Plant Guide

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NZ Native

NZ Native
arthropodium-cirratum

Arthropodium cirratum

rengarenga,maikaika, rock lily, New Zealand rock lily

New Zealand native, clump-forming perennial with drooping, strap-like leaves and white flowers in late spring to early summer. Dull-green leaves, 40-70 cm long and 3-10 cm wide, arranged in basal rosettes. Star-shaped white to cream flowers, 2 cm across, produced in long-stalked panicles. Flower stamens are white and purple with curled yellow tips. Occurs naturally in New Zealand throughout the North Island and northern parts of the South Island. It can be found in a range of different habitats from coastal regions to forests and exposed, rocky, inland areas. Several cultivars have been developed, differing from the species in size and width of the leaves.

Rengarenga was used by Maori for nutritional, medicinal, spiritual and cultural purposes.

Prefers free-draining soil in full sun or shade. Tolerates dry conditions. Suitable for very exposed sites, but has a smaller, tighter habit in such conditions. Leaves are damaged by light to moderate frosts, but even when all the leaves have turned into a brown mush due to frost burn, there is a good chance that the plant will recover in spring. To maintain a healthy, tidy appearance, pull out spent flower stalks, remove old or damaged leaves, and protect from snails and slugs. Fertilise or add compost if the plant seems to sulk and the foliage turns yellowish. Easy to propagate by division.

Arthropodium cirratum looks great when planted en masse as a ground cover under trees. Very attractive when in flower. Particularly effective when used as a foliage plant, adding a structural dimension to mixed plantings. Also suitable for containers.

asplenium-oblongifolium

Asplenium oblongifolium

shining spleenwort, huruhuru (whenua), paranako, paretao

Tufted evergreen fern with arching glossy green fronds. Over time fronds can grow up to 1.5 m long, but Asplenium oblongifolium is slow growing and remains much smaller for a long time. Slightly toothed leaflets to 15 cm long. Endemic to New Zealand. Occurs naturally in coastal and lower montane areas in the North Island and parts of the South Island of New Zealand.

Performs best in dry shade, and as such is perfect for areas under established trees. Tolerates full sun, but fronds are shorter and paler green. Wet intolerant.

 

astelia-chathamica-silver-spear

Astelia chathamica 'Silver Spear'

Large clump-forming plant with silvery, flax-like foliage, native to New Zealand. The leaves are broad and stiff, but droop towards the ends. Flowers are produced in spring and are followed by orange fruits. They are generally obscured and dominated by the foliage.

Suitable for sun or shade. Requires well-draining soil. Drought tolerant. Although Astelia chathamica 'Silver Spear' tolerates quite windy conditions, the leaves hold their shape better when conditions are not too exposed. Astelia chathamica 'Silver Spear' is intolerant of high moisture. Hardy to about -7oC.

Striking feature plant. The silvery foliage looks particularly good in sheltered, shady or partially shaded conditions. Careful when combining Astelia chathamica 'Silver Spear' with other grey-leafed plants; this tends to become quite overpowering. Instead, you could consider a combination with fine-leafed grasses or blue-flowering plants such as Dichroa and Geranium. An attractive, but strong contrast can be achieved with Loropetalum chinense 'Burgundy'. Suitable for containers.

carpodetus-serratus

Carpodetus serratus

putaputaweta, marble leaf, bucket of water tree

Upright tree with rough, grey bark and branches spreading outward in tiers, endemic to New Zealand, occurring naturally throughout the country along damp forest margins and stream sides. Thin, usually mottled, ovate to elliptic leaves with finely toothed margins, 3-6 cm x 2-3 cm. Clusters of small white, .5 cm wide flowers in spring, followed in autumn by pea-sized, round fruits in cup-like receptacles, green initially, turning black on maturity. Carpodetus serratus has a juvenile form with tangled, zigzag, interlacing branches, and smaller, rounded leaves. Juvenile and mature growth may exist on the same tree. The tree acts as a host for the puriri moth caterpillars.

Putaputaweta is a Maori word meaning 'many wetas', referring to wetas making their homes in the holes left by larvae of the puriri moth. The name 'bucket of water' refers to the very sappy wood.

Prefers a damp, sheltered position in sun or shade, and fertile soil. Prune to maintain a good shape and remove dead wood. Tolerates -10 deg Celsius once established. Suitable for wetland planting and ok for coastal areas.

