The Australian Heath Family - Cultivation

In general, there are very few members of the Australian heaths that are seen in cultivation. Perhaps up to 20 species (mainly Epacris sp) are available through specialist Australian plant nurseries from time to time but the great majority are familiar only in their natural habitat.

As a general rule, members of the group require the following combination of conditions:

  • Excellent drainage - but assured moisture. They do not tolerate drying out
  • Protection from direct summer sun - dappled shade is ideal
  • Good light - not dense shade
  • Light soils (eg sandy loams)

Most species are excellent subjects for containers.

The following table lists some of the more readily available species but the list is not meant to be comprehensive and availability will vary from district to district.

Plant Common
HxW (m)
Astroloma humifusum Cranberry heath
0.5 x 1.0
Red The greens fruits are edible and were used by Aborigines and early European settlers.
Astroloma pinifolium Pine heath
0.5 x 1.0
Reddish and green Attractive foliage and edible fruits.
Epacris impressa Common heath
1.0 x 1.0
White, pink, red Several forms available. The red-flowered "Bega" form seems to be the hardiest for cultivation. A double-flowered form is available.
Epacris longiflora Fuchsia heath
1.0 x 1.0
Red; white tips Widely cultivated. Usually of straggly habit but tolerates pruning. A white form is available.
Epacris microphylla Coral heath
0.5 x 0.5
White Small flowers but produced in a massed display along the stems.
Epacris pulchella Wallum heath
1.5 x 1.5
White Small bell shaped flowers produced in a massed display.
Epacris reclinata None
0.5 x 0.5
Red or deep pink Can be difficult to establish and maintain but well worth the effort!
Epacris serpyllifolia Thyme heath
1.0 x 1.0
White Variable but good forms have flowers that can almost totally obscure the foliage.
Leucopogon lanceolatus Lance beard-heath
2.5 x 1.5
White Widespread in nature; small flowers occur in racemes from leaf axils.
Paphia meiniana Mountain bells
0.5 x 0.5
Red or pink Hardy, shrubby, semi-climber. May be shy to flower.
Prionotes cerinthoides Climbing heath
0.3 x 0.5
Deep pink Large, bell flowers and glossy leaves are features. Probably best grown in a container where it develops a small shrubby habit.
Rhododendron lochiae Native rhododendron
0.5 x 0.5
Red or deep pink Moist, shaded, well drained position in temperate climates. Can be difficult to maintain in tropical areas at low altitudes.
Styphelia tubiflora Red fivecorners
1.0 x 0.5
Red or pink The common name comes from the shape of the fruit. The flowers have long, protruding stamens.
Styphelia viridis Green fivecorners
1.0 x 1.0
Yellow-green Attractive shrub with well displayed flowers.
Woollsia pungens Snow wreath
1.0 x 1.0
White or pink Very similar to Epacris species. A form with purplish foliage is particularly attractive.

The plants in this group are not demanding as far as fertilizing is concerned but they do respond to applications of slow release fertilizer applied after flowering. If desired, plants can be pruned back by about one third after flowering to promote a bushy habit of growth.

Plants are sometimes attacked by scale insects which can be controlled by physical removal (for small plants) or by use of white oil.

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