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Lilly Pilly Plant Care – Information About Planting Lilly Pilly Bushes

Lilly Pilly Plant Care – Information About Planting Lilly Pilly Bushes


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By: Teo Spengler

Lilly pilly shrubs (Syzygium luehmannii) are common in rainforests in Australia, but few gardeners in this country recognize the name. If you are considering growing a lilly pilly or would like more information about lilly pilly plant care, read on.

What is a Lilly Pilly Plant?

Australians are very familiar with the lilly pilly shrub (also spelled lilli pilli). Those planting lilly pilly bushes report that cultivated plants stop at 30 feet (10 m.).

The lilly pilly plant is a fairly large fruit tree with a weeping crown. The fruit is large and bright red or pink. Lilly pilly fruit is quite popular in Australia, where you’ll find commercial producers planting lilly pilly bushes. The trees are also used commercially for timber.

Growing a Lilly Pilly Plant

Lilly pilly shrubs are also extensively cultivated and grow well in gardens or hedges. They are very attractive trees with creamy white flowers in summer. The fruit develops in autumn.

The cultivar ‘Cherry Satinash’ is often used in cultivation. It offers new foliage with brilliant pink tips and is a popular hedge plant.

If you live in an area with a Mediterranean climate, planting lilly pilly bushes should be on your list. When the shrubs are properly sited, lilly pilly plant care is a snap.

These are shrubs and small trees that are flexible in terms of growth requirements. They will grow in full sunlight, partial shade or even half shade. Plant them in almost any soil and watch then thrive, from sandy soil to clay loam. They even accept saline and poor soil.

Lilly pilly plant care is easy, and these are great evergreens for a dense, low-maintenance hedge. In the garden, they will attract birds, butterflies, bees and mammals, and work well for erosion control.

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Gardening Guide For Growing Lilly Pilly

So, you have decided to buy lilly pilly plants for your garden. Well, you have made a better decision. Lilly Pilly is one of the most popular native plants with a unique sultry look and sleek green adult leaves. The foliage is usually dense whereas the leaves are oval shaped with a distinct drip-tip characteristics. While there are several variations in the colour of new foliage, vibrant pinks, fiery oranges and bright reds are common. Flowers are very showy and resemble powder-puff. They give rise to colourful berries which are known to have numerous health benefits.

Being versatile, lilly pillies range from small shrubs to large trees, and grow from 75cm to 30m tall, making them ideal for hedging and screening. Like other plant species, Lilly Pillies do need some care and maintenance for proper growth. We have listed some vital information on planting and caring for lilly pillies .

Lilly Pillies can withstand full sun or shade and grow in a wide range of soils. Though they are a drought-tolerant, as long as they get more water, sun and nutrient rich soil, they grow much faster.

Provide a little shelter for young plants

Protect them from biting cold winds and hard frost

Water them regularly until established

Fertilising Lilly Pillies :

To accelerate the growth of young plants, providing proper nourishment is essential. Applying compost, manure or an organic pelletised fertiliser in spring, summer and autumn will encourage their growth. Once established, it is enough to fertilise trees and hedges in spring and autumn.

Large species naturally grow in a nice shape and do not need pruning. Pruning the tips of small shrub varieties facilitates bushy growth. For hedges, prune the tip and sides regularly to stimulate dense growth from the bottom all the way up.

The most common pest problems and diseases that lilly pillies susceptible to are:

  • Psyllids
  • Aphids
  • Mites
  • Sooty Mould
  • Mealy bugs
  • Ants
  • Beetle

You can buy lilly pilly plants online at Online Plants – a leading plant nursery Melbourne . For more information on how to grow and take care of these plants, call and discuss with our garden consultation experts.


What Is A Lilly Pilly Plant: Learn About Growing A Lilly Pilly Shrub - garden

Lilly pillies make excellent hedges and being a widespread and hardy native plant makes them an ideal hedge choice for Australia. There are many cultivars available and new varieties being released regularly so choosing one to start a new hedge can be very confusing.

There is a lilly pilly for almost every situation, so an important starting point is to know what sort of hedge you are after, with the most important consideration being the desired height of the hedge. By selecting a plant which grows to approximately the same height as your desired hedge height, you will save yourself a lot of maintenance, and reduce the risk of ending up with a hedge much larger than you envisioned. Most lilly pillies are naturally trees with mature heights well over 10m. There are some new cultivars which are still large-ish trees, so it is strongly recommended that you check the approximate heights on the plant labels and match this as closely to the desired hedge size as possible. Amongst the many varieties available you will find sizes vary from over 5m tall, some 3-5m tall, to many which are 1-3m tall and even a few which will only grow to approximately 1m, making them ideal for low hedges.

