Chamelaucium and its Relatives - Cultivation


With so many species within the Chamelaucium alliance, and such a wide natural distribution covering a range of different climatic zones, it is probably not surprising that problems may be experienced when trying to grow a species in a different climate to that of its natural habitat. As a general guide, species native to south western Australia where dry summers and wet winters are experienced may prove unreliable in tropical and sub tropical areas and in temperate zones which experience wet, humid summers.

Unfortunately, as the majority of species in the Chamelaucium alliance do occur in the south west, most are a challenge under cultivation east of the Great Dividing Range, unless grafted on to a hardy root stock. Despite this, a number of species have proven to be adaptable in seemingly unsuitable climates. For example, the Geraldton wax, Chamelaucium uncinatum, can be successfully grown in coastal New South Wales and south-east Queensland (although the normal pink flowered form is much easier to maintain than the purple and maroon forms). Darwinia citriodora is also reliable in the south east, which is why it is often used as a root stock for some of the less easily grown species.

As a general rule. plants in the Chamelaucium alliance require medium to light soils (eg. sandy loam) that are well drained but which retain some moisture. They are unlikely to survive for any length of time is continually wet or boggy conditions. Most require a sunny or lightly shaded position for best flowering.

Most species respond favourably to a light annual trim to promote bushy growth but severe pruning below green foliage should be avoided.

There are few pests that cause serious problems with this group of plants except that western species may be sensitive to root rot fungus (Phytophora sp.), which is one reason why they can be difficult to grow under humid summer conditions. Other than that, scale is the most likely pest that may occur. This can be controlled either by physical removal (on smaller plants) or treatment with pest oil on larger specimens.

Most of this group of plants occur in soils that are nutrient deficient and excessive fertilising can be detrimental. The use of a slow release fertiliser after flowering will usually be sufficient to maintain healthy growth.

Further information on the cultivation of Calytrix and Verticordia is available via the main Chamelaucium and Relatives index.

The following table lists some of the species that have proved reliable in a range of climates but, as a general rule the range of species that can be grown successfully is greatest in southern Australia and decreases as the climate changes from temperate to subtropical to tropical, east of the Great Dividing Range. If you want to grow some of the most spectacular chamelauciums and verticordias, you may need to move to the south-west....

Reliable Members of the Chamelaucium Alliance
Astarteafasicularis, 'Winter Pink'
Baeckeadiosmifolia, gunniana, linifolia
Calyrtixacutifolia, angulata, fraseri, tetragona
Chamelauciumfloriferum, uncinatum
Darwiniacitriodora, fasicularis, procera, taxifolia; several Western Australian species are available as grafted plants (eg. leiostyla, macrostegia, meeboldii, oxylepis)
Euryomyrtusramosissima (often still listed under Baeckea)
Harmogiadensifolia (often still listed under Baeckea or Babingtonia)
Homoranthusflavescens, porteri, virgatus
Hypocalymmaangustifolium, cordifolium 'Golden Veil', xanthopetalum
Sannanthatozerensis, similis 'Howies Feathertip' (all often still listed under Baeckea or Babingtonia)
Triplarinaimbricata (syn. Baeckea camphorata)
Thryptomenedenticulata, saxicola 'Paynes hybrid'
Verticordiachrysantha, densiflora, grandis, monadelpha, plumosa
Note: The various forms of the popular garden plant formerly called Baeckea virgata are now regarded as belonging to the genus Sannantha. However, they are NOT classified under Sannantha virgata and there is still confusion as to their correct taxonomy.

Cultivation in Containers

Many of this group of plants make ideal subjects for containers because of their modest size. This is also a good way to grow some of the species that are difficult to maintain under garden conditions such as some of the colourful western Calytrix, Darwinia and Verticordia.

For container cultivation choose a quality, free-draining mix, preferably one designed for Australian native plants as these will not have excessive amounts of nutrients. Plastic or ceramic pots are both suitable although watering requirements will differ as non-glazed ceramic pots are porous and will dry out quicker than glazed or plastic pots. The pot should not be large enough to cater for about two season's growth before re-potting is required - a pot of about double the volume of the previous pot is large enough. If the chosen pot is too large, controlling moisture content within the mix can be difficult leading to the development of over-wet areas and the risk of root rot.

The key to successful container cultivation is to not over-water. Before watering, check the soils a few centimetres below the surface - if the mix feels wet, then watering is not needed. Fertilising is probably more important for container-grown plants than for those in the garden as nutrients can be leached out of the potting mix. Even so, resist the temptation to over-fertilise - light applications of slow-release fertiliser during the active growing period is sufficient.

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