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Eremophilas in Containers

Eremophila Study Group - Sydney Branch

If you have limited space, such as a balcony or courtyard, and would like to grow something different - something your neighbours have probably never heard of, then eremophilas (emu bushes) in containers could be what you are looking for.

Members of the Sydney Branch of the Eremophila Study Group have found through experience that eremophilas grow well in pots and other containers. Eremophilas flower freely for long periods, are bird attracting, have a huge range of flower colours, and many have attractive foliage texture and colouring.

Eremophilas range from spreading, ground-hugging plants to small trees, with all types of habit between these two extremes. Obviously those small in stature will be best suited, but even some of the larger varieties will happily grow in containers for several years. It's best to use progressively larger pots as the plant grows.

An advantage of growing plants in containers is their mobility. Eremophilas like the sun, so the container can be moved around to gain the best exposure to winter sunshine. Eremophilas do best if they are in sun for at least half the day. The aspect can also be changed according to extremes in the weather. If frost or heatwave conditions are expected, a more sheltered spot can be chosen.

Soil mixture can be varied from garden loam to commercial potting mix, to which cow or horse manure may be added. A layer of gravel as mulch assists with keeping the foliage dry and dean and retains heat in the mix.

Some Eremophila species for containers
Eremophila bignoniflora
Eremophila bignoniflora
Eremophila maculata
Eremophila maculata
Red form
Eremophila nivea
Eremophila maculata
Eremophila maculata
Yellow form
Eremophila racemosa
Eremophila racemosa
Photos: Keith Townsend, Brian Walters

Eremophilas are avid feeders, and will respond to most types of fertiliser, especially if the potting mix is low in nutrients. Slow release pellets can be added to the mix, or placed just under the mulch. Soluble type fertilisers can be used at half strength once a fortnight. A few of our members use Seasol with very good results. If growth rate and health of the plant are satisfactory, then there is no need to fertilise.

As with most plants in containers, good drainage is very important. A layer of gravel in the bottom of the pot covered with cocopeat will prevent the soil entering the gravel. Roots remain above this layer, resulting in easier re-potting and prevention of clogging of the drainage holes. Depending on the type of container used, attention must be given to the amount and frequency of watering, as the soil volume is often small in relation to the leaf area. Daily watering in hot weather may be necessary, particularly if the pot is in full sun. Another method is to sit the pot in about 3 mm of water during very hot summer weather.

Some of the Eremophilas our members have grown in containers with notes on their experiences are:

  • E.divaricata - doing well, located in a hot spot. Doesn't mind sitting in a saucer often full of water.
  • E. 'Summertime Blue' - also in a hot spot. This species grows to 1.5-2 m in the garden, whilst in a pot it grew to 0.5 m after three years.
  • E.brevifolia - in a hot spot with no saucer. Responds well to pruning.
  • E.glandulifera - a beautiful grey-leafed plant with pink flowers. This grafted plant has been in the pot for over three years.
  • E.bignoniiflora ssp. polyclada - after four years in the pot this plant is a metre high. In the ground it will grow up to 4 m. In hot weather it requires daily watering.

Other species successfully grown in containers are: E.rostrata (grafted), E.oppositifolia, E.racemosa, E.(racemosa x maculata), E.maculata 'Blue Thunder', E.decipiens, E.microtheca, E.nivea.

The Sydney Branch of the Eremophila Study Group meets regularly and is interested in gaining new members.

From 'Native Plants for New South Wales', newsletter of the Australian Plants Society (NSW), October 2005.

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Australian Plants online - 2006
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