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Go native with our ultimate Australian native plant care guide!

Go native with our ultimate Australian native plant care guide!

Low maintenance, hardy and often drought resistant, Australian native plants a welcome addition to any garden design. With over 19,000 varieties across the country, they’re also super versatile. Whether you’re after screening shrubs, rambling groundcovers, eye-catching ornamentals or delectable edibles, you can bet there’s a native plant for the job!

Why are Australian native plants such a good choice? 

1. They're Built for Australia

There are so many great reasons to plant natives, but our personal favourite? Australian native plants are specially evolved to tolerate tough Aussie conditions. From shiny leafed Lilly Pillies that are happy in a humid rainforest, to coastal natives that will handle high salt conditions, through to fine leafed Tea Trees (Leptospermums) that are drought tolerant once established. Each region has its own native varieties.

When considering your garden design, make sure you choose native plants that grow well in your area. By choosing regional native varieties you can ensure your plants are well suited to your local soil and climate conditions and will go on to live long and happy lives!

2. They support Australian wildlife

It’s no secret that Aussie wildlife is doing it tough in the face of climate change and habitat destruction. Luckily, by planting Australian natives you can provide essential habitat and food sources for local fauna.

Australian native plants come in a huge range of shapes and sizes and there is a kaleidoscope of native flower colours to choose from! This variety of vibrant blooms are amazing for attracting native birds, bats, marsupials, and bees (all of which are natural pollinators!). Planting native is especially important for our endangered Australian native bees, who are struggling against the effects of pesticides. 

 

3. Natives are no fuss, with high reward

Most Australian natives are low maintenance and drought tolerant once established, which means they need way less water than exotics (non-natives). Translation? Less time spent watering your garden and big savings on your water bills in summer! Other than that, you’re looking at some light tip pruning in warmer months and a just a little bit of native friendly fertiliser each year. 

What is the best mulch for Australian native plants?

The best mulch for your native plants will depend on your region's climate, as well as the variety of native. In warmer climates, with mild winters and long growing seasons, your best bet is an organic mulch which breaks down quickly to provide additional nutrients to the soil.

In fact, most native plants will appreciate organic mulches such as: eucalyptus leaf litter, wood chips, pine bark chips, compost, pea straw or sugar cane mulch. When it comes to larger plants or mature trees, however, opt for a larger bark chip mulch as it’s more durable and will last longer. 

For inland plants that thrive in dry areas, a mulch of gravel may be more effective than organic mulch as it will protect against fungal problems. The same goes for plants in bushfire prone areas. By using pebbles or river stones in your garden design, rather than organic mulch, you can reduce the spread of wildfires and keep your property safe. 

Whatever mulch you choose, make sure you don’t apply it too thick as it can deoxygenation the soil. Try to avoid mulching thicker than 75 mm. Mulch is most effective when it’s applied in mid spring or early summer.


How to prepare soil for native plants?

Australia has two main soil types – clay based and sandy. Both types are low in organic matter and fertility (a reason to use a native specific fertiliser!). To find out what soil type you have, read our helpful guide.

Clay soils are best treated with manure, to allow the soil to break down better. Sandy soils, however, will benefit from being well mulched with organic matter. Native plants prefer well-drained soil, so regardless of your soil type, building up your garden beds will assist with drainage and help keep your native plants healthy. 

Native plants love slightly acidic soil and as luck would have it, Australian soils are naturally acidic, with pH levels between 5.5 and 7.0. This means it’s very unlikely you’ll need to adjust your pH levels. If, however, you have previously grown exotic plants nearby or added improvers to your soil, it’s a good idea to test your pH levels to make sure they aren’t too high. Read our how-to guide here.

If you have clay soil and want to improve its nutrients, use gypsum as this will not affect your pH levels. Avoid using dolomite or lime as these additives will spike your pH and endanger your native plants


How often should you water native plants?

Before planting Australian native plants, make sure you give them a big water in their grow pots. If the soil is too dry when you pull them out to plant, the soil can fall away and damage the plant’s roots. 

After planting your natives, water-in each plant with about a bucket full of water. For the first few weeks after planting, your plants will need frequent watering. Start watering every day for the first couple of days, then twice a week for a few weeks, then once a week until they are established (about 3 months’ time).

Once your native plants are established, things become far more low maintenance! You want to water well, but not too often. The best rule of thumb is to soak your garden every few weeks without any watering in between to ensure water gets deep into the soil and then drains away. 

 

What is the best fertiliser for native plants

Unlike exotics, Australian native plants are super sensitive to phosphorus. When choosing a fertiliser for your natives, make sure the phosphorous level is 3% or less. Any more than this can cause root damage and kill off your native plants

It’s best to use native specific fertilisers, such as Osmocote Native Plant Fertiliser or Native Focus Liquid Fertiliser, which are high in nitrogen and low in phosphorous. Alternatively, you can use a seaweed based fertiliser such as Eco Seaweed, as it’s almost phosphorous-free. Make sure you feed your native plants fertiliser throughout spring and summer, which is their main growing season.

Want to plant native, but don’t know where to start? 

If you’re looking for some native inspiration, then check out our collection of Australian native plants here. To help find the right native plant for your garden design, you can then filter the collection according to:

  • features – pet friendly, evergreen, or flowering 

  • environment – full sun, part shade, full shade, drought, frost, or salt tolerant

  • size – groundcover, less than 1m, 1-2m, 2-3m, or 3m and up

Still too much choice? Low maintenance and a hit with the local fauna, you can’t go past our Birds and Bees Australian Native Plant Pack. Not sure which varieties are best for your garden? Reach out to our resident Plant Nerds via phone or our website. We love helping Aussie gardeners go native!

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