A common mistake with lilly pillies is a neglected hedge which turns into a row of small trees with bare lower trunks. This can easily be avoided with good initial plant choice. Unless you actually want a row of trees, you will have a far superior hedge by selecting a lilly pilly cultivar with a mature height of 3m or less. By selecting a cultivar which has dense foliage all the way to the ground, even if the hedge does get larger than planned, it will still feature dense foliage on the lower sections. Sublime™ Acmena smithii ‘DOW30’ PBR is a good choice for dense foliage all the way to ground level as is Pinnacle™ Syzygium australe ‘AATS’ PBR.

Over the last 40 years there have been many name changes with lilly pillies and this has led to confusion and misidentification. Gardeners have planted what they thought would be a neat 2m hedge and found themselves with small trees. Most lilly pillies can be maintained as hedges and will not become trees unless the maintenance of the hedge becomes lax. Cutting trees back into a hedge is not an option. It is recommended that named cultivars be purchased for hedges. This reduces the chance of misidentification and you can be far more certain what your plants will do. For example Sublime™ Acmena is a cultivar of the very common lilly pilly Acmena smithii and is sold under the registered name of Sublime™. Purchasing a plant labelled as Sublime™ will give you a far more predictable result than will purchasing one labelled as Acmena smithii.

In general lilly pillies are fast growing plants which can be expected to reach their mature height in 3- 5 years depending on growing conditions. While this can mean fast screening of unwanted views, it can also mean additional maintenance is required to keep them at a desired height. For a smaller hedge, a slow growing variety is ideal as it will require significantly less maintenance than will a faster growing variety. Hobbit™ Syzygium francisii ‘DBK01’ PBR is a reasonably slow growing variety which will reach a full height of 3m in 5-6 years. Annual pruning is all that is required to maintain it as a low hedge of 1-2m under most conditions.

Pest and disease resistance is another trait to consider when choosing a variety of lilly pilly.

The most common pest is the pimple psyllid. This is a tiny insect which while in most cases it does not significantly impact the overall health of the plant, it does cause very unsightly “pimpling” especially on new growth. It is best avoided by selecting a cultivar which has been bred to be psyllid resistant, such as Red Head™ Acmena smithii ‘BWNRED’ PBR, Sublime™ or Hobbit™.

The key disease to be aware of is myrtle rust. This is a fungal disease that has been in Australia for a relatively short period of time and has proven very difficult to control to the detriment of many lilly pillies. Cultivars bred since the introduction of myrtle rust to Australia will often have been selected for greater resistance to this disease. Should myrtle rust infect your hedge you may be required to remove the entire hedge with protective covering to limit the spread of the fungal spores, therefore when planning a new planting it is very worthwhile to select myrtle rust resistant varieties. This is particularly so for large hedges or screening trees when treating an infection is impossible due to the height. Sweeper® Waterhousea floribunda ‘DOW20’ PBR is a highly myrtle rust resistant small tree to 10m which provides dense screening. Red Head™, Sublime™ and Hobbit™ are also highly myrtle rust resistant lilly pillies.

Other characteristics that may help you choose a hedge variety will be the colour of new growth. All lilly pillies will feature some colour to the flush of new growth, but in some varieties this has become an outstanding feature. While the foliage colour may be enough to choose a lilly pilly, there is also the bonus of masses of fluffy white flowers followed by edible berries in red, pink purple or white. Sublime™ features new growth in a vibrant lime colour, masses of white flowers in summer but rarely produces berries. Red Head™ features new foliage in a deep red, clusters of small white flowers followed by bright purple berries. Red Head™ has also been shown to be very fire retardant so is an excellent hedge choice in fire prone areas.

A new hedge can be a significant long term investment in a garden so it is well worth doing a little research to choose the plant most closely matching your requirements. Not all nurseries will stock a full range of lilly pilly varieties, so you may need to ask them to help you source the right one. Most nurseries will be happy to help you and the result will be a very rewarding hedge.


Best Lilly Pilly Varieties

The lilly pilly is one of the most popular plants in Australia today, particularly for hedging and topiary.

Lilly pillies are evergreen rainforest plants with glossy green leaves. Many varieties have flushes of colourful new growth, ranging from brilliant pink to a red-brown. In spring to early summer most lilly pillies have fluffy white or greenish flowers followed by long lasting red, purple or whitish berries. There are many, many species and cultivars on the market. Of these, a few are misnamed, while some perform better than others in gardens.

