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Growing a grass tree in your garden

Garden advice
Growing a grass tree in your garden
All Green
All Green
June 7, 2021
minute read

Here's what you need to know about Xanthorrhoea sp.

The grass tree is a slow-growing native plant identifiable by its iconic foliage, which forms a skirt around the centre of the plant. It grows in coastal areas and in wet or dry forests.

As a native Australian plant, fire plays a critical role in stimulating flowering and growth. However, it's not necessary to light a fire in your garden to get beautiful results from grass tree. Read on to learn more about this splendid plant.

A grass tree is a tough plant that will grow in most Victorian yards. You can find a range of hardy Australian natives that withstand drought at All Green Nursery & Garden.

Where to grow grass trees

The grass tree is an Australian native plant that grows around the coastal regions. It grows in many different soil types, ranging from deep sand to heavy, gravel-filled soil.

Plants need some sunlight, either full sun or broken sunlight, not deep shade.

How to grow a grass tree

You can propagate this Australian native from seed at home. Tap seeds onto a seed-raising potting mix, cover lightly and water the soil. Grass trees can be grown in a pot or most Australian soil. Grass trees can be grown in a pot or most Australian soil.

You'll need to be patient if the goal is to have a full-size plant in your garden. Grass trees grow at a slow rate of just 2 cm each year. It can take over 20 years for Xanthorrhoea to grow a trunk, and it takes years for them to reach full size.

Where to source grass tree plants

While grass tree grows natively in Australia, you can't pull these trees out of the bush and transplant them into your garden. First, this is illegal. Second, the plants have a unique and delicate root system.

The best place to source grass trees is to purchase established plants from a nursery. You can also grow grass plants from seeds. This is is a commitment that takes time but can be very rewarding!

How to replant grass trees

Grass tree roots depend on microbes in the soil known as mycorrhiza.  When you transplant an established grass tree, you'll need to bring as much of the original root soil as possible. Doing so will give the plant the best chance of becoming established in its new location.

The best time to transplant grass tree is in the autumn, from April to June, though successful transplant at other times of year is possible.

Laws protect Australia's native flora, which means if there's a grass tree on your property that you want to have removed, you'll need to follow the correct licensing procedure.

Here are a few tips for replanting a grass tree:

  • Trim or tie back leaves before beginning as the sharp-edged foliage may damage your eyes.
  • Trimming the leaves will also help reduce water loss after replanting.
  • When loosening the soil around the roots, avoid pushing on the top of the plant as it may snap.
  • Wrap the root system in damp hessian to keep it moist during transport.
  • Replant at the same depth as it was growing before.
  • Water generously, allowing water to settle any air pockets in the soil.
  • Water regularly for the first 12 months until the plant becomes drought tolerant.

The key to successfully replanting grass tree is maintaining the ecosystem created by the mycorrhiza in the soil. One way to help keep these microbes healthy after replanting is to water the soil using a cup of brown sugar dissolved in a bucket of water once a month for the first two years.

Grass tree garden

When does a grass tree flower?

A grass tree produces a flower spike that can be up to two metres high. Flower spikes often grow after the grass tree experiences stress, such as a bushfire.

It may not be practical to light a fire in your garden, so another way to stimulate flower growth is to place a small stone on the top of the growing tip. The stone causes enough stress that the flower will form, a little like a pearl forming inside an oyster.

As the plant becomes established, removing the flower stalks after the season helps reduce stress on the plant, enabling it to focus on establishing a healthy root system.

How to care for a grass tree

While grass tree needs regular water in the first two years of planting, be careful not to over water.

Once established, it's simply an aesthetic choice whether to prune or leave the grass skirt as it is. If there is bushfire risk in the area, removing dry foliage is recommended as a safety precaution. However, the plant will be fine either way.

If nearby trees drop branches or other debris, remove it to help the plant grow healthy and strong.

With enough time, the plant can grow up to six metres high with a visible trunk.

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