Planting, growing and pruning grevilleas
Masses of wildlife-attracting flowers, fascinating foliage forms and colours, hardy and reliable. What’s not to love about the Aussie native grevillea?
What you need to know about grevillea
Name: grevilleas (Grevillea sp. & cvrs)
Plant type: from groundcovers to 30m trees. All evergreen.
Height: most garden varieties to 2m+/–
Foliage: great variation, depending on variety.
Climate: there are varieties suitable for all zones, bar arid and semi arid.
Soil: As a rule, free-draining, but check individual plant labels for specifics.
Position: usually full sun to dappled light, but check label.
Flowering: depends on variety, but generally winter through until summer.
Feeding: depends on variety. Generally annual, with a native-safe controlled-release fertiliser.
Watering: depends on variety. Check requirements on label.
Appearance and characteristics of grevillea
When you talk about Australian native plants, many people will immediately think of the superb grevillea. Thanks to its bold, colourful and somewhat bizarre blooms, it certainly stands out in the garden. Grevillea is a worthy addition on many fronts, not just for its flowering display. Its foliage and form can make an excellent design contribution in a huge range of situations, especially given that there are so many forms available. It is also a hardy plant, great for low-maintenance, sustainable and native gardens.
As there are so many varieties of grevillea available today, it’s very hard to describe them. However, there are a few distinctive characteristics, with the flowers being the main one.
The colour range is quite enormous, from fire engine reds to oranges and whites, with pretty much every hue in between.
As with many flowers, they become doubly conspicuous in winter.
Flowers tend to be in three main forms: cylindrical, one-sided (often described as “toothbrush-like”) and clusters, often called spider flowers.
The foliage also has some common characteristics:
Often technically a single leaf but deeply dissected, looking like a series of separate leaflets.
Colours can range from deep green to silvery-grey.
Leaves generally have a tough consistency, and often have a small spine on the tip.
Uses of grevilleas
There are a multitude of forms of grevillea, and their uses are vast and varied, including:
Shrub forms are excellent as feature plants.
They can be mass planted as a backdrop.
Groundcover and cascading forms are ideal for covering embankments or retaining walls.
Grafted weeping standards make stunning feature plants in the ground or in pots.
How to plant and grow grevillea
There are many different species and cultivars grown, all from different regions, meaning the requirements vary greatly from one variety to the next. Many are grafted on root understock, so the requirements of the rootstock may not actually be typical of the plant above.
It is important to check the label of each grevillea plant as you are selecting it, and make sure its requirements match your situation. Most varieties require full sun, although some will tolerate part sun or dappled light. There are varieties suitable for cold zones, so just check the label. Many forms need protection from strong winds.
As a rule, most will need free-draining soil, and only have moderate water requirements. In pots, use a potting mix suitable for native plants.
The majority of varieties of grevillea will only need the soil opened up, with no improvements required. If soil is very poor, you can improve it first by digging through a small amount of a bagged soil improver or well-composted cow manure—make sure you do this a week or two before planting.
Prune at planting time to help the plant develop a bushier form. Just pinch out the end of all shoots.
Caring for grevillea
Feed your grevillea annually with a controlled-release fertiliser suitable for native plants. Once established, additional watering shouldn’t be required, except in very dry periods.
Regular pruning of your grevillea is recommended to maintain bushiness and encourage additional flowering. Prune your grevillea after the main flowering period. This can be tricky with the varieties that have a long flowering time, but it’s worth the sacrifice of a few flower heads for another main flowering display. Remove any dead or non-productive wood back to a main branch or the trunk as required.
Diseases and pests
Grevillea is relatively problem-free. The main issues that may be encountered are various root rots and other soil problems that are related to poor drainage. These can be avoided by planting in appropriate soil or potting mix.
Growing grevilleas from seeds:
Many grevilleas will set seed and grow quite readily. Sow fresh seed in a very sandy propagating, rather than seed-raising, mix, or add additional washed, coarse sand to propagating mix. Success can be variable, as seedlings can be prone to root rot, so avoid overwatering
Growing grevilleas from cuttings:
If you like this then try:
Kangaroo paw: another awesome flowering Aussie native that likes similar conditions in the garden.
Waratah: perhaps the most spectacular of the flowering Australian native plants.
Eucalyptus tree: every garden needs a tree, and there’s nothing as easy care as a gum tree.
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