Monday, 19 September 2011

Try growing: Epacris

Many books on growing Australian natives say that epacris (fuchsia health) species are difficult to grow and maintain. They have very fine roots that don't like to be disturbed and, like many heath-dwelling plants, prefer situations with good drainage as well as regular moisture.

Maybe we are just lucky devils, but we have had absolutely no trouble growing epacris in Wollongong and have even done a couple of transplants without trouble. They are also happy growing in pots. I can't recommend them enough as a local species for Illawarra gardens. 

Perhaps the most distinctive epacris that grows in the Illawarra is Epacris longiflora, or fuchsia heath. Its beautiful long red and white flowers are prolific throughout winter and early spring, and the plant has long arching branches that twine up around other plants. It can be pruned to a more dense habit, but looks great spreading out among wattles and banksias as it does in its native habitat. Epacris longiflora grows naturally in a range of conditions but likes well-drained soils and regular wateringIt normally grows in semi or even full shade but seems perfectly happy growing in full sun at our place, so long as it gets regular watering.  

Epacris longiflora - flowers prolifically for extended periods
Epacris microphylla (coral heath) is another attractive epacris species, and is widespread throughout NSW. Its little white flowers come out en masse in spring and make an amazing display. It too likes regular water and well-drained soil.
Epacris microphylla - masses of small white flowers
Epacris impressa (common heath) is not really an Illawarra plant, and its distribution is mroe in the southerly parts of NSW. We ended up with a couple of plants anyway, and I have to say they are truly gorgeous, with their large pinkish-red bell flowers on upright stems.
Epacris impressa (Bega red form)
The Royal Botanic Gardens of Sydney website has more information on Epacris longifolia, Epacris microphylla and Epacris impressa. All three species are relatively easy to purchase through local nurseries.

Have you tried growing epacris?

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