How to plan an Australian native garden
Australian native plants, trees and flowers are fast becoming the go-to features of gardens nationwide thanks to their sustainable and easy-to-manage nature.
The vast diversity of the Australian landscape also means there are native shrubs and bloomers to suit practically every nursery and garden from Perth to Brisbane.
When starting to plan your native garden it’s important to consider a number of factors, the most relevant being weather patterns.
Are you living in the arid interior of Australia, or along the tropical coast of Queensland? Does it drop below zero in the depths of winter or rage in the high 30s during the summer season?
The most efficient and environmentally-friendly method of arranging your garden is to choose native plants indigenous to your local area.
Native gardens can be designed around a number of key themes:
Desert: Australia plays host to a number of succulents, flora and shrubs which thrive in dusty, dry conditions, such as the native daisy or ghost gum.
Tropical: Tropical based gardens are most popular in the Northern Territory, and usually centre of foliage like the Australian Fan Palm and long flowering florals like the Bird of Paradise.
Coastal: For exposed coastal spots, gardeners will need to choose hardy wind-resistant plants and herbs like Coastal Rosemary and Melaleuca (the tea tree).
Bushland: The Blue Mountains of New South Wales is the ideal stomping ground for Bushland native gardens, which should be adorned with native trees like the Acacia and Eucalyptus.
Grassland: Native grasses make for excellent contrasting and shading inside a garden, especially kangaroo grass, weeping grass and red grass. Grassland themed gardens often include water features and intricate rockeries, too.
A comprehensive list of Australian native plants
Spotted Emu Bush (Eremophilia Maculata)
Type: The Spotted Emu bush is an Australian native plant in the figwort family, formally classified as a shrub.
Description: The Spotted Emu Bush grows to approximately 2.5 metres tall, with red and purple flowers which develop white spots in summer, spring and winter.
It grows in almost all areas of Australia, with the exception of Darwin and the east coast of Queensland.
Benefit: The Spotted Emu Bush is extremely low maintenance and also tolerant to drought. It thrives in any position well lit with sunlight.
Happy Wanderer (Hardenbergia)
Type: The Happy Wanderer is an evergreen native climber.
Description: If you’re after a versatile piece of greenery to decorate an overhanging exterior, look no further than the classic Australian native plant known as Hardenbergia.
The Happy Wanderer drapes beautifully from ledges, trellises and door frames. It usually boasts vibrant purple flowers, but has also been known to develop pink, white and mauve buds.
The climber grows best in consistent sunlight, but still develops even in semi-shaded positions.
Garden World Australia recommend the Happy Wanderer as a hassle-free piece of foliage thanks to its evergreen nature, meaning it never sheds leaves.
Benefit: The Happy Wanderer is suitable for almost all regions of Australia and flowers nicely in both spring and winter. The climber also attracts a host of bees during pollination season, making it a helpful addition to any native garden.
NSW Christmas Bush (Ceratopetalum Gummiferum)
Type: The Christmas Bush develops into a tall shrub or small tree.
Description: Names can be deceiving, so don’t be fooled by the moniker of this native Australian plant - it grows anywhere along the east coast!
Victorian Christmas Bush grows in Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania.
The Christmas Bush can reach up to four metres tall when planted in well lit, well-drained soil.
In the spring, the Christmas Bush develops three-pointed leaves and inviting, creamy flowers which eventually turn a rusted shade of red in autumn.
The Bush grows easily where there is little root competition, and thrives with native fertilisers like Acticote.
Better Homes and Gardens advise planting your Christmas bush in a sun drenched spot to achieve the brightest red coloured sepals.
Benefit: Varieties of the Bush like Albery’s Red bloom regally from November until Christmas time, making it the perfect festive flower.
Waratah (Telopea Speciossimia)
Type: Waratahs grow into large shrub or trees.
Description: The iconic waratah grows well in New South Wales so long as they are well protected from wind.
The waratah has five species in its family, with the best known being Telopea Speciossimia renowned for its brightly coloured red flower which acts as the New South Wales State emblem.
This plant is native to south eastern parts of Australia; New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania, but is most common around Sydney.
According to Interflora Australia, the name waratah comes from the Eora Aboriginal people, the original inhabitants of the Sydney area. It means ‘red flowering tree’.
It usually grows up to 3 metres in height and was one of the first Australian native plants to be cultivated for use in Europe.
Benefit: Waratahs are decidedly harder to maintain than other native plants, but the rich red flowers that bloom for six weeks each spring are worth every effort.
It makes for an ideal cut flower as it is long lasting and has long straight stems, although more for appearance because it hardly holds any scent.
Type: The Kangaroo Paw is a beautiful native flowering plant.
Description: Kangaroo Paw flourishes in temperate, mild climates like Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne, sprouting reddish tinged flowers during spring and summer.
They are widely exported and grown commercially in the US, Israel and Japan.
Benefit: The eye-catching colour of the Kangaroo Paw makes it arguably the most attractive native plant for your Australian native garden. The Paw also does well as a cut flower for bouquet arrangements.
