If you’re going to grow Eremophilas successfully in your garden then one of the most important tasks you can do is to prune them when required and the great thing about Eremophilas is that most respond really well to pruning.
But firstly why would you want to prune your Eremophilas in the first place? Well, one of my favourite things to do is go Open Gardens that grow Australian Native Plants and one of the things I’ve discovered is many gardeners don’t bother pruning their Eremophilas and as such many don’t grow into the most attractive garden plants. They can grow rather untidily which I supose doesn’t really give the uneducated gardener any real incentive to go out and plant some Eremophilas in their own garden.
Therefore I’ve often wondered why a plant that responds so well to pruning and shaping gets such neglected treatment in so many gardens? Is it because a lot of gardeners don’t know how to prune properly or is there another reason?
Anyway what I’ve discovered over the years is that if you do prune your Eremophilas correctly and when required, you can very easily transform them into very attractive garden plants that flower a lot more prolifically, can be maintained in a more attractive and manageable size and will probably live many years longer.
So how do you prune your Eremophilas?
Well firstly it should be stated that Eremophilas aren’t unique in how you go about pruning them and most of these methods can be used for pruning other Australian Native Plants, as well as most other garden plants in general for that matter.
So the first thing you should do is tip prune your Eremophilas when they’re young, whether you’ve grown it from a cutting, propagated it from seed or bought it from a nursery. This is one thing that is often overlooked especially with nursery bought plants. Quite often when you buy your Eremophila from the nursery it will be covered in flowers and your first instinct is to plant it is the ground and admire the flowers. My advice is if you really like to look at the flowers (and who doesn’t) then you’re better of tip pruning it and then waiting for the flowers the following season because they will be more prolific then than if you don’t tip prune it.
The other advantage from tip pruning your Eremophila when young is it will put less pressure on the roots to support it and hold it upright when young. Can I ask you how many times you’ve planted a nursery bought plant or even one you’ve grown from a cutting, removed the small stake and it’s nearly fallen over. The roots still haven’t had a chance to develop in the pot so they still aren’t strong enough to support the weight of the plant.
Of course you can always leave the stake in place and then risk one of the following happening. Either you will forget about and it eventually becomes part of the plant as the plant grows around it or you remember and one day remove it and the plant just falls over anyway as the plant has grown up using the stake to support it as the roots have had little incentive to grow and support the plant as they should.
Therefore what I do is remove the stake and then tip prune the Eremophila which reduces the weight of the plant above ground level so it can then (in most cases) be easily supported by the under developed root system. You will then find that roots will develop as the top half of the plant develops and as a result you will find that the Eremophila will develop a strong root system that will easily support the weight of a fully developed bushy Eremophila.
So what if I live in a really windy area I here you say?
Well firstly when you prune your Eremophila you’ll find that there will be less of the plant exposed to the effects of the wind and secondly if you really need to you can always add a temporary flexible tie and attach it to a small stake that is away from the plant. The intention here is to give the plant just enough support to stop it from blowing over but not too much support so that it won’t still move around in the wind. Remember it is this movement in the wind which will help make the roots grow and develop strong. As a very famous man once said, “you can’t fly without gravity”.
So if you tip prune your Eremophilas right from the start you will get them off to a good start.
The next general rule I use is to prune them after they finish flowering. How hard you prune them will then depend on the individual plant, your preference and how old the plant is. Eremophilas, generally speaking can withstand some very harsh pruning. Therefore if you have older bushes that are looking quite tired you may be able to cut them right back to bare branches that will regrow again. This could be a great way to rejuvenate an older bush. Younger bushes might just need another tip prune for there second prune and then more mature bushes may respond from pruning up to 2/3 of their size if you want to limit their overall size.
The most important thing about pruning is to get to know your individual species and hybrids. Some will respond slightly differently and the best way to find out what is best for a particular plant is to experiment. When pruning, prune part of the Eremophila back more than you feel comfortable and then wait and see how it responds. If it grows back then you then know that in the future you can prune it back really hard if you need to. If it doesn’t then you know that it’s best not to prune it back below the green growth where it normally grows back from.
When to prune you Eremophilas is very important as well. If you prune late in autumn there is a fair chance that the plant won’t start to grow again until the following spring. I have a pink form of Eremophila Maculata growing in my garden that flowers quite prolifically over winter and most years will get quite a harsh prune in spring to keep it to a reasonable size that I’m happy with. During the spring of 2008 though, it just kept on flowering and then continued to flower right throughout summer and then into early autumn. I just couldn’t bring myself to prune it until early autumn and then I only got around to pruning the back part of it because the front half still had flowers on it. When the front finally finished flowering I then pruned the rest of the bush in late autumn. By this stage the back of the plant had started to regrow and then stopped because the weather had started to cool. The rest of the bush then didn’t regrow until the following spring but amazingly it still did have some flowers on it over winter, it’s normal flowering season.
Therefore pruning during autumn should be avoided unless you know for certain your Eremophila will still continue grow throughout winter. Of course your local climate will some effect on this as well depending on how harsh or mild your winter is.
Another technique I often use during the growing season is to pinch out the growing tips of branches to encourage even more branching. Say for instance if your Eremophila flowers over winter you will probably prune it during spring and then by mid or late summer it should have put on quite a considerable amount of growth again. You may also find the some of the branches on the new growth are protruding above the rest of the growth. As a consequence, if you want, you can then go and tip prune this protruding growth which will encourage more growth below where you’ve pruned and in turn increase the flowers it will produce during the upcoming winter. The important consideration here though is you should make sure you don’t do this too late in autumn for the very reasons I mentioned earlier.
So these are just a few basic pruning tips. You don’t have to prune your Eremophilas every year. The best tip is to tip prune right from the start as this will get your Eremophila off to a good start and you will find that in many cases if you’ve pruned well, you may not have to prune again the following year. The advantage with this is that many Eremophilas will put on a second flush of flowers and some will just continue to flower right through spring and into summer.
So pruning can be a personal thing. Not all gardeners are into it but if you are and not sure how best to go about it then I hope you’ve found this short article of interest.