Grow an Australian Native Garden

If you want to establish an Australian native garden in your own backyard, there are many plant species that will help to create a stunning setting, but to help narrow down the choice, we've picked five of our favourites.

Planting natives can be incredibly beneficial as they are tough, durable plants ideally suited to the Australian climate, conditions, and terrain. You will usually find that natives don't require watering as often as other plants, in fact, many are drought-tolerant, and they can survive in some pretty harsh conditions too.

The five plants we've recommended below have been selected because they complement each other and can be added to your existing garden if you are simply looking to introduce some Australian natives rather than completely overhaul your backyard.

 

1. Hakea laurina

Genus: Hakea 
Species: Laurina 
Other names: Pin-cushion hakea
Flower colour: Red, pink
Foliage colour: Green-blue
Growth habit: Shrub or tree
Flowering season: Autumn to winter

Hakeas are a member of the Proteaceae family along with waratahs, banksias, grevillea and another 140 plants in this genus. The Hakea laurina is native to southwest Australia. 

Appearance

Hakeas have spidery flowers like grevillea. Some grow in globe-shaped clusters while others bear an elongated spear at the end of the branches. Hakea laurina has beautiful flowers that protrude like spider legs, with the flower heads reaching up to 5cm in width. They can grow up to 5m in height, either singly as a shrub or as a small tree. The tree gives off a bold appearance with handsome foliage that is slightly green-blue in colour and becomes blemished with striking fungus spots at various times of the year.

Cultivation

Hakea laurina does not like phosphorus fertilisers (it will kill them) and prefers to be well mulched so that its roots can extract nutrients from the mulch layer. This plant likes full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. Hakea laurina prefers dry to medium soil (not moist) and is a fast grower. It is best to propagate these plants from seed as cuttings can be unreliable, though ensure you wear gloves when handling a seed pod as they can be prickly. Put the pods into a paper bag and place the bag in the window of your car or somewhere equally as hot. The seed pods will crack open revealing tiny seeds inside. Place the seeds in a small tray or pot with well-drained propagating material. Cover the seeds with high-quality potting mix and be sure to keep it moist so the seeds can germinate. This will take about two to three months depending on the climate and temperature. 

Once they have started growing, you can transplant the seedlings to the garden and they will grow beautifully. Remember that hakeas need good drainage and require regular watering until they are established. Once matured they are very hardy. Place your hakea in a sunny spot in the garden for best growth results.

 

2. Banksia ericifolia

Genus: Banksia
Species: Ericifolia
Other names: Heath banksia
Flower colour: Yellow to burgundy-red
Foliage colour: Green 
Growth habit: Shrub or tree
Flowering season: Autumn to winter
 
The Banksia ericifolia is native to eastern Australia and is a member of the Proteaceae family. This plant is frequently found growing along the coastal line of Australia or slightly inland from the coast. 

Appearance

Banksia ericifolia is a medium-sized compact ornamental shrub with large showy flowers. An interesting fact about this plant is that its flower head is made up of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of tiny individual flowers grouped together in pairs. The fruit of the banksia (called follicles) is hard and woody, and often grows grouped together giving the appearance of a cone. This shrub can grow up to 2.5 metres in height. 

Cultivation

This plant is easily propagated from seed, which should be sown in a freely-draining seed-raising mix that must not be left to dry out. The mix should be sterilised before planting to avoid a fungal attack. The seedlings can be transplanted into small pots as soon as the first true leaves appear. The pot should consist of a mix of river sand, loam and leaf mould. Banksias grow best in well-drained soil in a sunny position. Only low phosphorous fertilisers should be used and light pruning. Banksias do not grow well in parts of Australia that have high humidity or high rainfall in the summer. Banksias need regular watering during the first 12-18 months but thereafter they are much hardier and more low maintenance plants.

 

3. Kangaroo Paw 

Genus: Anigozanthos 
Species: Flavidus
Other names: Kangaroo paw
Flower colour: Red/yellow/orange
Foliage colour: Green 
Growth habit: Perennial plant
Flowering season: Autumn to winter

Part of the Haemodoraceae family from the southwest of Western Australia. 

Appearance

This plant is named after one of Australia's most iconic animals due to the shape of its flower resembling a kangaroo paw. The tubular flowers are coated with dense hairs and have an opening at the apex with a six claw-like structure. The flowers come in several colours from burgundy and bright red to orange, yellow and even bicolour. 

Cultivation

Kangaroo paws like well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight. For optimum growth results, it is best to add organic matter to the soil. These plants have a slightly higher demand for water during spring and summer, which is integral to the longevity of their blooms, however, they are drought tolerant. The key to keeping kangaroo paws happy is pruning to ensure a healthy, vigorous plant. It is best to prune kangaroo paws during the flowering season by cutting off the flower stems as soon as the blooms start to wither. 

 

4. Grevillea

Genus: Proteas
Species: Speciosa
Other names: Spider flower
Flower colour: Red
Foliage colour: Green 
Growth habit: Evergreen shrub or tree
Flowering season: June to September (Can be seen all year round)

The grevillea plant can grow up to 3m tall and is predominately found growing in New South Wales. 

Appearance

The red spider-like petal-less flower has bright crimson calyx tubes that form in loose circles on the end of the branches. The leaves are green and narrowly shaped with silvery hairs underneath. Grevilleas are evergreen plants and range from small shrubs to large trees.

Cultivation 

Plant grevilleas in a sunny location in your garden that gets plenty of light. The soil must be light, gritty, and free-draining with low levels of phosphates for best growth results. These plants are drought-tolerant, however, when first establishing them, be sure to give them the occasional deep watering. Grevilleas can be propagated from seed or half-hardened cuttings. Plant the seeds straight into the ground in the desired spot in your garden or in a container. This plant is straightforward to grow and is easily adaptable to a variety of soils and climates. 

 

5. Asplenium australasicum

Genus: Asplenium
Species: Australasicum
Other names: Bird's nest fern 
Flower colour: None
Foliage colour: Green
Growth habit: Evergreen fern
Flowering season: Autumn to winter

Asplenium australasicum is usually found growing on the south and central coasts of New South Wales and coastal Queensland.  

Appearance

The bird's nest fern is an elliptical-shaped shrub bearing a rosette of yellow-green fronds. The fronds can grow to 60-80cm long and 3-21cm wide. This fern can reach a height of up to 1.5m.

Cultivation 

Asplenium australasicum is a hardy and very popular fern to grow. It is versatile as it is able to grow on rocks, trees or in the ground. This plant needs plenty of moisture and requires good drainage - it will rot in poorly drained soil. Bird’s nest fern is happiest in sandy loam, clay loam, potting mix or loam soil with a neutral pH and can tolerate moderate frosts but only in situations where it receives filtered sunlight.

When looking to propagate this fern, make sure it gets moderate sunlight and shade, not direct sunlight. Apply general purpose fertilisers regularly for the best growth results. You could consider growing this plant in a tub, on tree trunks or even in a hollow tree stump! Like most ferns, asplenium australasicum also makes for an excellent container plant for both inside and out. Water regularly to ensure the soil stays moist and warm and you'll have a very happy fern!