Lilly Pilly Varieties
Lilly pillies come in a variety of species and cultivars, each with its own unique characteristics. Three of the most popular varieties include:
Syzygium australe: Also known as the brush cherry, is a compact shrub with glossy, dark green leaves.
Syzygium luehmannii: The riberry (or small leaf) lilly pilly, with attractive pink new growth and tart fruits used in jams.
Syzygium smithii: This variety is commonly known as the creek cherry and is favoured for its dense, ornamental foliage.
When making the decision on which lilly pilly is best suited to your garden, it is best to consider size and aesthetics. Ask yourself what kind of leaf type or colouring works best with the plants you already have.
It would also be wise to measure the space of where you want your new lilly pilly plant to grow, as the varieties can differ in width and sometimes height. For example, if you have a smaller space in mind, a brush cherry variety may be more suitable because it is more compact.
How to grow and care for your Lilly Pilly
Like many Australian natives, lilly pillies are quite hardy and can adapt to a range of climates. However, they do best in subtropical regions as they prefer temperatures between around 15°C to 30°C and while they can tolerate a light frost they should be protected from heavy frost.
This pretty plant requires plenty of sunlight to grow healthy, so it’s recommended to choose a spot in your garden that receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight daily. They can tolerate some shade though, making them suitable to a variety of garden setups.
Good soil preparation is crucial for success. Lilly pillies prefer soil that drains well so it’s best to avoid waterlogged or heavy clay soils. The ideal pH is slightly acidic to neutral, so make sure your soil is around 6.0 to 7.0.
Applying a layer of organic mulch, such as compost or well-rotted manure, will both help retain moisture and suppress weeds.
The best time to plant lilly pillies is during spring or autumn when the weather is mild. This allows the plants to establish their roots without extreme heat or cold.
When planting, make sure to space the plants according to the variety's size. This can range from 1 to 3 metres, so you will need to consider their eventual dimensions when arranging them in your garden.
Dig a hole that is twice as wide as the plant's root ball and the same depth to give the roots room to spread . Mix some compost into the soil to help fertilise. Immediately after planting, water your lilly pilly thoroughly to help settle the soil and reduce transplant shock.
Keep the soil consistently moist, especially during dry spells and the plant's early growth stages. Water deeply but make sure to avoid waterlogging. Once lilly pillies are established, they will become more drought-tolerant however and able to be watered less frequently but still deeply to encourage deep root growth.
If you're growing lilly pillies in containers, ensure good drainage, and water when the top inch of soil feels dry.
Incorporate organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure into the soil during planting. This helps enrich the soil with essential nutrients. Lilly pillies benefit from regular applications of a balanced, slow-release fertiliser during the growing season. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the right dosage.
Paying attention to the plant's appearance will help you identify the signs of nutrient deficiencies (e.g., yellowing leaves), and you can consider adding a specialised fertiliser with micronutrients.
Harvest lilly pilly fruits when they are fully ripe, usually in late summer or early autumn. The colour will vary depending on the variety, with some being bright red and others darker. Gently pluck the ripe fruits by hand. They should come off easily, and you can harvest the entire crop in one fell swoop or you can pick them as they ripen.
You can enjoy lilly pillies fresh, use them in jams, or make delicious pies and desserts with them.
The ideal time for pruning is in late winter or early spring, just before the growing season begins. This timing allows the plant to recover and produce new growth during the warmer months.
Propagating lilly pillies can be a fun and cost-effective way to expand your garden. You can either propagate using seed or cutting.
To propagate from seed, collect fresh seeds from ripe lilly pilly fruits and sow them in a well-draining potting mix. Keep the soil consistently moist and provide indirect light until seedlings emerge.
To propagate from a cutting, take semi-hardwood cuttings from a healthy plant during the growing season. Dip the cut ends in a rooting hormone and plant them in a pot with a well-draining mix. Keep the soil consistently moist and provide a humid environment to encourage root development.
Problems with your lilly pilly plant
Lilly pillies can be susceptible to various pests, including psyllids, caterpillars, and scale insects.
Psyllids are known for causing unsightly blisters on the leaves, while caterpillars can defoliate the plants. Regular inspection and appropriate insect control measures, such as neem oil or insecticidal soap, can help manage the issues.
Fungal diseases like sooty mould and leaf spot can affect the Australian native. They often result from excess moisture or poor air circulation. Avoid overwatering and ensure that your plants have adequate space for air to flow around them to avoid this occurring. Fungicides may be necessary if the problem persists.
Lilly pillies may display nutrient deficiencies, particularly in nitrogen and iron. Symptoms include yellowing leaves or stunted growth. To address this, you can apply a balanced, slow-release fertiliser formulated for evergreen plants.
Overwatering or poorly drained soil can lead to root rot. The roots become waterlogged, and the plant's overall health will deteriorate. To prevent this ensure proper drainage in your planting area and water sparingly.
Pruning is essential to maintain the desired shape and size, especially for hedges. However, improper pruning can result in sparse growth and a loss of natural form. Always use clean, sharp tools, and avoid over-pruning during the growing season. It's best to prune during the spring to early summer.
While not entirely a problem for the plants, lilly pillies with berries may attract birds who may eat the fruit, reducing your harvest. To protect your berries you may want to consider using bird netting or other bird deterrents.
In some cases, lilly pilly leaves may develop yellow or brown patches due to stress, disease, or other environmental factors. Identifying and addressing the underlying cause is essential to maintain the plant's health.
Are Lilly Pilly berries toxic to dogs?
Thankfully you don’t have to worry about your precious pups around these ones. If dogs were to eat too many berries they could cause mild gastrointestinal problems, but nothing of great concern.