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Lillypilly (Syzygium, Acmena, Waterhousea, Eugenia species)

Lillypillies are some of our most widely planted native trees and shrubs thanks to their hardy, adaptable nature and a diverse range of growth habits. You will find these versatile evergreens used as shade and street trees, wind breaks, screening plants, informal and clipped shrubs including topiary, hedges, container plants and even trained as bonsai.

Mature foliage is lush and green with new growth often providing an attractive pink or red-toned contrast. Showy spring and summer flowers with numerous, pollen-laden white/cream, pink or occasionally crimson stamens are a magnet for both nectar feeding birds as well as bees and other insects. The berry-like fruit vary in size and colour and attract fruit eating birds. The fruit are generally crisp and refreshing like the rose apple (Syzygium jambos), rather than sweet. Some of these berries are prized bush food including the riberry (Syzygium luehmannii), however some cultivated varieties do not produce any fruit.

Susceptibility to pimple psyllid (see Watch for) is a key consideration when selecting which lillypilly to grow. Syzygium smithii (syn. Acmena smithii) and Syzygium luehmannii and their cultivars are considered pimple-psyllid resistant.

Growing conditions

Climate Lillypillies are naturally rainforest species that grow in gullies where soil moisture is readily available. Fortunately, they are adaptable to tropical, subtropical, temperate and Mediterranean climates. They cope with moderate frost, often tolerate of temporary flood inundation and are fire resistant. Larger, more established plants can cope with long intervals between rainfall due to their deep roots.

Aspect Full sun to part shade positions are tolerated. Hedges, screening plants and topiary specimens are best planted in full sun if dense, lush growth is to be maintained.

Soil Lillypillies tolerate a range of soil conditions providing soil moisture levels can be maintained. Clay soil is generally well-tolerated as are a range of soil pH levels. Adding organic matter in the form of home-made compost and/or Seasol Super Compost prior to planting is beneficial, particularly in sandy and other well-drained soil.

General Care

Watering Lillypillies require regular, deep watering during establishment. This encourages roots to penetrate into the subsoil where they can access subsurface moisture to sustain them during dry periods. Leaf drop is a common indication of inadequate watering. Seasol or Seasol GOLD applied regularly (every 2 to 4 weeks) is particularly beneficial during establishment, when it is dry or during other periods of stress. Use Seasol Super Soil Wetter & Conditioner to ensure water percolates deep into the soil.

Feeding and mulching Regular nutrition encourages repeat flushes of new growth. You can promote rapid growth on new hedges with fortnightly or monthly applications of liquid PowerFeed All Purpose including Natives. Granular PowerFeed with Troforte All Purpose including Natives provides sustained nutrition for all lillypillies. Apply during spring, summer and autumn. Mulching is recommended to keep plant roots cool in summer and warm in winter. It also helps to keep weeds at bay.

Pruning Shrubs, hedges, topiary and potted plants should be tip pruned regularly during the first twelve months of growth. Heavy pruning of established plants is generally very successful. The best growth response to heavy pruning is achieved during the warmer months of the year.

Watch for Pimple psyllids (Trioza eugeniae) create pimply distortions on new foliage and are often also associated with ants and black sooty mould. The easiest way to avoid this problem is to grow less susceptible species including Syzygium smithii and Syzygium luehmannii, plus varieties bred from these species. Where established plants are affected, you can reduce susceptibility by improving general plant health via fertilizer and watering. Prune off any affected new growth to reduce overall pest numbers.

The native lillypilly beetle (Paropsides calypso) feeds on lillypilly foliage, while it’s curl-grub like larvae feed on the roots and pupate in the soil. Search for adult beetles just before dusk and spray pests directly with EarthCare Enviro Pest Oil insect spray or EarthCare White Oil insect spray. Repeat applications may be required during the growing season as new beetle populations emerge from the soil or fly in from surrounding areas.

Scale insects can be controlled with EarthCare Enviro Pest Oil insect spray or EarthCare White Oil insect spray. Black sooty mould associated with scale infestation will disappear over time as scale is controlled.

As members of the Myrtaceae family, lillypillies are potentially susceptible to myrtle rust. Speak to staff at your local hardware or garden centre about the most disease resistant varieties for your region.