New Zealand brass buttons – info, planting, care and tips

New Zealand brass buttons (Leptinella squalida)
New Zealand brass buttons (Leptinella squalida)

The New Zealand brass buttons is a small perennial that spreads a pleasant honey-like scent during the flowering period. It forms dense polster and is therefore of great importance as a solid lawn substitute. Read here what needs to be considered when planting and caring for.

Profile of New Zealand brass buttons:

Scientific name: Leptinella squalida, Syn.: Cotula squalida

Plant family: daisy family (Asteraceae)

Other names: brown brass buttons

Sowing time: spring

Planting time: spring

Flowering period: June to August

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, moderately nutrient-rich to nutrient-rich, humus rich, tolerates lime

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: ground cover, grave planting, group planting, lawn substitute, under wood planting, area greening, rock garden, natural garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of New Zealand brass buttons

Plant order, origin and occurrence of New Zealand brass buttons

The New Zealand brass buttons (Leptinella squalida, syn: Cotula squalida), sometimes also called brown New Zealand brass buttons, is a lovely little perennial from the daisy family (Asteraceae). The plant originally comes from New Zealand, where it occurs on both the North Island and the South Island. There it grows on higher, moist mountain meadows, on river edges, in the lowlands near the coast or in other humid locations.

Characteristics of New Zealand brass buttons


Leptinella squalida is only 5 centimeters (2 in) high when fully grown. Under optimal conditions, it forms dense polsters with its lying shoots in a very short time, which look like a lawn from a distance.


The elongated leaves of the New Zealand brass buttons are brownish green. In most cases they are winter- or evergreen. As the leaves are pinnate, the plant is reminiscent of a small fern.


The rather inconspicuous yellow, head-like flowers of the feather pillow appear between June and August and spread a pleasant honey scent.


The fruits are small, nut-like, indehiscent fruits, each with one seed. In botany, they are also called achenes.

New Zealand brass buttons – cultivation and care


New Zealand brass buttons thrives in sunny to partially shaded places in the garden.


The New Zealand brass buttons prefers a permeable, fresh to moist floor. With sufficient moisture and a well-ventilated, humus-rich substrate, it quickly forms even, densely branched plant polster. The soil pH should be neutral.


If you want to use the New Zealand brass buttons as a ground cover, you need about 10 to 20 plants per square meter (10 sq ft.). So that the small perennial can grow well, you should keep a planting distance of 20 to 30 centimeters (8 to 12 in). The best time to plant is spring so that they can grow well until the first winter. Before planting, enrich poor soils with a little compost to increase the nutrient content.


On hot, dry summer days, you should water the plants additionally, as otherwise drought damage can occur. If you ever forget to water your New Zealand brass buttons in midsummer and the damage is there, you do not have to panic: Even if the plant appears a bit dry, it can usually regenerate from the base in the event of such damage.


A light fertilization in the spring with compost or another organic fertilizer is also recommended giving the plant a little jump start for the new season.


The New Zealand brass buttons is extremely robust and has proven to be frugal and easy to care for. Therefore, hardly any maintenance measures are necessary.


The New Zealand brass buttons does not seed itself. But with short runners, the typical plant carpets form after a short time. It can easily be propagated by dividing it in spring.

The perennial plant does not have to be rejuvenated every year, because as a very long-lived perennial, the feathery cushion only really becomes attractive over time. Dividing is primarily used for propagation. A suitable time for this is the spring months.

Simply cut small pieces of the perennial with a sharp spade and put them back into the ground at the desired location. Always remove all diseased and dried root parts before replanting to allow the plant to grow healthily.

Diseases and pests

New Zealand brass buttons are generally very resistant to diseases and pests, but the small perennial is also not completely resistant.

As in the winter months, discoloration on the top of the leaf can also occur in summer if the sun exposure is too high. In addition, the brown brass buttons is particularly susceptible to spider mites in summer. The pests suckle on the undersides of the plants, especially in dry years. You can recognize an infestation by the brightening of the polsters.

In late summer and autumn, the planted areas remain moist for longer due to morning dew. Often the gray garden slug and the red slug eat the young and still soft parts of the plant. They crawl over the planted areas with a strong segregation of slime.

Remove leaves and smaller branches from the aerial parts of the plants regularly. Otherwise, the resulting air exclusion can cause rotting.


With a cold tolerance of up to -28 °C (-14 °F), the New Zealand brass buttons is completely hardy. Despite the good winter hardiness, winter or sun protection against black frost is advisable. Otherwise, the plants can react to the intense winter sun with brown leaves. The quality is not adversely affected by this, but it will take a little longer in the coming spring until the plants sprout fresh and green again. To prevent this, cover your plants in winter with small dry branches from trees or bushes.

Use in the garden

Since the New Zealand brass buttons is very easy to care for, throughout green and ideally hard-wearing, the perennial is used in many gardens primarily as a lawn substitution. The plant is also suitable for planting slabs and forms in spring a colorful carpet together with small bulb bloomers such as crocus or wild tulips. Brown brass buttons also come into their own in the gaps in the rock garden, between smaller grasses and trees. The small perennial is also popular for grave design because of its low growth.

Suitable planting partners are, for example, running rockcress (Arabis procurrens) and Buchanan’s sedge (Carex buchananii). During the flowering period, New Zealand brass buttons are also popular with insects.


In addition to the species, there is only one variety of New Zealand brass buttons available on the market, which is also a very special visual highlight. In contrast, ‘Platt’s Black’ has striking black-green leaflets. The variety is already a real eye-catcher when planted, but it is particularly beautiful when combined with other low ground cover plants.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.