The Australian continent is a wonderland of lush rainforests, vast deserts, golden coasts, rolling grasslands and alpine heights. Such topographical diversity has produced an enormous range in Australia's plant life. While many wild plants have transitioned successfully to home landscapes, other Australian garden plants are popular exotics--those introduced from outside the country. Mixing and matching native and non-native plants provides "Down Under" gardeners with a limitless menu of garden options.
Native to Northern Australia, crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia) trees belong to the loosestrife family. Their lustrous, deep green oval leaves, peeling, reddish-brown bark and profuse white, pink or lavender summer blooms make them exceptional garden plants. The flowers have distinctive, wrinkled petals. Bright red, orange, or bronze autumn foliage add to crape myrtle's appeal, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Gardening website. Both evergreen and deciduous great commercial cultivars are available. Adaptable to a range of soils, the trees perform best in full sun and good drainage. They need additional water during dry summers.
Evergreen kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos) are clumping perennials native to southwestern Australia. Named for their unusual, felt-textured blooms, they have gray- to-deep-green, pointed leaves. Foliage maybe narrow and grassy, or wider and gladiolus-like. During spring and summer, according to Australian Broadcasting Corporation Gardening, their tall stems bear lobed flowers of pink, red, brown, gold or green. The blooms, with and uncanny resemblance to kangaroo paw, are outstanding cut flowers. These plants need full sun and exceptional drainage. They flower best with regular watering during the growing season.
Swan River Daisy
Growing wild in the swamps and along the waterways of Western Australia, annual Swan River daisy (Brachysome iberidifolia) is a bushy, 18-inch high and wide plant. It has grayish-green foliage and spring and summer flowers. The yellow- to black-centered blooms may have white, pink or lavender petals. At their peak, they may completely cover the leaves, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. This daisy likes full sun and fertile, moist well-drained soil. It handles both sand and clay. Cutting back spent flowers will extend its bloom.
Native only to Australia and New Guinea, evergreen banksias bloom from summer to winter depending on species. They may be small trees or low, spreading shrubs, according to the Gardening Australia website. Most banskia varieties have long, serrated, leathery green leaves. Their blossoms range from spheres to cylinders with hundreds of thread-thin, nectar-rich individual flowers. Fruiting seed cones follow the flowers. Cut-leaf banksia (Banksia praemorsa) has irregularly shaped leaves and large, lime-green blooms with red interiors. Banksias like full sun and sandy, well-drained soil. Cutting their flowers will result in heaver blooms and foliage.