With their masses of yellow blooms, wattles are nothing short of spectacular. These bush beauties (Acacia sp.) are true performers – easy to grow, quick to mature, forgiving of neglect and generous with their flowers. There’s a truly mind-boggling range in Australia – it’s estimated at as many as 850 species! And their growth habits vary vastly, from tall trees to screen plants, shrubs and groundcovers. In recent years, compact forms with attractive foliage have been released, which are marvellous for growing in large pots and tubs.
The glorious zigzag wattle (Acacia macradenia) thrives in dry, frost-free zones.
2. Frame a sunny garden entrance with a froth of golden yellow. This silver wattle (Acacia dealbata) will grow rapidly to 10 metres plus.
Quick to shine
Wattles live life in the fast lane, growing rapidly from seed and flowering profusely from a young age. On the flip-side, they can also be short-lived, lasting between seven and 12 years. However, you can use this to your advantage. Great colonisers (meaning they’re good at growing in disturbed or freshly cleared soil), wattles can be planted up and used to protect more delicate understorey plants from above. For gardeners confronting bare land, wattles are a quick screening plant to use while slower plants establish. In fact, to see their colonising habits in action, you only have to watch an area of bushland after fire, as wattles are often the first seedlings to pop up – they’re the true pioneers of the bush.
How do I grow them?
Position: Wattles grow happily in any sunny to semi-shaded spot. They have good tolerance to extremes of both heat and cold, however, if your garden is prone to heavy winter frosts, it’s worth planting species indigenous to your area, as these will be the most robust growers.
Soil: Wattles aren’t fussy about soil types but do need it to be free draining, so don’t plant in soggy spots that are slow to drain after heavy rainfall.
Watering: Water young trees regularly while they’re establishing. Once settled, wattles are hardy, waterwise plants that will get by on natural rainfall. During heatwaves and droughts, give them a drink to keep them going.
Fertiliser: Because they can ‘fix’ their own nitrogen, it’s not necessary to feed wattles. However, if planted among other native plants, they won’t mind a small amount of blood and bone or a low-phosphorus native plant food.
Pruning: While plants are young, and directly after flowering, tip pruning helps keep wattles bushy and compact, prolongs their life, and removes seed heads. But avoid heavy pruning – don’t cut into wood any thicker than a pencil.
Mulch: Apply a layer of natural leaf litter or chunky bark over the soil to keep the roots cool, conserve soil moisture and restrict weed growth. Just keep it well back from the trunk itself.