Grass trees are great feature plants that need little TLC

WRITING about my favourite plant is not easy, because there are so many.

There are first of all the huge range of grevilleas and callistemons. Their beautiful flowers are a food source for many birds including parrots. I would say grevilleas and callistemons should be in every garden - unless you don't like the sound of parrots early in the morning!

The other one which comes up as a favourite is the red flowering gum, Corymbia ficifolia, with the most beautiful red or pink/red flowers.

2. Grass trees at Grafton Terrace. Photo Contributed
2. Grass trees at Grafton Terrace. Photo Contributed Contributed

However, grass trees or black boys, Xanthorrhoea is the botanical name, are probably my top favourite of the Australian natives plants. They are so unusual, so architectural and every plant is so different.

They grow 0.9mm a year, so a grass tree one metre tall is about 100 years old. Can you imagine?

If you have one or two matured grass trees in your garden, you don't have to worry about a feature plant any more.

Grass trees don't need a lot of attention. I normally trim the old leaves to give them a well-maintained look and keep debris out of leaves to prevent fungal attacks. You should also check for scales. If you find some, spray white oil.

ADVICE

The most important thing when planting is proper drainage. If you have heavy clay soil in your garden, you need to create some sort of drainage.

It is also very important not to disturb the roots. You have to be very gentle to the tree. You don't pull the plant or roll the pot to get it loose. You rather cut the base of the pot and place the tree in the planting hole, which of course should be larger than the pot. Then you cut the side and lift the pot out without disturbing the roots.

After, fill the hole with a well draining soil mix, add some slow release fertiliser for native plants and hose it in.

If the tree is tall and unstable you are better to stake it until the roots are established.

You should water it for the first year, a deep watering lets say every fortnight or even weekly in the hot season. In the first year you should also fertilise monthly with a seaweed fertiliser to promote root growth.

During flowering you can also add some slow release fertiliser for natives.

As soon as the tree starts to flower, look out for any grub that bores into the flower spike and into the heart of the tree. If you see that a grub has bored in, remove the spike by cutting it towards the bottom of the spike. Treat with pyrethrum.

While flowering the tree won't produce new leaves for months or even longer. In that case, you just have to be patient.



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