Eremophila and its Relatives - Cultivation

Cultivation of Eremophila

Among the Australian members of the Myoporum group of plants (Tribe Scrophulariacae, formerly Myoporae, of the Scrophulariaceae family), Eremophila (emu bush) has received by far the greatest horticultural attention. Emu bushes have considerable potential for general cultivation, particularly in areas with relatively dry summers. As our climate changes, these areas will become more widespread nationally.

Once established, Eremophilas are very drought tolerant and rarely require artificial watering. With many different forms, growth habits and flower colours, Eremophilas can be used for many different purposes in the garden. In addition, the flowers of most species produce nectar and are excellent for attracting birds.

In cultivation, all species of Eremophila perform best in well-drained soils. They rarely succeed in continually wet soils. Shallow clay soils can present problems but if garden beds are built up to 300-600mm, greater success is experienced. Many species tolerate alkaline soils. Eremophilas are generally at their best in open, sunny positions with good air circulation (i.e. not crowded by adjacent plants). Using grafted plants will also increase longer term reliability in the garden.

Many species are adaptable to humid climates but those species with hairy foliage may be subject to fungal diseases is those areas. The impact of fungus can be minimised by:

  1. growing plants in pots that can be moved into a sheltered position during heavy rain;
  2. pruning off mouldy foliage when it appears;
  3. selective pruning to decrease the density of foliage;
  4. choosing non-grey species for the garden; or
  5. planting in areas which have greater wind flow

Emu bushes are not demanding as far as fertilizing is concerned but they do respond to applications of slow release fertilizer applied after flowering. If desired, the plants can be pruned back by about one third after flowering to promote a bushy habit of growth. Some species can be pruned quite hard.

Cultivation of other members of the Tribe Myoporeae

There has been some limited cultivation of Calamphoreus inflatus and Glycocystis beckleri but there appears to be no information regarding cultivation of the four Diocirea species. However, all six of these species occur in south Western Australia and it can be assumed that they would require similar conditions to Eremophila that occur in the same region (i.e. they can be expected to suited to climates with a dry summer, they will be less successful in humid temperate areas and they will be very difficult in tropical and tropical regions).

Myoporum has been more widely cultivatedand some species are well known in general horticulture (e.g. Myoporum floribundum, M.parvifolium, M.insulare). Although generally not as spectacular as the Eremophilas, they are usually hardy and reliable. However, Myoporums occur in a range of habitats ranging from arid to tropical. Some, like M. montanum are widespread over that whole range of climates. Selection of plants for cultivation in a particular district should therefore consider the climatic conditions that the species experiences in nature. Myoporums appear to be adaptable to a range of soils, provided they are well drained.

As noted in the article on propagation, Myoporum can also provide a handy root stock for grafting Eremophila.

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