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The Best Native Australian Plants for your Garden

Elegant bouquet of pink Eucalyptus flowers and buds with reflection - one of the best native Australian plants for your garden

Cultivating a part of Australiana in the home garden is a goal for many Aussie gardeners. It just feels right to encourage the growth of native plants in your backyard. We are fortunate to live in this wonderful country and we should embrace its unique flora and fauna wherever possible.

So what are the best native Australian plants for your garden? We take a look.

How to Prune Native Trees and Plants

Many native plants have major growth spurts in spring and autumn. Both these times are excellent times to prune Australian native plants as this is a period when the plant is in active growth. 

Another rule of thumb is to prune your native plants after they have finished a major flowering. 

Pruning will assist in the development of strong stems and root system.  Pruning native plants will also assist in extending the life of many native plants.  

Use loppers or secateurs and once the plant has gained the shape you prefer you may like to use hedge trimmers to maintain shape. 

Many native plants make excellent hedging plants and are suited to regular pruning.

How to Fertilise Native Trees and Plants

 Generally speaking Australian native plants do not require a great deal of fertiliser. However, applying fertiliser will speed growth considerably.  

As a rule of thumb, slow release fertilisers low in phosphate are considered to be excellent for native species.  

Phosphate fertilisers can damage roots of many natives, especially species like Banksia and Telopea (Warratah etc) and some Kangaroo paws.  

There are many native species which can grow well on general purpose garden fertiliser. Amongst these are many Grevillea Species, Acacia, gum trees, Westringia, native Hibiscus and many rainforest species like Lilly Pilly.  

When planting larger native trees,  fertilising is generally done with a commercial product called a tree tablet. These are dropped into holes around the root zone.  

When fertilising native species, the general rule is use only a small amount and spread it around broadly. Spring and autumn are the best times to fertilise.    

Growing Native Trees

Illawarra flame tree – Brachychiton

Illawarra flame trees are one of the most beautiful flowering trees in the world and so had to be at the top of this list of the best native Australian plants for your garden.

They can grow to 20m but generally only grow to about 10m in most gardens.  The leaves are large and glossy and semi-deciduous in late winter just before flowering in spring, when the tree loses all it’s foliage and is just a mass of red flowers. 

This tree is mainly suited to larger gardens and in some case can take a number of years to develop good flowering.  Illawarra flames require good water when young, however are drought tolerant once established.

Suitable for growing in NSW, QLD, NT, WA. Well drained, organic soil will work best.

The best native Australian plants for your garden - flame tree red orange yellow flower blooming new born green leaves

BottleBrush Tree – Callistemon viminalis “prolific”

Callistemon viminalis is small tree to around 5m.  It is bushy and has dark green foliage.  

Affectionately known as the Bottlebrush, this tree produces masses of red flowers in early spring and will spot flowers through the year.  This is an excellent tree for large gardens, verges and parks. 

This tree can be fast growing in good conditions and can thrive in soil conditions ranging from heavy to sandy. Bottlebrushes are very drought tolerant once established.  

They are not blighted by major pests and easy to look after in a home garden. The only drawback could be the spent flowers which can create a bit of a mess after flowering, but this is a small price to pay and the tree is well worth the clean-up.

The Bottlebrush is suitable for growing in NSW, QLD, VIC, SA, TAS, WA.

Agonis flexuosa “varigated”

The Agonis is a small variegated tree from Western Australia. It normally grows to about 5m. 

The foliage is the main feature of this plant.  It is important is to select a plant that has no green leaves developing, otherwise sections of the plant may revert to green (simply prune off the green leaves, if they do develop).

This is a tree that is not grown extensively, but should be.  It’s a hardy little tree with no major pests and is drought tolerant once established.   The Agonis Flexuosa may be hard to find as it is not grown as widely as once it was. 

It will grow well in most states. 

Growing Native Garden Shrubs

Moving on in our rundown of the best native Australian plants for your garden, here are some native garden shrub to consider.

Leptospermum “Cardwell”

This is a weeping shrub that grows to around 2m with thin small leaves.

One of the best flowering Leptospermums, it carries masses of white flowers in late winter and spring. 

It grows in full sun to partial shade but does best in partial shade. It is a moderately hardy shrub, requiring watering in dry times and a well-drained soil.

Cardwells will grow well in NSW, QLD, VIC, SA, TAS, WA.

Gilt Dragon – Grevillea

Gilt Dragon is a low growing shrub with soft green/grey foliage.  The stems weep slightly which make this an attractive shrub even when not flowering.

This shrub will flower at various times during the year with small red flowers and is suitable for full sun or partial shade. 

Gilt Dragons are very hardy and require only nominal watering once established.  They are perfect for mass planting on a bank or under trees.

They are not afflicted with any major pest issues and are suitable for growing in NSW, QLD, VIC, SA, TAS and WA.

Grevillea “superb”

The Grevillea “Superb’ is a fast growing, upright growing shrub to 3m.

The foliage is light green (lighter then Robyn Gordon) and flowers are red.  Luxuriant flowering is produced throughout the year and it is a wise choice for growing along a fence or as a backdrop.

The Superb also makes a good screen or hedging plant and can be grown in full sun to partial shade.   

It is a drought tolerant shrub once established and will grow in sand through to clay soils. 

The ‘Superb’ has no major pest issues and is suitable for growing in NSW, QLD, VIC, SA, TAS and WA..

Various plants in the Grevillea family are not only amongst the best native Australian plants for your garden, but also make excellent pot plants. See here for more information.

A vibrant Grevillea superb flower - one of the best native Australian plants for your garden.

Growing Native Garden Ground Covers

Fan Flower – scaevola

Fan flowers are a type of groundcover which grow from a central point to a width of around 1m.

They will usually stay low and will not grow much higher then 20cm above the ground.   The Scaevola produces masses of blue flowers throughout the year.  

Good for rockery and coastal gardens . The soil needs to be well drained and good watering required in dry times.

Suitable for growing in NSW, QLD, WA, VIC, SA and TAS.

Grevillea “Gin Gin Gem” – Grevillea

This is a hardy, thick growing ground cover, with olive coloured leaves.  Red flowers are produced in late winter and spring, but it may spot flower at other times of the year.  

It is suitable for full sun to partial shade and is a very dependable groundcover which will cover a large area per plant, up to 3m.  

It can grow to around 40cm above the ground.  Gin Gin Germ will suit sandy through to clay soils.

The shrub is native to WA, but will grow almost anywhere in Australia, including coastal conditions, and is drought tolerant once established. This is an easy to find plant in Australia as it is stocked in most nurseries around Australia.

Pig Face – Ground cover

This is a common native ground cover which grows on beach fronts and the inland of Australia.  The “Pig Face” is one of the ultimate low maintenance and water-wise plants, making it one of the best native Australian plants for your garden.

Once established, the Pig Face spreads quickly and creates a thick mass that totally covers the ground.  It has pretty Mauve flowers, but there are other colours available.

It will flourish best in sandy soils but grows in most soils and does prefer dry conditions.

Suitable for growing in NSW, QLD, VIC, SA, NT, TAS and WA.

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