Plant Guide

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Categories starting with A

Items starting with A


Abutilon x hybridum

Chinese lantern

A large group of hybrids with pendent, bell-shaped, 4-8 cm long flowers during most of the year in colours ranging from white to pink, yellow and orange to red. Attracts nectar-seeking birds. Lobed, toothed, mid green, maple-like leaves up to 15 cm long. Fast growing in suitable conditions.

Prefers a sheltered position in well-draining soil with even moisture levels and full sun or partial shade. In hot climates, protect Abutilon x hybridum from afternoon sun to prevent stress due to wilting of the leaves. Can handle some wind exposure, but since the stems are relatively weak, staking is required when there is insufficient shelter. Pinch out the tips of young plants to encourage branching and subsequently prune regularly to keep compact. Tolerates light to moderate frosts. Easy to propagate from cuttings.

Elegant shrub with pretty flowers. The leaves with a lovely shade of green lend themselves perfectly as a backdrop for other, smaller plants in borders. Suitable as an indoor pot plant as long as it receives sufficient light.


Acacia baileyana

Cootamundra wattle, Bailey's wattle, golden wattle, golden mimosa

Evergreen tree, native to Australia, flowering from a young age during winter and early spring with yellow globose flower heads (0.5-1 cm wide) arranged in racemes to about 10 cm long. The flowers are followed by 4-10 cm long, purple-brown to black seed pods. Feathery, silver-grey, bi-pinnately compound leaves. Unfortunately, Acacia baileyana is considered a weed in parts of Australia.

Synonym: Racosperma baileyanum.

Prefers a sunny position in any well-draining soil. Tolerates extended drought periods and moderate frosts (to about -7 degC). Ok for coastal gardens.

Acacia baileyana looks magnificent when in flower; completely smothered by bright yellow flowers.


Acer palmatum 'Beni Otake'

Japanese Maple 'Beni Otake', red bamboo Japanese maple

Small deciduous tree with deeply cut, bright burgundy-red new leaves, turning crimson-orange in autumn. Initially this tree is vase-shaped, but with age the canopy becomes more rounded.

The name means "big red bamboo', referring to the bamboo-like foliage.

Prefers well-draining, rich soil in a reasonably sheltered spot. Best grown in filtered sunlight, but is more tolerant of full sun than many other Japanese maples. Drought-tolerant once established. Frost-hardy.

Perfect for the smaller garden and fits in beautifully with an oriental theme.


Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood'

Small, round-headed Japanese maple cultivar with grey bark, dark red young branches, and burgundy foliage. Toothed leaves, 8-12 cm long, with five lobes and possibly one or more small lobes at the base.  Leaves usually hold their colour well into summer, but may fade in hot sunny areas, before turning crimson to bright scarlet in autumn. Insignificant red-purple flowers in spring, followed by samaras (winged fruit) in autumn.

Synonym: Acer palmatum var. atropurpureum 'Bloodgood'.

Some variation in appearance is possible since there is more than a single clone available under this name in the trade, and sometimes seed-propagated (as opposed to grafted) trees are also offered for sale as Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood'. Likewise, the name Acer palmatum 'Atropurpureum' has been used for more than a single clone. Hence the differences between Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' and Acer palmatum 'Atropurpureum'  may not be as clear as between the original selections.

Prefers a sunny position or, in particular in areas with hot summers, a partially shaded site. Any well-draining soil. Protect from strong winds. Prune lightly for shape once a year during winter. Frost hardy.

One of the most popular red-purple maples with good colour retention during summer. May also be grown as a shrub. Use as a specimen tree or accent plant for foliage colour, and repeat a similar colour elsewhere in the garden (e.g. with Loropetalum chinense 'Burgundy') to create a link with the surrounding planting. Perfectly suited to Japanese style gardens.


Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki'

Deciduous tree with broad, rounded canopy. Mid green, 7-lobed leaves with toothed margins, 10-12 cm long. Foliage turns orange-red in autumn. Bright red, winged fruit in early autumn.

Suitable for a sheltered position in full sun and any well-draining soil. In areas with hot summers, Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki' likes shade from afternoon sun. Fertilise once a year. Remove damaged or dead branches. Protect from strong winds. Water during hot dry weather.

Japanese maple with brilliant autumn colour and beautiful fruit. Makes a wonderful focal point in autumn. Can be grown in a large container for several years.


Acer palmatum 'Shaina'

Compact, upright-growing (as opposed to spreading) Japanese maple with burgundy foliage and bright red young leaves. Branches are formed from ground-level. The foliage turns a little bit darker in colour during autumn before leaf fall.

Prefers a partially shaded, sheltered position in any fertile, well-draining soil. Generally pest and disease free. Young foliage may be damaged be late frosts.

An attractive small maple with brilliant foliage colours. Perfect for a sheltered garden that needs some height, but lacks the space required for trees with spreading canopies. The foliage colour combines beautifully with Loropetalum chinense 'Burgundy' which can be used as a link between the canopy of Acer palmatum 'Shaina' and lower-level layers in the garden. Also suitable for large containers.


Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Crimson Queen'

Crimson Queen Japanese laceleaf maple

Deciduous shrub or dwarf tree with finely divided, palmately lobed leaves. The burgundy-red foliage turns bright scarlet in autumn. Small, reddish-purple flowers in spring. Branches are cascading, unless the plant is pruned quite hard each year. Gradually increases in height by mounding over itself. 

Prefers a sheltered position in any well-drained soil. Tolerates sun, but is happier when partially shaded, in particular in areas with hot summers. Trunk height can be influenced to a degree by selecting a strong leader when the plant is young, and staking it to the desired height.

A delightful small maple with delicate foliage that retains its gorgeous reddish-purple colour throughout the summer. An obvious choice for gardens with an oriental theme, but 'Crimson Queen' can be incorporated in many different garden styles, including tropical and cottage gardens. The weeping growth habit with branches reaching down to the ground, looks beautiful next to ponds. Suitable for containers.


Acer platanoides 'Drummondii'

variegated Norway maple, harlequin Norway maple, harlequin maple

Deciduous tree with a rounded-oval, high canopy. Large, typical maple leaves, deeply lobed, green with broad, creamy white margins, turning golden in autumn. Inconspicuous yellow-green flowers in clusters during early spring before the leaves emerge.

Prefers a sunny or partially shady position in any fertile, well-draining soil. Foliage colour intensity is reduced in shade. Benefits from fertiliser application in spring. Tolerates air pollution. No pruning required other than the removal of dead, damaged, and crossing branches. Also cut out any branches with leaves that have reverted to green and lost the variegation. Stressed Acer platanoides 'Drummondii' may suffer from leaf scorch with the leaves, particularly the tips and margins turning brown and subsequently shriveling. Stress results from any growing conditions that cause the leaves to loose water faster than the roots can take it up, such as drying winds, water-logging, drought, and heat. The tree will generally recover in the next season with healthy foliage.

Striking specimen or shade tree with relatively coarse textured and highly ornamental foliage, combining well with other greens. For a very strong contrast, plant this in combination with burgundy-red leafed trees, but be careful not to overdo this combination as it may overpower the rest of your garden. Even a single tree can be quite a dominant feature. Acer platanoides 'Drummondii' produces vigorous surface roots, so plant away from hard surfaces, and underplant with e.g. Liriope muscari or other ground covers (not lawn) that can handle the dry and shady conditions beneath the tree.


Acer pseudoplatanus 'Esk Sunset'

Deciduous tree with an oval to pyramidal canopy and variegated foliage. The palmately lobed, green and cream leaves with toothed margins, are heavily flecked with salmon pink or sometimes entirely orange-pink. The undersides become progressively darker during the season, turning burgundy during summer. The orange shades on the upper surface of the foliage gradually change to cream (see photo in the gallery of leaves in autumn). Inconspicuous flowers in spring.

Sycamore maple cultivar, developed from a chance seedling discovered in a garden in the Esk Valley, New Zealand. Also known (outside New Zealand) as Acer pseudoplatanus 'Eskimo Sunset'.

Prefers a position in well-draining soil and partial shade. Leaf colourings vary with the amount of sun exposure, but to prevent leaf-burn, it is best to find a spot where the tree is protected from hot afternoon sun. Likes an even moisture level. Prune for shape if required in summer after leaves have fully developed. Tolerates urban pollution. Frost hardy.

Stunning maple with exquisite foliage colours, perfect as an accent tree. Particularly attractive when the leaves move in a light breeze and the darker coloured undersides are visible intermittently. The canopy is generally quite close to the ground (about 1.5 m clearance), so plant it away from circulation routes. 


Agathis australis


One of the largest trees in the world with an average height of 30 m, a maximum height of more than 50 m, and an average trunk diameter of 3 m. Endemic to New Zealand, meaning it does not naturally occur anywhere else. Kauri once covered large areas of the northern part of the North Island of New Zealand with forests, but it can be grown throughout the country. Heavy logging has significantly reduced the number of kauri trees. Both the timber and kauri gum were much sought after. The remaining forests are now protected, but are threatened with extinction due to kauri dieback. This is caused by a pathogen that infects the roots and starves the tree to death. Agathis australis is a coniferous tree with thick, leathery leaves, 2-3 cm long on adult trees, and 5-10 cm long on juvenile ones. The leaves of young trees are often bronze-coloured. Male and female cones are borne on the same tree. The photo shows female cones which are rounder and shorter than the male ones. Ripe female cones release winged seeds that are dispersed by wind.

Agathis australis grows best in rich, fertile, moist and well-draining soil, but tolerates a wide range of soils including swamps, stony soils,and heavy clay. Plant in a sheltered position in full sun or part shade and stake the plant for the first season or two. Tolerates moderate frosts (zones 8-10) once established. Not recommended for coastal areas.

Kauri eventually becomes very large and thus needs plenty of room. However, it takes about 30 years to reach a height of 10 m, so it can be accommodated in a smaller garden for a long time.