Confusion over names

Once lilly pillies were all known as eugenias. In recent years botanists have divided them into several genera, including Acmena, Syzygium and Waterhousea. Adding to the confusion, many growers have given lilly pillies marketing names. Sometimes the same plant will have several names. For example the lilly pilly sold as ‘Elite’ is thought to be identical to one sold as ‘Aussie Compact’. As well, some plants are sold under the wrong botanic name. Many lilly pillies for example are labelled Syzygium paniculatum, but are actually forms of S. australe. It is very important that these plants are correctly identified, particularly when they are used mainly as foliage plants, and the foliage of some species is very susceptible to attack by a pest called the lilly pilly psyllid.

Pimply problems

The lilly pilly psyllid (Trioza eugeniae) is a tiny native insect related to cicadas. The immature psyllids or nymphs feed inside the leaves. They settle in one spot then embed themselves in the leaf, forming a lump or pimple. This is a disfiguring problem and the last thing you want to see on your stylish hedge or topiary. Some lilly pillies are not worried by the pimple psyllid. The most resistant varieties are Acmena smithii and Syzygium luehmannii. Those that most readily show signs of attack are Syzygium paniculatum types including ‘Lillyput’. Waterhousea floribunda is also susceptible. Plants in nurseries don’t usually show signs of psyllid damage as they are sprayed regularly as a protective measure. As the pest is inside the leaf, contact sprays are not effective. Control is usually gained with a systemic spray such as Confidor.


Burke’s Backyard Best Lilly Pillies

‘Burke’s Backyard’ has assessed the huge range of lilly pillies, selected those best suited to garden use and arranged them by size. All of the plants chosen should be resistant to, or rarely affected by, the lilly pilly psyllid.

Big (5m+)

Acmena smithii var. minor Syzygium luehmannii

Both are resistant to psyllids

Middle Sized (3-5m)

Syzygium australe ‘Bush Christmas’ (psyllid prone), S. australe ‘Elite’ (psyllids possible), Acmena smithii ‘Hot Flush’ (no psyllids), S. australe ‘Aussie Southern’ (psyllids possible)

Little (under 2m)

Syzygium luehmannii ‘Royal Flame’ (resistant to psyllids)

Tiny (under 1m)

Syzygium australe ‘Tiny Trev’ (psyllids possible), Acmena smithii ‘Hedgemaster’ (resistant to psyllids)

Further information

‘Hedgemaster’ (the variety produced by Don Burke) is available now at nurseries Australia wide. 140mm (5 1/2″) pots cost around $10-$11.


Which Lilly Pilly Is Good For Your Garden?

Lilly Pilly is a popular Australian native plant used as a display and screening plant in gardens. Whether you have a tight space or a large backyard, these can enhance the look of your garden in no time. Lilly Pilly are fast-growing and demand less maintenance. Their roots are non-invasive meaning that you can plant them near your walls as well they won’t do any harm to your buildings. Should you have any concerns about ordering plants online, you can visit plant nursery Melbourne where they can guide you on which one to choose. With so many varieties of Lilly Pilly, it would be overwhelming to pick what suits your garden. If you’re excited to know which Lilly Pilly is best for your garden, let’s dive in.

Acmena Smithii Minor is a small bushy shrub resistant to psyllids. It has an attractive bronze coloured new growth with the old leaves turning into a dark shiny green. It features fluffy creamy-white flowers during summer followed by masses of brightly coloured berries. Acmena Smithii Minor variety is best for hedging and can withstand all types of climate.

It is one of the fantastic dwarf shrubs of Lilly Pilly variety, with bright-red foliage and is psyllid resistant. Acmena Allyn Magic displays fluffy flowers and edible berries. All it needs is some good-quality compost to feed them during the summer months.

If you’re looking to create a fountain set up for your garden, planting this Lilly Pilly is a fantastic option. It is ornamental and wildlife-friendly and beautifies with its abundant pink berries.

This Lilly Pilly will grow up to a height of 4m and adorns the place with its compact natural shape, which doesn’t require pruning if grown in large space. Syzygium Hinterland Gold produces golden glossy new leaves appear throughout the year.

Fondly known as the beach Lilly Pilly, this broad-leaved Lilly Pilly is a rain forest tree often planted near the coastal areas. It has glossy green foliage, russet red new growth and clusters of small white spring flowers followed by white, edible berries.

If you want to buy lilly pilly plants online, come to Online Plants. Our nursery staff will help you pick the right one for your garden.


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