Orthophytum 'Copper Penny' - An attractive tropical terrestrial bromeliad with clusters of tight rosettes bearing 5- to 6-inch-long shiny copper colored leaves that are slightly decurved with soft teeth on the margins that contrast nicely with the newly emerging greener leaves. From spring through summer, or year-round in the greenhouse, appear the white flowers subtended by short salmon-colored bracts.
Plant in part to full coastal or bright shade in a well-drained soil and irrigate regularly spring through fall - with brighter light the plants take on the best color. Makes a great potted specimen with a fast draining gritty or bark soil, but can be planted in a well-drained raised bed as a small scale groundcover. Can tolerate cool coastal California winters if soil drains well and they are kept fairly dry, so best under an eave that protects plants from too much winter rainfall. Has weathered light frosts and temperatures down to around 31° F in our garden and is useful as a groundcover in near frost free locations in coastal California. It offsets readily to form a large clump and the individual rosettes can be removed to make new plantings.
This plant is a hybrid of the red form of Orthophytum saxicola (O. saxicola var. rubra, Hort.) crossed with Orthophytum vagans. It is noted that the inflorescence more closely resembles that of seed parent Orthophytum saxicola but with richer rose to orange color more typical of the pollen parent Orthophytum vagans, but with less rigid leaves than this parent. The inflorescence and flower development continue over a period than is typical with either parent. 'Copper Penny' was created by Dr. Gary Hendrix of Homestead, Florida in the mid-1970s. It was first listed as a new hybrid in the March April 1980 Journal of the Bromeliad Society (v30 n2) and described in this journal in the September-October 1983 issue (v33 n5).
The name for the genus come from the Greek words 'ortho' meaning "straight" and 'phytum' meaning plant in reference to the tall inflorescence (to 18 inches) of some species. Orthophytum look a bit like Cryptanthus and Dyckia but are noted as differing from most other bromeliads in having a long inflorescence bearing leaves that reduce in size toward the tip with leaf-like bracts in the axils, though one parent of this hybrid. Orthophytum saxicola, has a more traditional type of inflorescence that arises from the top of the leafy rosette. The specific epithet saxicola means "growing on rocks and typically most of the species of the genus can be found growing on rocks or dry rocky ground basking in full sun in cool mountainous regions of eastern Brazil. We got our first Orthophytum 'Copper Penny' stock plant at the 2017 Ganna Walska Lotusland Exceptional Plant Auction. It was a nice large plant donated by Carol Terry, one of Lotusland's longtime volunteer gardeners in their bromeliad garden.
The information about Orthophytum 'Copper Penny' displayed on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources we consider reliable. We will also relate those observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments we receive from others and welcome hearing from anyone who has additional information, particularly when they share cultural information that would aid others in growing it.