • Kath Gadd on

      Hi Nick,

      I usually prune this back in Autumn, before the windy season and colder months kick in. You can almost treat it like a deciduous plant, it doesn’t need much foliage over winter. If it’s looking a bit straggly now you could do a gentle tip prune to encourage denser growth but otherwise I would wait until next season.

      Hope that helps! 🙂

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