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Australian Native Small Trees: Our Top Picks

From Banksias to Wattles, native trees are low-maintenance and attract birds and insects to your garden.

Featured Image: Callistemon salignus / Photo by Dinesh Valke / Flickr (cropped) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Choosing Australian native trees to plant in your garden is good for the environment and the local wildlife.

These trees are perfectly suited to our soils and are loved by birds and other native animals.

Plus, there are plenty of really attractive trees to choose from.

Acacia baileyana (Cootamundra Wattle)

Acacia baileyana Cootamundra Wattle | Native plants
Acacia baileyana / Photo by John Jennings / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

This fast-growing wattle has lovely grey foliage and bright yellow flowers in winter.

You always know that spring is just around the corner when you see this wattle in full bloom as it becomes completely covered with flowers.

The Cootamundra wattle can reach a height of around 6 to 8 metres. It can handle most soil types and will be happy in either full sun or light shade. It will even tolerate light frosts.

Best of all, the tree is particularly attractive to bees and seed-eating birds.

Acacia longifolia (Sydney Golden Wattle)

Acacia longifolia | Native plants

You’ll be absolutely stunned by the mass of bright yellow flower spikes that appear in late winter and early spring. This beautiful wattle can reach a height of around 7 metres.

If you’re looking for an effective screening plant, then this wattle may suit your needs as it can spread to a width of 4 metres.

Acacia longifolia is also both frost and drought-tolerant. It prefers to grow in full sun and well-drained soil.

Melaleuca nesophila (Showy Honey-myrtle)

Melaleuca nesophila Showy Honey myrtle | Native plants
Melaleuca nesophila / Photo by Consultaplantas / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 4.0

This small-growing tree will only reach a height of around 5 metres. It has typical melaleuca green foliage and very pretty pink pompom flowers in spring and summer. 

It will grow in most soil types and is happy in full sun or part shade.

It will also tolerate heavy frosts and is extremely attractive to nectar-eating birds, bees, and butterflies.

Angophora hispida (Dwarf Apple)

Angophora hispida Dwarf Apple | Native plants
Angophora hispida / Photo by Margaret Donald / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

This lovely summer-flowering tree can grow to a height of around 6 metres. In summer, this tree is covered with large clusters of fluffy cream-coloured flowers.

Nectar-feeding birds absolutely love these flowers and will flock to your yard in droves. The flowers also attract a variety of colourful beetles.

When not in bloom, the tree will astonish you with its beautiful bark and gorgeous new growth that is red in colour.

When young, the tree will need some frost protection but will be more tolerant once it becomes fully established.

It will grow happily in a sunny position but will tolerate some light shade.

Did you know?

Many native Australian plants are adapted to low-nutrient soils, especially low in phosphorus.

Over-fertilising, particularly with high phosphorus fertilisers, can harm these plants. It’s best to use a slow-release, low-phosphorus fertiliser, specifically formulated for native plants.

We recommend this native fertiliser from Amgrow, designed to promote healthy root growth, lush foliage, and increased flowering, without overwhelming native species.

Pincushion Hakea (Hakea laurina)

Hakea laurina | Native plants
Pincushion Hakea I Photo by Jean and Fred I Flickr I CC BY 2.0

Hakea Laurina is only a small tree that can reach a height of around 6 metres.

The red, white, cream, and pink pincushion flowers appear from late autumn and throughout winter. 

The Pincushion Hakea has a non-invasive root system so is suitable for planting close to a house.

Banksia ericifolia (Heath Banksia)

Heath leaved Banksia | Native plants
Heath Banksia / Photo by John Tann / Flickr (cropped) / CC BY 2.0

If you decide to plant a Heath banksia in your garden, you’ll be delighted with the large orange flower heads. This banksia has a dense growth habit and can grow to a height of around 7 metres.

This fast-growing native tree also attracts a variety of native bird species.

The Heath Banksia will grow happily in most soils and prefers a sunny position but will tolerate some light shade. It will also handle light frosts without a problem.

