Gardening tip: Planting under gum trees

By Jeff Howes, Heather Miles

From Jeff Howes:

To maximize your success establishing new plants to grow under gum trees, plant them as close to the trunk as possible. The reasons you do this are: there are very few tree feeder roots to rob your plant of nutrients and moisture.

The second and less obvious is all about increasing the moisture of the soil. During rain, a lot of water runs down the trunks of the tree and hence toward your newly planted plant.

From Heather Miles:

Under gum trees, showing Dianella, Brenia and Cissus, image Heather Miles

I’ve found great success with a couple of approaches:

  • The first is to use the Dianellas – these cover the ground up to the tree, and produce lovely little blue flowers and berries on a regular basis. They are an alternative to Mondo Grass or Liriope. 
  • A second idea is to grow Cissus antartica, Kangaroo Vine. This vine will soon cover the ground – you just have to stop it climbing up the tree!
  • A third option is to grow Breynia oblongifolia. This is a pioneer plant in the native bush. I think it is underrated as a garden plant, with its soft greyish leaves. It doesnt like much pruning, but it is a good option to surround a gum tree, and fits right in.
  • A fourth option is a tree like Dodonaea megazyga. Another pioneer plant, it has soft drooping lime green leaves and delightful soft green flowers. I got these from a local nursery, when someone ordered but then didnt want them. The bark is also delightful. 

You might think that I experimented with all these – but the fact is that the birds brought in the Cissus and Breynia, and my only contribution was to let them grow! However the Dianella and Dodonaea were deliberately planted and I’m very happy with the beautiful native grove they all create. 

Dodonaea megazyga, image Heather Miles
Dodonaea megazyga, image Heather Miles