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Grow Guide: Adenanthos sericeus (Woolly Bush)

The woolly bush is an outstanding feature plant and can be grown in the garden or in a large pot.

Adenanthos sericeus is native to the west coast of Australia but it will grow in many other regions as well. It’s a delightful shrub with soft green foliage and an upright growth habit.

It’s actually a member of the Proteaceae family, which can be evident in its growth habit as this is similar to other genera in this plant family such as proteas and leucodendrons.

The woolly bush is an outstanding feature plant and can be grown in the garden or in a large pot. It’s particularly suited to coastal areas and makes the perfect native Christmas tree.

When planted close together as a hedge, the woolly bush makes an excellent screening plant and requires very little maintenance.

Generally, it will reach a height of up to 3 metres and will spread to a width of up to 3 metres as well. In the right conditions, small coral flowers will appear at the tips of the stems and these attract native birds to your garden.

Adenanthos sericeus Woolly Bush flower | Plant care

Here’s everything you need to know to grow a woolly bush in your garden.

Light requirements

You can grow the woolly bush in full sun but it can also handle part shade. This makes it ideal for many different areas of your garden.

Temperature and humidity

The woolly bush is regarded as a Mediterranean plant so it prefers hot dry summers. However, it has grown successfully in more humid areas such as the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

In humid regions, it’s important to ensure that the soil is very free-draining to keep the plant healthy and thriving.

Adenanthos sericeus Woolly Bush | Plant care

Soil requirements

In its natural habitat, the woolly bush grows in sandy granite soil. So, if you can emulate these conditions, your plant will absolutely thrive.

Above all, the soil needs to be well-drained with a neutral pH. However, the plant will tolerate slightly acidic or alkaline soils too.

If you have loamy soil, you can grow this lovely plant as well as long as the soil is free-draining.

Water requirements

While your plant is young and just newly planted, it’s a good idea to water it at least once a week to allow the roots to become well-established. It’s recommended that you do this for the first 6 months.

After this, the woolly bush is relatively drought-tolerant and should survive just on rainwater alone. However, during long periods of dry weather, you might want to give it some additional water.

Fertiliser

Being an Australian native shrub, the woolly bush is used to growing in fairly infertile soils so it will generally not require regular fertilising.

However, if you want to give your plant a boost, make sure that you use a native fertiliser that is low in phosphorus.

Pruning

If you love its natural shape, there’s no need to prune your woolly bush regularly. That’s why it makes such a good low-maintenance screening or hedging plant.

Many gardeners who grow this plant only give it a gentle prune to accentuate its shape. However, it can easily handle heavier pruning if you’re after a more formal hedge or even a topiary.

Problems, pests and diseases

Like most native plants, the woolly bush is not prone to any serious pests or diseases. However, there are a couple of things you should look out for.

Mealybugs

These annoying sap-sucking insects may infect your lovely woolly bush on rare occasions. However, they can simply be washed off with a strong blast of water from your hose.

For a more severe mealybug infestation, you can resort to using an oil-based spray such as eco oil, neem oil or white oil. Be sure to repeat this until all the bugs are gone.

Dieback

Dieback seems to be a common problem for many native plants. It’s caused by a fungus known as Phytophthora cinnamomi.

The fungal spores live in the soil and can remain dormant there for a long period of time when the weather is dry. Once the soil is disturbed and moisture is added, the fungus can become active and infest your plant.

Dieback can be identified as diseased or unhealthy sections on your plant. This is best treated with a special solution that you can get from a local nursery. 

For larger plants, you might want to call in an arborist who will inject your plant with the required solution to effectively combat dieback.

To avoid the incidence of dieback, make sure that use good hygiene practices in your garden. Always clean and sterilise your tools after use, especially your pruning tools. 

How to grow Adenanthos sericeus in a pot

The woolly bush is perfect for growing in a large pot and makes a fantastic living Christmas tree. 

Make sure that you select a large pot in order to accommodate the growth of the shrub. Use a premium potting mix that is specifically designed for Australian native plants as this will be lower in phosphorus.

Ensure that the pot has adequate drainage holes so that the mix doesn’t stay constantly wet. Water your potted plant at least once every couple of weeks and give it some low-phosphorus native fertiliser at least once a year.

FAQ

Is a woolly bush fast-growing?

The native Australian woolly bush is definitely fast-growing. Especially, when it is grown in free-draining soil and receives ample sunlight. It can reach its full height in only 5 years.

Are woolly bush roots invasive?

As the woolly bush grows as a tall shrub and not a tree, the roots are not considered as invasive. However, the shrub does send up new growth from the base and this could easily encroach on other areas of your garden if not controlled.

Is a woolly bush native to Australia?

The woolly bush is native to the west coast of Australia where it grows freely in sandy granite soils.

How wide does a woolly bush grow?

If left to grow naturally, the woolly bush can reach a maximum width of 3 metres. However, a width of 1.5 metres is more common for this plant when grown in cultivation.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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