Low maintenance Grevillea

5 Dec

A number of my clients have been installing Grevillea of late. This is a beautiful and easy to care for family of plants that is well adapted to Bay Area gardens.

The virtues of Grevilleas are numerous, especially for urban gardeners and those who prefer a low maintenance garden. Most of them are very fast growing, and need little attention once established. They thrive happily in poor soil, tolerating drought and reflected heat common to urban situations. They are not attractive to deer. Many Grevillea also perform well in exposed coastal situations. They are evergreen, with attractive foliage that always looks great. Some species have spectacularly showy flowers that are rich in nectar and irresistible to hummingbirds. Many of them bloom over a long period, in some cases even through the winter.

Grevillea, which belongs to the protea family, is a diverse genus of some 350 species of evergreen flowering plants, most of which are native to Australia. Ranging in habit from large trees to low-growing mats, Grevillea leaves may be needle-like to nearly round, entire to lobed or dissected in many different ways. Flowers develop in round to comb-like clusters and are often quite showy. They are irregular in form, and often resembling spiders or whimsical sea creatures. On some species they are arranged spirally, while others bear flowers on a single plane, resembling a toothbrush.

Being a diverse group of plants, there are a wide range of conditions under which Grevilleas will grow. The following generalizations would apply to a majority of the plants in cultivation: Grevilleas flower best in sunny, dry locations although they will also grow in light shade. Plant in well-draining  soil. Be especially careful of any fertilizers applied to these plants, because many Grevillea are highly sensitive to phosphorus and the use of fertilizers high in this element can be fatal to these plants. They also do not like excessive watering and garden water tolerance or ability to grow near lawns will be exceptions rather than the rule. Regular pruning after flowering is recommended to enhance and rejuvenate flowering and plant growth. Most varieties are drought tolerant, as well as frost hardy down to 20 º F.

Here are a few of my personal favorite Grevilleas:

‘Pink Pearl’: Grows quickly to 4-6 feet in height with a greater spread. Exhibits a stiff, arching growth habit, with showy clusters of rose pink and cream tubular flowers that bloom through the winter and spring. Dark green needle-like foliage.

‘Red Hooks’: Growing quickly to 10-12 feet in height, this is one of the fastest growing Grevillea. Graceful, arching growth habit, with large, terminal grape-like clusters of deep red flowers most of the year. Deeply cut dark green foliage.

Lanigera ‘Coastal Gem’: Semi-prostrate growth to 1-3 feet in height with a 4-6 foot spread. This one has a dense, low, tight spreading growth habit. Flowers are deep pink and bloom winter through summer. This one will tolerate garden water in well-drained soils.

‘Bronze Rambler’: Only 12 inches in height with a 12 foot spread, this one has a graceful arching growth habit. Showy clusters of pinkish-red, toothbrush-like flowers bloom heaviest in spring and summer, sporadically throughout the year. Large, oak-like leaves are deeply divided.

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