Carpodetus serratus can grow into an elegant, small tree that is completely covered with flowers in spring. 

chionochloa-flavicans

Chionochloa flavicans

Clump forming tussock grass with weeping green leaves. Gracefully arching flower stems with drooping, silky, pale green plumes, turning a cream colour with maturity. The first flowers appear in late spring and may remain on the plant until the next season. Often referred to as a miniature toetoe. Occurs naturally in localised areas along the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. Hardy to -12oC.

Looks great in combination with flaxes and Muehlenbeckia astonii.

In warm and humid areas Chionochloa flavicans is prone to Phytophtera, so will need to be planted in dry or free-draining soil.

clianthus-maximus

Clianthus maximus

kaka beak, kowhai ngutu-kaka

Evergreen shrub, endemic to New Zealand, but rare in the wild. The pinnately compound, 15-25 cm long leaves resemble those of another New Zealand native plant, the kowhai (Sophora species). Drooping, 8 cm long, red flowers, shaped somewhat like the New Zealand native parrot's (kaka's) beak. May flower at any time during the year, but most  specimens flower during spring or summer. The photo was taken in early spring. Green, pea-like seed pods. 

Clianthus maximus is similar to Clianthus puniceus, and for a long time was treated as a variety of the latter. Also sold as Clianthus 'Kaka King'. Compared to Clianthus puniceus, Clianthus maximus has larger flowers and leaves, and its foliage is glossy and darker green.

Prefers an open sunny position in well-draining, fertile soil. Not tolerant of very wet, waterlogged conditions, but tolerates dry soils once established. When growing conditions are not ideal, Clianthus maximus is susceptible to a range of pests, including caterpillars, slugs, snails, leaf miners and thrips. The shrub tends to have an open habit, in particular when not grown in full fun, so prune regularly to keep the plant compact. Tolerates light to medium frosts. Suitable for coastal gardens and exposed sites. Can be short-lived, and may need to be replaced after 3-5 years. Easy to propagate from cuttings or seed.

Attractive, fast growing, New Zealand native plant with gorgeous flowers in large clusters. Can be trained as a climber or espaliered.

coprosma-acerosa

Coprosma acerosa

sand coprosma

Low mound-forming, New Zealand native ground-cover with intertwining, brown-orange branches and very small, needle-like, olive green leaves. Blue berries are formed when plants of both sexes are present. Occurs naturally in coastal areas throughout New Zealand.

Prefers a sunny position in well-draining soil.

Excellent ground-covering, low-maintenance plant with an unusual wiry texture that contrasts beautifully with large, shiny, and/or smooth foliage (e.g. flaxes, Astelia, Arthropodium). Great for coastal gardens and hot, dry areas.

coprosma-repens

Coprosma repens

taupata, mirror plant

Variable evergreen shrub or tree to 4-6 m tall, with oblong, thick, very shiny leaves. Leaf size varies from 6-9 cm long and 4-7 cm wide in shade to 2-3 cm long and 1.5-2 cm wide in full sun. Leaf margins may be wavy or somewhat curled under.  Like many coprosma species, the leaves have small pits (domatia) between the midvein and one or more lateral veins of the undersides. Inconspicuous female and male flowers on separate plants. On female plants, flowers are followed by bird-attracting orange-red drupes.

Occurs naturally throughout the North Island and parts of the South Island of New Zealand. Has give rise to a number of variegated cultivars.

Extremely tough plant, tolerant of very exposed coastal situations where it may become prostrate or assume gnarled and twisted shapes. Prefers full sun, but tolerates partial shade well. Copes with deep shade, but is more stretched and less compact. Intolerant of wet or waterlogged soil. Suitable for dry areas. Tolerates light frosts.

Responds well to clipping and is often used as a hedge, in particular in coastal areas.

coprosma-kirkii-variegata

Coprosma x kirkii 'Variegata'

Variegated cultivar of the natural hybrid Coprosma x kirkii, a New Zealand native, ground covering plant. The tiny leaves are green with a cream margin, resulting in a grey overall appearance. Tough, mat-forming, woody plant.

