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Wattles (Acacia species) 

Wattle is the common name for Acacia, a large genus of native evergreen trees and shrubs, found throughout Australia. There are around 1200 species of Acacia in Australia and many flower in winter. The golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha) is Australia’s floral emblem. Wattle Day is celebrated on September 1 in Australia.

Wattles are mostly valued as fast-growing small trees that are often used to establish shelter plantings for new gardens or nurse trees for slower growing trees and for their colourful yellow to cream flowers. Most are bird and insect attracting due to their flowers. Prickly, shrubby species are also good habitat for small birds. Some wattles are also grown for their attractive and colourful leaves, check out your local hardware or garden centre for varieties that suit your area. Here are a few to consider:

Shrubs

  • Acacia cognata ‘Limelight’, has narrow lime green leaves and a compact, weeping habit. It is a great addition to any garden, rockery, or pot.
  • Acacia cognata ‘Fettucini’, is outstanding in any garden for its extremely rippled, lime green foliage throughout the year. New coppery tone foliage adds an additional feature to its display.
  • Acacia cognata ‘Dazzler’ is a compact evergreen with vivid green foliage. Ideal in the garden or a pot, it adds a softness to any landscape.
  • Acacia acinacea ‘Gold Dust Wattle’ A fasting growing hardy small to medium shrub with red buds which open to golden flowers in spring.

Trees

  • Acacia pycnantha ‘Golden Wattle’ has masses of yellow balls of flowers which attract birds, native butterflies and insects. It is a fast growing ornamental shade tree between 2 to 10 metres.
  • Acacia linearifolia ‘Stringy Bark Wattle’ is an erect spreading shrub or evergreen tree to 10 metres. It has fluffy yellow balls from spring onwards.
  • Acacia cognata ‘Green Screen’ has masses of yellow globular flowers covering the tree in winter. Plant as an attractive feature tree with its weeping bright green, narrow foliage.
  • Acacia mearnsii ‘Common Black Wattle’ has striking features, from its green leaves to pale yellow to cream flowers and black to reddish-brown pods. Use as a feature tree in a large garden as it can reach up to 10 metres.
  • Acacia cognata ‘Green Screen’ has masses of yellow globular flowers covering the tree in winter. Plant as an attractive feature tree for its weeping bright green, narrow foliage.
  • Acacia baileyana ‘ Cootamundra Wattle’ is a beautiful small feature tree with feathery grey weeping foliage and bright yellow, golden flowers.
  • Acacia melanoxylon ‘Blackwood Wattle’ forms a majestic and long-lived tree in cool climates where they are often used as windbreaks or boundary plantings on large properties.

Although wattles are often considered to cause allergies the flowers tend to have heavy pollen, which is not widely dispersed by wind.

Growing conditions

Aspect Full sun to part shade.

Soil Widely adaptable but best with good drainage.

Climate Suits all climates – select species native to your local area.

General care

Watering Adequate and regular water is important when first planted, but most wattles are adaptable and drought tolerant once established.

Feeding and mulching PowerFeed with Troforte All Purpose including Natives is suitable for all wattles. Add to the soil prior to planting and reapply after flowering and pruning.  You can also boost growth at any time of year with liquid PowerFeed All Purpose including Natives. 

Use leaf litter, fine gravel or a coarse wood mulch around the base of the plant to suppress weeds and retain soil moisture during dry times.

Pruning Little pruning is needed, but wattles can be pruned to shape and after flowering to reduce seeding, especially where the species may self-sow and become weedy.

Watch for These plants may develop borer and dieback as they reach the end of their lifespan. Remove old trees to make way for longer-term plantings.