Western Australia has a botanic richness that is unique, and as designers, landscapers and growers, we are only just beginning to appreciate the adaptability and opportunities our flora can offer.
Native plants are gradually shaking off the straggly, boring stigma and with expanding knowledge on planting outdoor spaces for environmental benefits in mind, there is no greater time to specify them. There is a common misconception that to achieve an exotic look we need to look past Western Australian natives and specify exotic plants.
There are plenty of native alternatives that will provide an exotic feel look while achieving both biodiversity and positive environmental outcomes to a project.
At Plantrite we need to get better at shouting just how good these plants are and as growers we see common plants being specified continually, when we know there are some great alternatives that will set your design apart from the rest. When it comes to designing an exotic, tropical garden there are many species that can be used as alternatives.
What are some of our more ‘exotic’ natives that will create a tropical feel?
There are many different strategies to use Australia plants to create the ‘feel’ you are designing for. Specify a few varieties that trail. Large strong leaves, dark green foliage will create a lush tropical understory with hardy waterwise plants.
Turn the focus to foliage and select varieties that have dark green large leaves. Mass planting of plants with shiny leaves will quickly create an exotic tropical feel.
Plantrite’s top picks for creating exotic gardens with Australian plants:
Marianthus paralius ‘Coastal Dream’
Summary: A ground covering plant with dark green foliage. Shiny and bushy it creates thick cover. Rare and endangered in its natural habitat.
Features: Red and orange flowers appear during spring and summer.
Size: 20cm x 50cm
Position and Soil: Full sun or part shade position. Tolerates many soil types, thrives in coastal conditions.
Summary: Trailing plant with kidney shaped leaves. Is well suited for planting around ponds and waterlogged areas.
Features: Produces inconspicuous small pink/red flowers.
Size: 0.4m x 1m
Position and Soil: Thrives in a shaded position but can tolerate full sun. Prefers moist, sandy, loam and clay soils.
Chrysocephalum apiculatum ‘Sunny Bun’
Summary: A thick leaved mounding plant with grey/green leaves. It has a succulent-like appearance and is waterwise.
Features: Button shaped yellow and orange flowers appear during spring to autumn.
Size: 20cm x 40cm
Position and Soil: Full sun position. Tolerates a wide range of soil types.
Casuarina glauca ‘Cousin It’
Summary: A ground cover with long, fine green foliage that forms a cascading mound and outstanding feature plant for retaining walls A favourite for creating a cool feature area in any landscape
Features: Easy to care for, and suited for large containers
Size: 20cm x 1-2m
Position and Soil: Full sun to a partly shaded position. Tolerates a wide range of soil types.
Acacia saligna prostrate
Summary: A unique fast growing ground cover, perfect for verges or filling empty space with green.
Features: Perfectt for cascading over walls and used in understory planning to cool trees and plants roots. Produces yellow pompom flowers during spring.
Size: 20cm x 3m
Position and Soil: Thrives in a full sun to partly shaded position.
Billardiera fusiformis prostrate ‘Blue Carpet’
Summary: A ground covering plant with clusters of delicate blue flowers. This plant looks great even when not in flower.
Features: Produces clusters of pendulous blue flowers during spring and summer. Great as a border plant, ground cover or trailing plant.
Size: 30cm x 3m
Position and Soil: Full sun or partly shade position. Tolerates a wide range of soil types including coastal conditions.
Summary: A stunning small shrub with attractive, red coloured new foliage. The ideal foliage accent plant.
Features: Small red flowers appear during winter that are great at attracting nectar feeding birds. Great as a ground cover and its thick foliage, will do well replacing succulents.
Size: 30cm x 1m
Position and Soil: Full sun to partly shaded position. Will tolerate a wide range of soil types.
Summary: A fast growing ground covering plant that is great as lawn substitute in low traffic areas or low light areas.
Features: Dark green kidney shaped leaves, this is a dense growing ground cover. Is great for trailing over walls as a statement.
Size: 0.1m x 5m
Position and Soil: Full sun to partly shaded position, will grow well in shady parts of the garden. Tolerates a wide range of soil types. Requires summer watering.
Viola hederacea (Native to VIC)
Summary: A pretty and fast growing ground cover with rounded green foliage.
Features: Small mauve, white and violet flowers appear throughout the year. Would suit trailing over walls, planting near ponds and water features or in a low traffic area as a lawn substitute.
Size: 0.1m x 1m
Position and Soil: Prefers a shaded position, however will grow in full sun provided adequate moisture. Tolerates a wide range of soils provided they are moist.
Summary: A showy annual, producing a variety of flower colours including blue, purple and white.
Features: The range of colours of the flowers make it great for planting in pots for a pop of colour, suits mass planting for impact.
Size: 25cm x 25cm
Position and Soil: Thrives in a full sun position. Tolerates a wide range of soil types including coastal conditions. Would suit coastal projects.
Summary: A dense growing evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves. It’s often thought of as an exotic plant, it occurs naturally in the northern WA and is one of the best shrubs for background, structural planting.
Features: Great for using as a hedging or screening plant which is readily trimmed to shape. Masses of highly perfumed white flowers appear mainly in summer.
Size: 3m x 2m
Position and Soil: Full sun or partly shaded position. Will tolerate a wide range of soil types.
For more advice on the wide range of plants available in our native plant nursery for your next roadside project, please get in touch at email@example.com