Native plant after care

While native plants tend to be low maintenance, they will still need a bit of love every now and then. Find out how to keep your garden thriving.

Short-stem flax lily-credit-Ben Moulton.
Short-stem flax lily. Photo: Ben Moulton.

Plants in the ground

If your new greenery is planted directly in the ground (i.e. not in pots), use this advice to keep your garden in tip top condition.

When to water

Straight after planting your new babies, you’ll want to give them a good water them to help them settle into their new home in your garden. Then, water as required (i.e. when they dry out).

During summer, give them a good soaking once a month and a bit extra before a heatwave – this will help them develop deep roots. You should only need to do this for their first summer. Beware: If you water them too much they will wait for the next bucket of water, rather than sending down roots to look for it themselves!

After this, they should be able to survive on rainfall alone. However, depending on the variations in seasons, keep an eye on them and water as you notice them drying out.

Your aim is to establish strong, deep root systems which are robust and can survive during periods of low rainfall and minimal watering. However, take care not to over-water as this leaches nutrients from the soil, creates excessive growth, and results in less flowering and shorter-lived plants

Using mulch and gravel

A layer of mulch added to your garden can reduce evaporative water loss by more than 70 per cent! Organic mulch keeps soil temperatures down, which help the plants’ roots, suppresses weed growth, and helps to promote good healthy soil. Alternatively, and as a decorative feature as well, you can use gravel.

Apply 5–10 cm of mulch or gravel, creating a bowl shape around the plant to help retain water. To avoid plant disease, keep mulch away from plant stems.

Is fertiliser necessary?

Fertilisers aren’t usually needed for local native plants.

If you decide to fertilise, seek advice from your local nursery, as products with high levels of phosphorus can harm local native plants. You’ll also want to avoid rapid growth that makes your plants leggy, weak and short-lived.

Native plants in pots

Potted native plants need a little more care than those planted directly in the ground.

Water your pot plants more regularly in summer and apply a low phosphorus fertiliser in spring and summer (check with your local nursery about which product is best). Don’t over-apply fertiliser as it can harm your plants.

Some plants may need re-potting in the future. If the roots of your plant have grown out of the bottom of the pot or are all the way to the surface – your plant needs a bigger pot.

Choosing a pot 1 to 2 sizes larger than the current pot will allow more soil and area for the roots to grow.

To repot:

  1. Use a native plant potting mix.
  2. Fill the pot with one third potting mix.
  3. Place the plant in the new pot.
  4. Back fill the side with more mix.
  5. Water well.

How to know when to prune

Most local species will appreciate a light trim to keep their shape, promote new growth and encourage flowering.

Pruning is best done after flowering, usually late spring or early summer. Young plants can be pruned lightly and regularly. Older plants can be refreshed with a more extensive prune after flowering.