If planting in the ground, loosen the soil to twice the length of your spade and twice as wide. This allows the root system to spread without much difficulty. Place the plant in the created hole making sure that the top of the soil from the pot sits level with the top of the soil in the ground. Back fill the hole and firm the soil down around the plant.
Indigenous plants have evolved on the local un-amended soils. No soil improvement should be necessary if the correct plants have been chosen. Improving the soils will, however, give your new plants an easier time of it. For example, if you are planting into sand the addition of bentonite clay will help to retain water around the plants root system.
If you purchase plants which have trunks (i.e. woody plants, not groundcovers, kangaroo paws and grasses) usually native trees and shrubs, when you plant them, bury them half way up their trunks. This puts the root zone deeper into the ground and away from surface heat. It stablises the plants and they then grow roots from out of their buried trunks. This is a big advantage when planting plants that have become root bound in their pots. When the plants can produce new roots that are not root binding. then the plants have more chance of long term survival.
Planting should preferably be done in the cooler months of the year: autumn, winter or early spring. There is usually a higher rainfall in these months which will reduce the need for watering. However, if you can water, then planting in summer can be very successful. The ground is warm and with the addition of water, the plants will grow faster than when they are planted in the cooler months of the year when the ground is colder.
When planting form a dish and plant in the middle of the dish. Remove the mulch from whithin the dish so that it does not absorb water that is needed by the plant. Either hand water into the dish, or make sure the irrigation water goes directly into the dish. This will ensure that the water reaches the centre of the dish, then penetrates the soil around the trunk of the plant and goes down into the roots. Water your new plants in well. For the first summer, after planting in the cooler months, your new plants may require some irrigation. It is better to water seldom and well, rather than often for a short period of time. If you do the latter, you are encouraging the plants to become shallow rooted and less able to survive a future of little or no watering. If you continue watering using a sprinkler or dripper, once the plants are established, move the springler or dripper away from the plants so that you are watering into the newly expanded root zone of the plants.
Many Australian native plants benefit from regular pruning, especially tip-pruning (pinching off the growing tips). It helps to promote healthy new growth giving your plants a nice shape and a fresh look, it increases the amount of flowers and helps control pests and diseases. It also helps keep them compact and dense, which is very important for attracting small birds. In the wild, Australian native plants are pruned constantly by animals and weather. By regularly pruning your native plants you are imitating the natural process of fauna eating the tips off trees and shrubs. The best time to prune depends on the plant and why you are growing it. If it is providing nectar, tip-prune after flowering has ceased, if seeds or fruit are the benefit, prune after these have finished.
Staking is not recommended for unless your plant is in danger of toppling over. It is best to plant young trees or tubestock as they can adapt quickly to the conditions and anchor well to the ground without support. Staking plants too firmly can lead to a poorly anchored root system and harm your plant. A plant should only be staked for a maximum of 1 year, and it should be done lightly so the plant is still able to ‘feel’ some movement. This will help promote the root growth your plant needs to stabilise itself. Regularly check the tie is not causing any damage and the stability of the tree.
Mulching your garden beds is very beneficial as it helps to conserve water by reducing evaporation, it protects the soil from erosion and limits the growth of weeds. It also helps to shade the soil keeping it cooler and moister, which helps plants survive in summer. The best mulch is the chipped pruning from street trees. When applied, it should be between 7.5 – 10cm deep and should be kept away from the plant stems, as this can cause rot. Do not spread plastic over the soil, either by itself or as a base for mulch. It will not allow water to penetrate the soil, and will upset the environment of insects, lizards and other small animals that live in the soil.
Mulch is best seen as a temporary measure, and after a couple of years leave what is there to rot down. Your plants will begin to build up their own litter.
Fertilising is generally not needed. If you decide to fertilise, we recommend Bailey's Apex slow release fertiliser for natives sparingly with soil as you backfill the hole when planting. Fertilising is not needed after this.
We recommend that you try not to use sprays and chemicals unless you really have to. Generally the more you use the more you have to use, so once you start it is much harder to stop. Using a chemical may solve one problem but often creates another.
If a native plant is attacked by insects it might look a bit shabby, but for the plants, it may be like having a good prune. If left alone, they often recover and look much better for the trim. Some insects are leaf eaters or may bore holes in stems. But other insects will prey on these damaging insects and will eventually get rid of them. The more insects there are, the more likely you will be to have a balance of good and bad insects. You will also have more birds.
Local plants, will usually have their own means of managing and overcoming pests and diseases. For example, many native plants also have their own defence mechanisms such as using sap to inhibit stem or trunk boring insects.