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Common Plant Genera and Families

This Guide presents detailed information on a range of Australian plants – Acacia, Banksia, Grevillea, Callistemon, Eremophila, Leptospermum, Melaleuca, Kangaroo Paws and many others.

Click on the following links for further information on the natural distribution, cultivation, propagation and of the indicated genera and families.

Frequently Asked Questions

A generation ago most people said that Australian native plants could not be grown in gardens. It was claimed that they were “wild” and “untamed” and would not tolerate cultivation. Today thousands of people are growing Australian plants with pleasure and satisfaction. There are still failures, but these are more related to attempting to grow plants in either inappropriate soils or in unsuitable climates…and these factors will cause the failure of any plant whether Australian or exotic.

Quite apart from the economic factor that smaller plants cost less, it’s commonly advised to use small plants wherever possible. However, this is mainly because smaller plants are generally less likely to become “root bound” by being kept in a pot for an extended period. Smaller plants tend to suffer less “transplant shock” and are more likely to be be quicker to establish than larger plants when planted out.

Of course, another benefit of buying small plants or even tubestock is that you can buy more of them! This means that you can plant groups of plants together, which is how many plants grow in nature. You can even achieve a multi-trunked effect by planting three or four trees in the one planting hole.

In areas where rabbits are present, the use of plastic tree guards is advisable. A couple of rabbits can defoliate small plants in a couple of nights. Make sure the plastic is anchored into the ground securely. Tree guards will also help to minimize plants drying out during hot, windy weather.

However, you don’t need to discount the use of larger plants. If you can be sure that the root system of the plant has not developed into a tight mass in the pot or if you are prepared to carry out some root pruning before planting, there is no reason why larger plants can’t be used. However, the large root mass of advanced pot plants means that they can easily dry out during a few days of dry weather during the warmer months – make sure that watering is not neglected at such times.

A useful tip for both small and large plants is to set a pot or tin (with holes punched in the bottom) next to each plant when planting – this allows hand watering so that water gets directed to the roots of the plants.

Some Australian plants tolerate pruning and some don’t but that’s true for plants from anywhere in the world. As a general rule all shrubby plants will tolerate light pruning to develop a bushy shape as they are growing. Pruning of mature plants can, however, present problems.

There are plants which can be pruned back to ground level and which will regenerate quickly by sending out masses of new growth…this is a technique sometimes referred to as “chain saw therapy”. Plants in this category include those which develop a lignotuber (a swelling at or below ground level from which new growth forms) such as many banksias, eucalypts, melaleucas and isopogons, to name just four. Others, including most callistemons and the popular Grevillea hybrids G.”Robyn Gordon”, G.”Honey Gem” and G.”Superb” also tolerate such treatment.

If in doubt, pruning back by about one third should not cause problems as long as there is plenty of green foliage remaining. Annual pruning directly after flowering is a sound rule to follow.

Many callistemons and melaleucas respond to heavy pruning. This Callistemon “Captain Cook” shows vigorous regrowth after being cut back to near ground level. Photo: Brian Walters
Callistemons (bottlebrushes) should generally be pruned after flowering with the exception of C.viminalis and its cultivars which have a weeping habit that can be damaged by pruning.

….usually only those native to dry areas and only when they have successfully negotiated the initial 12 months after planting out!

It’s often claimed that Australian native plants have a lower requirement for artificial watering than plants from other countries. While this is possibly correct as a general statement, it’s only true because the majority of Australian plants that are readily available are those native to the drier forests and woodlands.

Australian native rainforest plants are becoming more readily available and it would be unreasonable to expect these to be drought resistant. Surprisingly, though, many of these will tolerate extended dry periods but they undoubtedly perform better when adequate water is available.


The term ‘protea’ is used to cover a range of related plants in addition to the genus Protea, including Leucospermum and Leucadendron. Despite the frequent appearance of these ‘proteas’ in so-called “native” flower arrangements, they are not Australian plants. They are native to South Africa.

The genus Protea has given its name to a family of related plants (the Proteaceae) and there are are a number of Australian members of this “Protea family”. These include Banksia, Grevillea, Hakea, Macadamia, Telopea (waratah) and many others.

No again.

These are small leaved plants (often called ‘heaths’) with small to large bell-shaped flowers and, like the proteas, they are also commonly included in “native” flower arrangements. But Australia has no native ericas although at least one species (E.lusitanica) has naturalised and become a weed in some districts. Ericas belong to the plant family Ericaceae.

Australia has a group of plants which are also often called ‘heaths’. These are species in the genera Epacris, Styphelia, Woolsia and several others. These are closely related to the exotic heaths. In the past these australian heaths have been classified into a separate family, the Epacridaceae, but most botanists now regard them as also being in the Ericaceae.

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Plant Propagation

Many plants can be propagated easily using very basic tools and methods. It’s a lot of fun and definitely within the ability of any home gardener. No ‘green thumb’ required!!

All About Australian Native Plants


Australian Native Plant Nurseries

See a list of all Australian Native Plant Nurseries.

Australian Native Seed Suppliers

The following information has been compiled from details supplied by the various suppliers. All companies supply overseas customers unless otherwise indicated.

Where to see Australian Plants

We can show you diagrams and photographs …but nothing compares with seeing Australian plants yourself, either in cultivation or in their natural environment.

Plant Name Changes

Plant name changes

Australian Plants at Risk

Since European settlement, over 60 species of Australian plants are presumed to have become extinct and many more are at risk from a variety of threats, including loss…

Australian Plants for Fire Prone Areas

The following article is based on one published in the March 1994 issue of “Native Plants for New South Wales”, the newsletter…

Environmental Weeds in Australia

Over the past 200+ years, many plants have become weeds in the natural environment. This not only includes plants from other parts of the world but many Australian native plants as well.

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Articles on Australian Plants

The following articles have been sourced from a range of publications published by ANPSA’s member societies and (occasionally) from other sources, with permission. Most were published in Australian Plants online, an online magazine published by the ANPSA between 1995 and 2009. Additional articles will be listed here from time to time.