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Cultivation

The New South Wales Waratah, Telopea speciosissima is a large, long-lived shrub or tree that generally grows to 3m in height.

After fires, which are common in its natural habitat, a Waratah can regenerate from a 'lignotuber' - a woody swelling of its stem that lies partly or wholly under the ground.

Waratahs should be planted at least 1.5m apart, or into very large pots (like a half wine barrel), in a partially shaded area that is able to receive morning sun. 

Growing guide

Partially shaded with morning sun is best, although Waratahs will grow in full sun.

In the Southern hemisphere, Waratahs will not survive on south facing walls. Transplant in autumn to a wind protected area if needed. 

Dig a hole to twice the width of the pot. This allows and encourages the roots to expand into the space around them and begin to search for their own water and nutrients.

​Waratahs are poor competitors and will not perform well close to most eucalypts, so should be planted away at least the distance of the height of a mature tree.

Frost
They are fairly frost tolerant once established. In winter they can generally handle frosts around minus 2 degrees Celsius, whilst some varieties are more hardy tolerating frosts of minus 6 degrees Celsius.

Drainage
The area where one proposes to plant Waratah should be tested for drainage by digging a hole the size of a bucket and filling the hole with water and observing the time it takes to drain away, if this is less than 5 minutes it is satisfactory and a good start.

Areas naturally growing bracken have grown Waratahs well in the past. If drainage is a problem, a raised bed or pot incorporating crushed sandstone may be an alternative. 
 

Although they are reasonably tough, make sure you water your plant well after planting. Once established it’s important to water at least twice a week in the first summer and preferably daily when it's especially hot.

The soil around the roots should not completely dry out when the plant is young. You can gradually reduce watering as the plant becomes established- about 2 years after planting. 

 
 

You can gently tease roots out to encourage them  to grow into the surrounding soil. When planting, ensure your plant is not placed into the hole any deeper than it was in the pot. The top of the root ball should be level with the top of the garden bed.

Waratahs and other native plants are sensitive to phosphorus which is the base of most general fertilizers. We recommend you only plant in old flower beds if no phosphorus fertiliser has been previously used.

Waratahs are best grown away from plants which require regular feeding. Avoid mushroom composts as they contain salts harmful to Waratahs. It is also best to avoid applying blood and bone, manures and products made from them such as dynamic lifter, as the nutrient balance is not suitable for Waratahs.

Cultivated Waratahs require heavy pruning once established, as well as pruning off any weak stems. About 3/4 of the plant should be removed immediately after flowering to reinvigorate the plants. New shoots should flower the following year. 

Bract browning occurs prior to Waratah harvest, caused by direct sun exposure. Considered to be the most serious impediment to the development of an export market for the product, we suggest using a shade cloth to protect plants from light damage.

Waratahs are susceptible to many pests and diseases. The most dam­aging are the root rot diseases, caused by the introduced Phyto­phthora fungus. This disease is characterised by desiccated light brown leaves and a withered stem.

Over- and under-watering and ex­cessive use of fertiliser can predi­spose plants to these diseases. Be vigilant for insect infestations. Moth-borers, which bore into the flower buds and destroy the de­veloping flowers, are most active during the autumn and winter months. White Palm Scale (Phenacaspis eugeniae) is active during warmer times of the year. 
 
White Palm Scale, Pseudaulacaspis eugeniae (Maskell), is the common scale found in Waratahs in and around Sydney.  This is also called Oleander Scale and Waratah Scale. It is a type of hard scale.

How to detect the presence of scales in a bush
When spots (discoloured patches) appear on the upper surface of leaves, the lower surface of leaves should be checked for the presence of the scales. Another indicator for the presence of scales is the presence of ants on the bush, particularly when the flowers are infested. The ants feed on the honey dew secreted by the scales as excreta, and they tend to congregate around the scales.

How to manage scales on Waratahs
- Biological. There are predators like ladybird beetles and which attack and feed on young and adult scales. There are also tiny wasps which parasitise scale insects. They pierce through the white armour of the adult females with their needle like ovipositor and lay their eggs into the fleshy bodies of the scales.

- Mechanical. If only few bushes are infested, scrubbing and scraping the plant surface where the scales are found will dislodge the scales. Once dislodged, they will starve and die as they dry out exposed to the air. Or use secateurs to cut off an affected branch.

- Chemical. Spraying affected plants with an approved pest oil will help to suffocate scale. Repeat sprays will be necessary.