One of the biggest trends in gardening over recent years is the move toward drought tolerant plants and drought tolerant gardens. With many areas of the planet experiencing drought or lower than average rainfall never has there been a better time to look toward garden plants that can survive on a minimal amount of water, flower prolifically over an extended period and are relatively easy to maintain.
Enter the humble Eremophila. With over 215 species and subspecies and an ever growing quantity of hybrids and cultivars, there is an Eremophila to suit nearly any position in the garden or the personal preference of even the fussiest gardener. So it would be safe to conclude that with so many different varieties to choose from then it would not be easy to answer the question……….
“How do I grow Eremophilas?”
Well probably the best way to go about answering this question is to go about it in a general manner and then understand that there will be exceptions to these rules.
Firstly most Eremophilas do like reasonable drainage. They don’t like to be planted in an area where water will sit for some time after rain. Therefore plant them in a well draining soil or if you have a heavier soil or one will a clay subsoil plant them on a slope or a raised garden bed.
This is something that can be overlooked as quite often Eremophilas are turned to in times of drought and as a consequence can be planted in inappropriate places. Therefore they can survive quite happily for many months and even years surviving quite happily on very low rainfall right up until the drought breaks. Then all of a sudden they find the soil they are growing in is wet and boggy and as a consequence they start to deteriorate and because most of the water may be in the sub soil it may not be apparent to the gardener and all of sudden the gardener starts scratching their head wondering what the problem is. Therefore where you plant your Eremophilas can be quite important.
Generally speaking most Eremophilas also prefer to grow in full sun. In their natural environment they tend to grow in open arid areas devoid of larger trees that could provide shelter so in the home garden they will perform best in an area that gets sunshine for the majority of the day.
Most Eremophilas respond well to pruning as well and as a consequence well pruned Eremophilas will flower more prolifically and make a much better garden specimen. The best time to prune is after flowering but with some species care should be taken in Autumn as you may find that some will then not grow again until the following spring.
Mulching is a practice that is also beneficial as it will maintain water near the roots where it needs to be. Many gardeners have a tendency to use organic mulches and these can be beneficial as they do break down and provide nutrients to the soil. I have a preference for inorganic mulches though as they don’t absorb rainfall and allow water to run off and into the soil below. Lets face it, organic mulches are great for keeping water in but if you live in a low rainfall area you must accept that quite a bit of the precious rainfall will be absorbed by the organic mulch and it will only be the excess rainfall that will eventually make it’s way to the soil below.
As I said organic mulches are great for keeping water in but next time you get some light rain (say 5mm) go and check just how much of that rainwater actually made its way to the soil below. Therefore the thickness of your organic should reflect your rainfall and watering habits. I use 20mm stones as mulch, as the rain just runs straight off them and into the soil below plus they look great as well.
Most Eremophilas will withstand some frost as most grow naturally in open areas that do experience freezing conditions over winter. If you live in an area that gets regular heavy frost though you may have to protect your Eremophilas as there aren’t many varieties that will stand up to these conditions. If you do live in a frost prone area then select your plants wisely as not all varieties do withstand frost.
Wind can be a problem for some Eremophilas as well as some varieties do have very brittle branches but you will find that most are tolerant of average wind conditions and some make great windbreaks as well.
Therefore these are just some of the basics about growing Eremophilas. I’ve got over 20 different varieties growing in my garden and have found them all to be hardy and easy to grow, so over a period of time I’ll get around to writing about them all but in the meantime if you haven’t got an Eremophila growing in your garden then keep an eye out for them when next in a nursery and maybe you’ll end up falling for them as well, just like I did.