The White Waratah that I planted just as I moved in last October (Telopea speciosissima x oreades) has given me its first bloom, and it is so heavy for this rather small plant that I had to stake it!
The Waratah is native to the Sydney area. The one I planted is a white ‘Shady Lady’ cultivar (Waratahs are usually a bright red).
They are hardy to USDA Zone 8, but have a rather exacting list of requirements which make them a bit tricky to grow.
For those unfamiliar with the plant, when not in bloom the garden cultivar looks a little like a cross between a rhododendron and an oleander. They can reach 5m, but established plants should be cut back by about a third after flowering each year to maintain plant health, so in most gardens will rarely exceed 2-3m.
If you are outside of Australia (it is very attractive to bees, butterflies and honeyeaters) and want to grow this, then here are a few tips:
- The plant needs moist, but very sharp, free-drained soil;
- The plant hates phosphorous, you will almost certainly kill it if you apply normal garden fertilisers anywhere near the plant (half strength seaweed fertilisers are fine if you don’t have access to an Australian Native Plant fertiliser);
- The plant dislikes prolonged humid heat, so coastal gardeners in USDA Zone 10 and up may struggle;
- For Northern Hemisphere gardeners south of the 45th parallel, this plant needs dappled summer shade. Here in its natural environment it grows in open woodland – tall Eucalypts with high sparse canopies – so if you don’t have a gum tree, a birch, dogwood or hawthorn (etc) will provide the light shade that this plant likes. If you are in the UK, coastal NW Europe, Pacific Northwest of USA, then full sun is fine.
Speaking of Rhododendrons, the one in my front yard that just several weeks ago was struggling with the snow and ice is now certainly putting on a show!
No prizes for guessing which temperatures this Rhododendron prefers! I’m not sure what the cultivar is, with pink buds opening to white flowers which then fade to a creamy yellow, I think this one might be called Rhododendron ‘Unique’, but perhaps a Rhodo expert might drop by to correct me!
As always, Happy Gardening 🙂