Dodonaea viscosa 'Purpurea' (Purple-leafed Hop-bush) - This rapid growing, evergreen shrub reaches 12 to 20+ feet tall and about as wide - more upright when young - spreading out with age. Narrow bronzy-green 4 inch long leaves turn purple with cooler weather. Tiny green flowers in clusters mid-summer followed by brown maple-like seed capsules in late summer.
Tolerates some shade but color is better if grown in full sun. Provide a well-draining soil where it is drought tolerant once established but looks best with occasional deep water. We have listed this plant as cold hardy to about 10-15° F but were recently notified of a young planting that succumbed after temperatures reached 16° F in Los Alamos, California during the January 2007 freeze. It is an ideal plant for use as a specimen or as an informal hedge or screen. Prune for structure in fall and winter and is also tolerant of lighter shearing during the growing season.
This species has an incredibly wide cosmopolitan distribution - it is considered native throughout the southwest US and northern Mexico but varieties and subspecies are found throughout the tropics and sub-tropics including Hawaii, New Zealand and all of Australian states and territories, where it grows in a wide range of habitats. The name of the genus honors Rembert Dodoens, a 16th Century Flemish botanist and the specific epithet is from the Latin word 'viscosus' meaning sticky in reference to the sometimes sticky leaves.
According to Lawrence Metcalf in his The Cultivation of New Zealand Trees and Shrubs (Reed Methuen Publishers, 1987), this 'Purpurea' selection was discovered in the early 1890s by Mrs Thomas Wilkins, a keen eyed gardener who found it growing along the Wairau River near Marlborough, located near the northern tip of the South Island of New Zealand. She collected seeds of the plant and grew it in her garden until a Christchurch nurseryman acquired seed and introduced it into the New Zealand nursery trade where it was called Purple Ake Ake. It is considered a color-sport that sporadically occurs in wild populations and can also revert to green. Dodonaea viscosa 'Purpurea' is still often produced from seed in the nursery trade but resulting plants progeny often range in color from greenish bronze, through red and purple to dark purple. Our plants are cutting grown from a particularly nice dark seedling grown plant that we selected at our nursery and are a uniform dark reddish purple.
Information about Dodonaea viscosa 'Purpurea' displayed on this page is based on our research about it conducted in our library and gathered from reliable online sources. We include observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well as how the crops have performed in containers in our own nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others about this plant when we feel it adds information and particularly welcome hearing from anyone who has any additional cultural recommendations that would aid others in growing it.