The Australian continent's widely different ecosystems have produced hundreds of species of native plants. From its rainforests to its coastal forests and across the Australian Outback, these plants have adapted to a wide range of climatic and soil conditions. A large number of them have also successfully transitioned to life as Brisbane garden plants, where they provide color, form, and even food.
Powderpuff lillypilly (Syzygium wilsonii) is one of 50 myrtle family plants native to Australia. Lillypillies, says the Australian National Botanic Garden (ANBG), are exceptionally popular in the country's gardens and landscapes. Powderpuff lillypilly thrives in the rainforest's infertile soils. Under cultivation, it's effective in patio and rain forest gardens and as a container plant. Powderpuff lillypilly shrub stands between 3 and 10 feet high, with weeping branches. Its narrow, lance-like leaves are reddish brown when new. They mature to have deep green surfaces with lighter undersides. Red, puffy blooms hang from branch ends in spring and summer. Edible, oval white fruit follows. Plant this shrub in a location protected from full sun and wind. Mulch and compost it well and fertilize it frequently. Prune its branch tips to increase flowering. Be patient, because powderpuff lillypilly takes time to establish.
Flax lily (Dianella tasmanica) is a shade-loving perennial native to the forests of New South Wales and Victoria. Its clumps of toothed, narrow green leaves--up to 3 feet long and 1 inch wide-- frequently have red basal edging. From spring to summer, says the ANBG, flax lily has branching stems of lavender to purple, yellow-stamened flowers. Edible, grape-flavored blue berries follow the blooms. Several flax lily cultivars are available for home gardeners. Tasred has reddish foliage and a high tolerance for salt, making it a good choice for coastal gardens. While flax lily performs in full shade, it's happier in a partially shady spot and makes an effective display under trees. Frost-and-drought-tolerant, established flax lilies are low-maintenance plants.
Another easy-care plant, prickly bottlebursh (Callistemon brachyandrus) grows wild in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, where it can reach up to 13 feet high and wide, with needle-narrow leaves. Prickly bottlebrush, says the ANBG, blooms later in the year than other bottlebrushes. Over the summer months, its branches flower profusely with 3-inch, red brush-like blooms. Yellow anthers topping the exposed red stamens give the flowers a gold-tipped appearance. Plant prickly bottlebrush in full sun. Not fussy about drainage, it grows in wet and dry soils. Prune it right after flowering to maintain its shape and promote additional bloom for the following summer. Thrips and scale may attack bottlebrush. Severe infestations merit the attention of a trained horticulturist.