You’ll find that both bees and butterflies will swarm to this banksia when the gorgeous flowers bloom.

Callistemon salignus (Willow Bottlebrush)

Callistemon salignus Willow Bottlebrush | Native plants
Callistemon salignus / Photo by Dinesh Valke / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

This is perhaps one of the hardiest bottlebrush trees you will ever grow. It can tolerate both waterlogged soils and periods of drought.

The attractive new growth is red in colour and the lovely bottlebrush flowers are white to cream.

This native flowering tree will grow to a height of around 10 metres but it’s a good idea to plant it well away from buildings because the roots can become invasive.

The Willow Bottlebrush will grow in full sun or part shade and can even tolerate heavy frosts.

Eucalyptus caesia (Gungurru, Silver Princess)

Eucalyptus caesia Gungurru Silver Princess | Native plants
Eucalyptus caesia / Photo by Consultaplantas / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 4.0

This stunning eucalypt will delight you with its grey-green foliage and stunning red flowers in winter and early spring. It can grow to a height of around 9 metres.

When in bloom, the branches are weighed down and this accentuates the pendulous growth habit of this tree.

When young, the tree should be protected from frost until it becomes more established in the garden. Providing some shelter from nearby trees and shrubs is ideal.

Gungurru trees are also extremely drought-tolerant.

Eucalyptus pulverulenta (Silver-leaved Mountain Gum)

Eucalyptus pulverulenta Silver leaved Mountain Gum | Native plants
Eucalyptus pulverulenta / Photo by Murray Fagg / ala.org.au, Wikimedia / CC BY 3.0 AU

This particular eucalypt is quite unique among gum trees because it very rarely produces adult leaves.

Instead, the leaves remain in their juvenile form and are somewhat rounded and almost silver in colour. 

This tree will also produce flowers for around six months of the year from May through to November. The flowers are cream in colour and appear in clusters of three.

Interestingly, this tree will respond really well to pruning and the foliage is commonly used in the floristry industry.

Syzygium australe (Creek Lilly Pilly)

Syzygium Australe Lilly Pilly hedge 3 | Native plants

Syzygium australe is a beautiful Australian native plant that belongs to the myrtle family. Common names for it include Brush Cherry and Creek Lilly Pilly. This evergreen tree or shrub has a dense, bushy habit and can reach heights of up to 10 metres.

The leaves have a pointed tip, are oval in form, and are glossy dark green. The new growth frequently has a reddish-bronze hue, which raises the decorative value of the plant.

Summer brings out clusters of tiny, white blooms. The fruit is a tiny berry that turns crimson or purple when ripe. Syzygium australe is a popular option for landscaping, hedging, and screening.

Dicksonia Antarctica (Soft Tree Fern)

Dicksonia Antarctica Soft Tree Fern | Native plants

The native Dicksonia Antarctica plant is a stunning fern species that is native to Australia. This plant will typically grow to around 5 metres tall. With its thick and fibrous trunk, and large frond-like leaves that sprawl outwards, it is a unique plant for any garden.

The Dicksonia Antarctica plant is incredibly robust and able to endure various temperatures and environmental conditions, thus it is a preferred choice among gardeners and landscapers.

Callistemon citrinus (Crimson Bottlebrush)

Crimson bottlebrush callistemon citrinus | Native plants

If you’re looking for a plant that’s both beautiful and native to Australia, then Callistemon citrinus might just be the one for you! This stunning plant is also known as the Crimson Bottlebrush, and it’s easy to see why. Its vibrant red flowers are shaped like a bottlebrush, and they’re sure to catch your eye.

But Callistemon citrinus isn’t just a pretty face. It’s also a hardy plant that can thrive in a variety of conditions. It’s drought-tolerant, so it can handle dry spells without needing too much water. And it’s also resistant to most pests and diseases.

One of the best things about Callistemon citrinus is that it attracts wildlife. Its flowers are a favourite of bees, butterflies, and native birds.

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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