Wattles (genus Acacia)
Type: Small to large shrubs, although some can grow to trees in optimum conditions.
Description: According to the Australian Native Plants Society, there are more than 1,200 species of Acacia growing naturally across all Australian States as well as overseas.
The wattle is one of Australia’s best loved plants and thrives in mountainous, rocky terrain as well as the arid interior of the country.
Australian Outdoor Living report the wattle grows leaves of a diverse size variety with some reaching up to 30cm in length.
Acacia plants also develop tiny white and yellow flowers arranged into rod-like heads in spring, with some also blooming during the winter.
Benefit: Fast growing, easy to care for and require infrequent watering (but their life span is short lived).
Type: The pretty Banksia is classified as an Australian wildflower and woody shrub.
Description: According to the Australian National Herbarium, 170 species of Banksia exist on earth with all but one growing naturally in Oceania.
The Banksia grows best in Brisbane and South Australia, where 60 species flowering yellow and red during autumn and winter. They are also a regular feature in gardens along the eastern coast.
The aptly named ‘Birthday Candle’ Banksia grows particularly well in Australia’s capital, Canberra.
Banksias usually grow best in well drained soils in a sunny position.
Benefit: Growing banksia is easy provided you plant them in well-drained soil with plenty of sunlight.
Banksias are excellent plants to encourage native animals to the garden thanks to their flower heads which produce large volumes of nectar and attract many birds and small mammals to feed on them.
Type: While many are ground covers or low-growing, succulents also include orchids, Hoyas, shrubs and even the boab.
Description: Australia is home to roughly 400 species of native succulents (aka desert plants) which can be found in coastal, inland, temperate, subtropical and tropical environments.
They are a water-storing plant like the cactus.
Groundcover succulents planted on slopes can prevent soil being washed away in heavy rain.
Benefit: Succulents are generally drought tolerant and bring some fun, quirky shapes and textures to your garden landscape.
Kangaroo Grass, Weeping Grass and Brush-wire Grass
Type: These are all types of native Australian grasses.
Description: Australian native grasses are attractive all year round, and very easily maintained with minimal watering.
They provide variation of texture, tone and colour to a native garden and also encourage birds and friendly wildlife into your outdoor Eden.
Some species, like weeping grass, also create smooth, well-kept lawns which are drought tolerant and suitable for all regions of Australia.
Kangaroo grass is also widely used in creative landscaping.
Benefit: Sustainable Gardening Australia report that native grasses are highly drought, shade and frost tolerant.
Holy Basil, Slender Mint and Native Thyme
Type: These are all types of edible native herbs.
Description: Native Australian plants have been used for centuries by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for food, medicine, construction and tools.
Many chefs use edible native plants to enhance the taste of their dishes, while herbalists also use essential oils derived from native plants for their healing and soothing properties.
Organic Gardener Australia recommend sourcing fresh herbs from native nurseries like Muru Mittigar Provenance Nursery (NSW), Kuranga Native Nursery (Victoria) and Zanthorrea Nursery (Western Australia).
Benefit: Food plants and edible herbs make for a fragrant addition to any well landscaped native garden as well as your kitchen table!
Eucalyptus (Gum Trees)
Type: Mature Eucalyptus become shrubs or giant trees.
Description: No native garden is complete without an iconic Eucalyptus tree. They form a vital part of Australia’s biodiversity and natural environment, with 700 species occurring across the country.
Outdoor Living Australia say the only environment in which Gum Trees do not thrive is the rainforest.
Most are evergreen, although some species shed their leaves at the end of Australia’s dry season.
Eucalyptus that do shed will drop bark and sometimes branches in summer through autumn, so keep them clear of rooftops and drains.
Benefit: Native Australian Eucalyptus trees grow easily and require minimal watering.
They also serve as a home and shelter for many species of native animals and birds, and provide a world famous herbal oil harvested from the surface of the leaves.
Type: Grevilleas come in all shapes from low growing ground covers, small shrubs and hedges, to tall trees.
Description: Grevillea are a beautiful native shrub with pink, sunset hued flowers with more than 360 species.
They are native to Perth and surrounding areas of Western Australia, as well as Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia and the Sulawesi region of Indonesia.
The ‘Sunrise’ variety boast invitingly large apricot pink flowers which are perfect for use as a piece de resistance of any native garden.
Benefit: The vast majority of grevillea species are drought and frost tolerant with beautiful, ferny foliage which makes them an attractive addition to an Australian native garden all year round.
Type: The Bottlebrush is a classic woody shrub.
Description: Bottlebrush are among the hardiest of Australian native plants, with the name deriving from the plant’s flowers which look like long brushes for cleaning bottles.
Most Bottlebrushes are found in the east and south-east of Australia, with two species found in Western Australia and four in New Caledonia.
The Australian National Herbarium report they often grow in damp or wet conditions such as along creek beds or in areas which are prone to floods, as well as in warm mountain regions.
Benefit: According to Burkes Backyard, Bottlebrushes are long lived, require minimal maintenance and are almost impossible to kill.
The Harkness variety have a particularly spectacular display of red flowers when in season.