Ageratum houstonianum

flossflower or pussy foot

Downy, toothed leaves. Small blue or lavender flower heads, grouped in large clusters, during summer and autumn. Several cultivars available, including dwarf forms suitable as bedding plants, and pink or white-flowering forms. Often grown as an annual plant.

Synonym: Ageratum mexicanum.

Prefers a sunny position in well-draining soil. Can survive medium frosts, but will get above-ground frost damage. Cut back to ground-level after flowering. Very easy to propagate from cuttings.

Gorgeous blue, fluffy flowers that last well on water. If you would like to be able to pick the flowers, then make sure not to plant a dwarf form. Combine with other blue/purple flowering plants and a touch of orange.


Ajuga reptans 'Jungle Beauty'

Fast growing ground cover, forming a dense, evergreen carpet, and flowering freely during early spring. Larger leafed and faster spreading cultivar of Ajuga reptans, which is native to Europe, and commonly known as bugle, bugleweed, bugleherb and carpetweed. Glossy, crinkly, rounded, dark green leaves, tinged with bronze-purple. Deep blue flowers arranged in spikes up to 30 cm long. Growth habit is similar to strawberry plants in that it spreads with runners that form new rooted plants at various distances from the mother plant. Vigorous spreader, but easily controlled in garden settings.

Prefers a position in partial shade in any well-drained soil, but can also be planted in full shade or sun. Frost hardy. No maintenance required other than keeping the plant from spreading to areas where you don't want it. Easily propagated by removing rooted portions of the runners from the mother plant and replanting these elsewhere.

Excellent choice for covering the ground in shady areas or under trees. The blue flowers look particularly attractive when combined with light green foliage plants. Good edging plant, and lovely addition to rock gardens. Suitable for containers as long as they are watered regularly.


Akebia quinata

chocolate vine, five-leaf akebia

Vigorous evergreen or semi-evergreen climber native to Japan, Korea and China. Compound, bright green leaves with five elliptic to obovate leaflets to 5 cm long, notched at the tips. Fragrant, cup-shaped, purplish-red flowers in pendulous racemes during spring. Flowers may be followed by sausage-shaped fruits to 10 cm long.

Prefers a partially shaded position in any reasonable soil. Tolerates full shade and full sun. Avoid very dry and waterlogged soils. Resents root disturbance, so best planted when young, and not to be transplanted when mature. Requires support to climb. In suitable growing conditions Akebia is a vigorous grower and needs regular trimming. Copes with hard pruning. Akebia quinata is frost hardy, but in cold climates it behaves as a semi-evergreen or even deciduous climber with the extent of leaf loss depending on the degree of winter cold.

In New Zealand Akebia quinata is listed in the National Pest Plant Accord and is prohibited from commercial propagation, sale and distribution across the country.

Ideal as a fast cover for pergolas, fences and gazebos. If you wish to add a slimline vertical element to a garden bed, then let Akebia grow up against a tall post and trim it a few times per year. Help the shoots find support by attaching netting to the outside of the post. Could also be used as an informal ground cover. 


Albizia julibrissin

silk tree, Persian silk tree, silky acacia, mimosa tree, pink siris

Broad-headed, deciduous tree, native to West- and East Asia, from Iran to Japan. Fern-like, bipinnately compound leaves. Fragrant, pink, 4 cm long, pom-pom-like flowers in summer, followed by flat seed-pods (10-15 cm long). Albizia julibrissin is widely grown as an ornamental tree, but has become invasive in some parts of the world. Once established, it is difficult to eradicate due to its ability to re-sprout readily and the longevity of its seed.

Prefers a sunny position in well-draining soil. Tolerates moderate frosts (zones 8-12), and a wide range of soils, including sand and clay. Prone to Fusarium wilt, a fatal fungal disease. Reasonably wind-hardy and drought-tolerant once established.

Albizia julibrissin with its relatively flat umbrella-shaped crown and delicate, deciduous foliage, is a graceful tree suitable as a shade tree, and perfect for flower display in summer. Since the flowers are positioned above the foliage, the tree would suit a spot where you can look down on the canopy.


Alnus jorullensis

Mexican alder, evergreen alder

Graceful fast-growing evergreen or semi-evergreen tree from Mexico and Central America, with drooping branches and pale grey bark. Leaves resemble birch leaves and are 5-10 cm long, dark green, leathery, with toothed margins. Most leaves are retained during winter, but some leaf-shed occurs throughout the year . Looks beautiful in spring with a mixture of new light green leaves and mature dark green foliage. Minute flowers arranged in light-green, pendulous catkins to 7 cm long (male) or in short catkins (female) on same tree. Green cone-like fruit, 1.5 cm long, turning dark brown with age.

Alnus jorullensis likes a position in full sun or partial shade and prefers moist soils of any type, but tolerates drier soils although growth will be slower and may be stunted. Copes with medium frosts to about -12oC. Root system can be invasive and it is best planted away from foundations and pipes. Train to a single leader and remove lower limbs to lift the crown.

Suitable as a specimen or shade tree. Can also be pleached, used as a screen, hedge, or bank stabilisor. Useful tree to dry out wet areas.