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Plant Profile

Muehlenbeckia astonii is a lovely NZ native shrub with heart-shaped leaves and divaricating branches. It has reddish bark which stands out during winter when the leaves fall off. A great landscaping plant, slow growing and easy to trim into shapes. Very hardy, tolerant of dry conditions.

Also known as shrubby tororaro, it is widely used in landscaping projects internationally however it is extremely rare in the wild, hence it has a current conservation status of Nationally Endangered. Planting more of these wonderful shrubs in rural settings and areas of native bush may help to increase natural populations of them again. The species was originally discovered in the Wellington region in 1908 by Bernard Aston, and named after him in 1911 by Donald Petrie. These days, the largest natural population is in Lake Ellesmere, Canterbury.

The heart-shaped leaves are easily distinguished, and it is one of the few NZ natives that is deciduous. It produces very small flowers in December and January, and very small nuts from October to June. The zig-zag branches grow from a main trunk which is unusual for Muehlenbeckia, and lends them well to clipping into a ball or similar shapes.



Muehlenbeckia astonii are very low maintenance – even if you use them as topiary they are not a vigorous grower so it’s easy to keep on top of them. Because they grow from a trunk, it is also very easy to weed around them either by hand or spray.


Birds & Bees

The fruits on this plant are sugary and edible, which birds love and also lizards. Placing some nice flat rocks or sleepers might encourage a spot for lizards to come and eat and then sun themselves!


It can be found in lowland and montane forests, along stream banks and in rocky places. It's a hardy plant and can tolerate a wide range of conditions, but it does best in well-drained soils and a cool, moist environment. It's also frost hardy and can handle temperatures down to -5°C. It prefers bright, indirect light but can tolerate some shade. It is not suitable for full sun.


They are very tolerant of dry, so you shouldn’t need to water them much, if at all. Water it when the soil feels dry to the touch, but be careful not to overwater as this can lead to root rot.


Feed it with a balanced fertilizer every 4-6 weeks when young, but once they are established they shouldn’t need any further regular feeding. Mulching is always helpful and can help keep natural nutrients trickling down to the roots.


Muehlenbeckia astonii are very hardy, so you don’t need to do anything special to them during winter. Because they lose their leaves, if you have some rainfall and then it freezes during the night, the open divaricating branches make a very pretty sight with the frozen water droplets hanging off them!


They are a lovely shrub to trim into shapes if you’re feeling adventurous, but otherwise they don’t need to be trimmed at all, they can be left to grow in their natural habit. However, a hedge trimmer or similar device can make them look very neat in a more formal setting, and could even be used to form a low, wide hedge.  


Muehlenbeckia astonii can be readily grown from either seed or winter hardwood cuttings. The male and female flowers occur on different plants, so to collect viable seed it will need to be from an area where both are located. The seed will also hybridise with other Muehlenbeckia species, so if pure seed is needed check for any other species in the area first.


This tough NZ native is pretty much disease and pest free, which makes it a great choice for an easy-care landscape. Root rot could become an issue if over-watered.



Muehlenbeckia astonii is reasonably unique, however plants like Coprosma propinqua or Coprosma rubra could be used as suitable alternatives in a mixed native planting, or informal hedge. It is widely propagated throughout nurseries in NZ though, so typically not a difficult plant to find.


Plants to pair with

Typically they are planted in clusters by themselves or as an informal hedge. Otherwise they are used as part of a mixed native planting, along with coprosma species, groundcovers etc.



For further info visit  

Botanical info


Click here to check out our YouTube review on this plant!

Muehlenbeckia astonii

Out of Stock
    • Mature size: 2m high x 1m wide
    • Deciduous: Semi
    • Temperature: Hardy
    • Light: Full sun/part shade
    • Moisture: Dry/well drained
    • Wind tolerance: Hardy


All prices exclude GST

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