Prefers a sunny or lightly shaded position in any well-draining soil. Drought-tolerant once established. Suitable for coastal or exposed conditions. Good for erosion control on banks. Frost hardy to about -12 deg Celsius. Requires very little attention other than an occasional trim to keep the plant low and dense.

In my city Coprosma x kirkii 'Variegata' is a popular ground covering plant in public spaces, such as gardens of car parks, where it is successfully used to form a dense, tidy looking, light grey mat that helps to keep the weeds down, thus reducing maintenance requirements.

cordyline-australis

Cordyline australis

ti-kouka, cabbage tree

Tall, evergreen tree, endemic to New Zealand, with a rounded canopy consisting of large clusters of long, narrow leaves. Common throughout New Zealand in open ground, around swamps and damp places, and along forest margins. The leaves are linear with an entire margin, and up to 1 m long by 6 cm wide. They turn brown with age and remain hanging on the tree for a long time before falling, forming a skirt beneath the young green leaves. Large panicles of small, 0.5 cm wide, creamy white, strongly scented flowers are produced on mature trees in summer, attracting bees. Birds like the blue-white berries that are formed subsequently. Cordyline australis grows to about 15 m high, with an unbranched trunk when young (and undamaged), and forming side-branches in the upper part later.

The Maoris used the leaves of Cordyline australis for medicinal purposes, and the roots of young trees as a source of food. Early settlers hollowed out the trunks of large specimens to make chimneys, since the timber (unlike the foliage) is fire-resistant. They used to boil and eat young shoots as a substitute for cabbage, hence the common name. 

Prefers a position in full sun or partial shade. Likes moist soil, but can cope with considerable drought once established. Grows in just about any soil type, including clay soils as long as they are not too impermeable. Tolerates moderate frosts (to zone 8) and is hardy throughout New Zealand. Suitable for coastal and exposed sites. Caterpillars may cause some leaf damage. Stressed trees are susceptible to rust. In warm, humid areas root rot (Phytophtora) may become a problem, but can be avoided by growing other plants beneath the trees to keep their root-zones cool.

Great choice for a stunning architectural statement. Imagine a group of cabbage trees with a simple, contrasting under-planting of Muehlenbeckia astonii. You may want to plant Cordyline australis at some distance from your lawn....the lawnmower doesn't like the tough old leaves! Useful as a primary coloniser and good for erosion control on steep banks and along streambanks.

dodonaea-viscosa

Dodonaea viscosa

akeake, hopbush, hopseed, hopwood, soapwood, sticky hopbush

Variable, evergreen shrub or small tree, occurring naturally in coastal and lowland forests throughout the North Island, the northern part of the South Island of New Zealand, and the Chatham Islands. Also found in southern Africa, tropical America, the Pacific Islands, and throughout Australia. Alternate, linear to lanceolate, pale to mid-green, sticky leaves, 4-10 cm long and 1-3 cm wide. Tiny creamy yellow, usually unisexual flowers in spring, with male and female flowers borne mostly on separate trees. In summer, female flowers are followed by conspicuous, 1-2 cm wide, winged seed capsules. These capsules are pale yellow, gradually turning reddish brown, starting from the edges of the wings. Attractive red-brown bark, peeling in stringy flakes. Very tough wood, black with white streaks.

Prefers a sunny or semi-shaded position in well-draining soil. Tends to become leggy when light levels are too low. Tolerates light to moderate frosts (zone 9), coastal conditions, dry soils, and strong winds. Does not tolerate wet soils. Prune regularly and lightly to keep compact. Responds to trimming for hedging purposes.

Versatile, fast-growing plant. Dodonaea viscosa can be grown as a specimen tree by gradually removing the lower branches, showing off the bark and developing an interesting, irregular crown, shaped by the wind in exposed situations. Although predominantly used as a foliage plant, a tree laden with seed capsules is a sight to behold. Excellent choice for a hedge, in particular in coastal areas, and when alternated with other hedging plants. Also makes a good filler or backdrop for lower-growing shrubs with different textures and/or foliage colours. 

dodonaea-viscosa-purpurea

Dodonaea viscosa 'Purpurea'

purple akeake

Purple-bronze cultivar of Dodonaea viscosa, originally discovered in the early 1890s on a riverbank in Marlborough in New Zealand. Grows into a small bushy tree or shrub up to 4 m tall and 2 m wide. Narrow-obovate to narrow-elliptic leaves, 4-10 cm long and 1-3 cm wide. The purple leaf colour intensifies during the colder months. Flowers are arranged in terminal panicles to 4 cm long, purplish red, and mostly bisexual. (The species itself produces dull yellow unisexual flowers, usually on separate plants.) Flowers are followed by much larger, winged, purplish red seed capsules in summer. Red-brown, stringy bark. 

