Victoria was the first Australian state to choose an official emblem flower, but today every state and territory has one. These beautiful native plants symbolise our country's diverse natural habitats, and many can be grown in Melbourne gardens.
For expert advice on growing unusual, unfamiliar or tricky plants in Melbourne, come speak to the horticulturists at All Green Nursery & Garden.
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The floral emblems of Australia's states and territories
Victoria - Pink Heath (Epacris impressa)
Representatives of Victorian government departments and other local stakeholders met on 18 September, 1951 and unanimously agreed on the Common Heath as the state's floral emblem. The pink form of the Heath was officially proclaimed our state flower in 1958.
It is a slender, small-leafed shrub that grows to around 1 metre in height and produces spectacular long, tubular flowers all the way through from late autumn to late spring. Although its flowering period is short lived, it is incredibly popular with gardeners.
Heath is suited to small gardens, containers and rockeries and looks great planted in drifts. It thrives in full sun or semi shade, and prefers moist but well drained, slightly acidic soils.
[content_aside]What's in a name?
The name Epacris is derived from the Greek 'epi' for 'upon', and 'akris' for 'hill', describing the location where the plants prospers.
The name impressa, Latin for 'impressed', refers to the embossed dimples on the outside of the floral tube.[/content_aside]
NSW - Waratah (Telopea speciosissima)
In 1793, botanist Sir James Smith called the waratah “the most magnificent plant which the prolific soil of New Holland affords’’, so it’s no surprise the state and many NSW organisations have adopted it as their emblem flower.
This bush generally reaches up to 3 metres in height. Its flowers, produced in spring, are usually crimson, but other varieties are available. Gardeners love them because they are so spectacular when blooming, and so do birds for their nectar.
They like a sunny spot with morning sun sheltered from strong winds. They tend to thrive in sandy, friable soils, and are very robust in the right conditions.
ACT - Royal BlueBell (Wahlenbergia gloriosa)
The Royal Bluebell is a frost-hardy ground cover that in the wild occurs only in a small area of sub-alpine woodland that spans the ACT, south-eastern New South Wales, and Victoria.
It is a very attractive plant, producing blue to purple flowers (usually October through to March), but isn’t widely cultivated, as it can be short-lived outside its native habitat.
It grows best in a soil with a good blend of compost and drainage and in either sunny or semi-shaded positions in cool regions, but shade from afternoon sun is desirable. The Royal BlueBell and can be used in hanging baskets too. As its roots are very shallow, it must be kept moist, but good drainage is also essential.
Queensland – Cooktown Orchid (Dendrobium phalaenopsis)
When Queensland was preparing for its centenary in 1959, a poll was held by The Courier-Mail to choose a state floral emblem. The purple Cooktown Orchid was a clear winner, and the state government made it official.
The name refers to the northern Queensland town named by Captain Cook after his ship was repaired there in 1770, which falls within the orchid’s natural range. However it is now rare in the wild due to habitat loss and collection.
It can be grown outdoors as far south as Brisbane, but in Melbourne it will only thrive in warm, well-lit rooms or greenhouses.
South Australia - Sturt's Desert Pea (Swainsona formosa)
The journal of renowned explorer Captain Charles Sturt refers several times to the beauty of the Desert Pea’s brilliant scarlet flowers. It can be found growing in arid areas of all mainland states.
The Desert Pea is notoriously hard to cultivate outside its natural desert environment. However, there are plants available that can be grafted onto less fussy rootstock, and can grow almost anywhere in Australia.
It needs full sun (especially in winter), excellent drainage and protection from snails.
Tasmania - Tasmanian Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus)
The delicate cream flower of the Tasmanian Blue Gum is Tasmania’s floral emblem. This tree grows from a tiny seed but may reach almost 100 metres in height.
It is a common plantation timber today. However old-growth blue gums that provide vital habitat for wildlife are harder to find, due to extensive land clearing.
Being so tall, the Tasmanian Blue Gum isn't suited to the average home garden.
Northern Territory - Sturt's Desert Rose (Gossypium sturtianum)
Sturt's Desert Rose was chosen as the floral emblem of the Northern Territory by the Commonwealth Government in 1961, and today its appears on the NT flag.
It is drought-tolerant ornamental shrub of 1 to 2 metres in height that produces large, mauve hibiscus-like flowers mostly in late winter.
The Desert Rose occurs in most mainland states and can be successfully grown in many areas of low to moderate rainfall. It is drought-resistant and likes a sunny, very well-drained position, but is susceptible to frost.
Western Australia - Red and Green Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos manglesii)
The Red and Green Kangaroo Paw, also known as the Mangles Kangaroo Paw, grows naturally only in the south west of Western Australia.
It has an underground rhizome and produces beautiful flowers on long stems mainly during spring and summer. These last well in water and also retain their striking colours when dried.
It is tough and low-maintenance in the right setting, which is sandy or gravelly soils in open sunny positions or dappled shade. It responds better to drip irrigation than overhead watering, which can cause fungal infestations.