Prefers a sunny or partially shaded position in free-draining soil. Suitable for dry, exposed, and coastal sites. Tolerates light to moderate frosts (zone 9). Intolerant of very wet soils. Soft growth responds well to trimming, but avoid pruning old wood. Lower branches can be removed to create a clear-trunk. Leaf colour is better when planted in poor soil.

Makes an interesting specimen tree with attractive bark, beautiful purple foliage, reddish purple seed capsules and, in particular in very windy areas, an irregularly shaped canopy. Excellent choice for hedging purposes in coastal gardens. Cut stems with foliage and seed capsules add an unusual dimension to floral arrangements.

griselinia-littoralis

Griselinia littoralis

kapuka, papauma, broadleaf

Glossy bright green oval leaves 5 to 10 cm long and to 5 cm wide. Panicles of very tiny greenish flowers in spring. Occurs in forests throughout New Zealand. Grows as a tree up to 15 m high in nature, but is generally grown as a shrub or hedge in garden situations and maintained at a height of 1.5 to 4 m.

Will grow in a wide range of conditions. Prefers a sunny position, but also tolerates shade. Intolerant of excessively wet sites. Suitable for exposed areas. Quite drought tolerant once established. To keep the plant compact, prune once a year, preferably with secateurs (as opposed to pruning shears).  Hardy to -12 0C.

The fresh green foliage of Griselinia littoralis combines beautifully with divaricating plants such as Muehlenbeckia astonii, with flax-like plants and with taller grasses such as Chionochloa flavicans. Forms a good background for feature plantings, and perfect as a hedge.

griselinia-lucida

Griselinia lucida

puka, akapuka

Evergreen plant with large, glossy foliage, endemic to New Zealand where it is found in forests and coastal areas. Grows well as a shrub or tree in cultivation, but in its natural habitat, Griselinia lucida commences life as an epiphyte, perched high in tall trees, sending roots towards the ground. These roots can become quite thick and deeply furrowed. Eventually the plant may establish itself as an independent plant, but it usually  remains epiphytic and collapses when the host plant dies. The ovate to oblong leaves are thick and leathery, about 10-18 cm long and 4-10 cm wide. Leaf margins on either side are attached at different points to a 2-3 cm long petiole. Inconspicuous, male and female flowers on separate plants in spring. On female plants, the flowers are followed by 0.5-1 cm long fruits, green initially, and turning dark bluish purple to black later.

The common name 'puka' is also used for a different New Zealand native, Meryta sinclairii.

Griselinia lucida requires free-draining soil. Suitable for a position in full sun or shade. Leaves tend to be larger on plants grown in shady spots. Tolerant of wind and coastal conditions. Susceptible to Phytophtora (root rot). If the plant is sulking and its leaves are losing their gloss, dig it up, prune, and transplant (if there still are some healthy roots present) in a drier position. Prune to keep compact. Tolerates moderate frosts.

Attractive, lush foliage, perfect for a tropical themed garden. Often grown as a shrub, but can be trained to a single leader. Forms a lovely contrast with fine-leafed shrubs, such as Muehlenbeckia astonii, flax-like plants, and grasses like Chionochloa flavicans.

hebe-pretty-in-pink

Hebe 'Pretty in Pink"

Small, bun-shaped, evergreen shrub in the Hollywood series of hebes. Its main asset is green foliage, flushed with burgundy purple, the colour intensifying during the colder months. Spikes to about 5 cm long, with tiny pink flowers, fading to white with age.

Prefers a sunny or partially shaded position in well-draining soil. Tolerates dry conditions once established. Lightly prune to maintain compactness, but avoid pruning beyond the foliage. Tolerates at least moderate frosts, and is hardy throughout New Zealand.

Looks beautiful in combination with Loropetalum chinense 'Burgundy', in particular when you add some lime green foliage to the mix. Happy in containers. Suitable for borders in front of taller growing plants.