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Grow Guide: Kurrajong Tree (Brachychiton populneus)

The Kurrajong tree is a small to medium native Australian tree that is popular for street scaping or for use as a lovely shade tree.

Featured Image: Brachychiton populneus / Photo by John Robert McPherson / Wikimedia (cropped) / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Kurrajong tree has a dense canopy with glossy green leaves and produces cream flowers that have purple or pink throats from spring right through until autumn.

Apart from being an attractive shade tree, many parts of the Kurrajong tree have been used for food by Indigenous Australians.

For example, the seeds can be roasted and eaten or ground up to make bread. The tap root is also edible and tastes similar to a carrot.

Kurrajong Tree Brachychiton populneus seed pods | Plant care
Brachychiton populneus seed pods

Kurrajong tree varieties

There are various cultivars and hybrids that have been bred over the years using the Kurrajong tree. These include:

B. populneus x acerifolius ‘Jerilderie Red’

A smaller growing tree, this one only reaches a height of around 8 metres and a width of around 7 metres. It has the same glossy green foliage but the flowers are a stunning bright red in colour. 

B. populneus x acerifolius ‘Bella Pink’

This is another hybrid cross between Brachychiton populneus and Brachychiton acerifolius but this one has pretty salmon-pink flowers. It’s a grafted tree which makes it slightly more compact and ideal for smaller gardens.

B. populneus x acerifolius ‘Bella Donna’

This hybrid has a pyramid shape and bright pink flowers. The new foliage is bright red in colour but changes to green as it matures. This variety has a large trunk and the leaves are lobed. It creates a nice dense canopy making it perfect for a shade tree.

B. populneus x discolor ‘Griffith Pink’

This variety is a hybrid cross between B. populneus and B. discolor. It also has a pyramid shape and masses of bright pink flowers. The leaves are quite large and lobed and these create a nice dense canopy.

Choosing a location and preparing the soil

You should choose a sunny spot to plant your kurrajong tree. This will ensure that the tree produces masses of flowers from spring onwards.

kurrajong tree flowers | Plant care
Brachychiton populneus flowers / Photo by Kovax3 / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

Being a hardy and drought-tolerant tree, it is not too fussy about the soil it grows in and is quite adaptable to many different areas around the country. In fact, it will happily grow in a variety of different soils from sandy to clay loam, and will even handle poor soils.

Brachychiton populneus will grow in most regions around the country from sub-tropical climates to cooler areas as it is also frost-tolerant.

Therefore, special soil preparation is not necessary as long as the soil is well-drained.

How to plant your kurrajong tree

Planting your kurrajong tree is as easy as it gets. Just dig a hole that is twice the width and as deep as the pot that the tree is currently in.

hole for plant | Plant care
Dig a hole that is twice the size of the pot your kurrajong tree is in.

Take the tree out of its pot and place it in the centre of the hole. Backfill the hole with the excavated soil and firm it down gently. Water your newly planted tree and apply a layer of mulch to the top of the soil.

How to care for your kurrajong tree

Kurrajong trees are hardy and low-maintenance plants. Therefore, they don’t require any special care. While your tree is still young, you might want to ensure that it gets a little water when conditions are very dry.

Kurrajong Tree Brachychiton populneus 2 | Plant care
Brachychiton populneus / Photo by John Robert McPherson / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 4.0

Once established, the tree is very drought-tolerant but will drop its leaves during extended periods of dry weather. However, the leaves will grow back once the tree receives water.

You can fertilise your young tree once a year in spring with a balanced slow-release fertiliser. 

The kurrajong tree also handles pruning quite well. Therefore, if you want to limit the size of your tree, you can prune and shape it to the desired size that you’re after. 

In fact, if you want a nicely shaped tree with a lovely shade canopy, you might need to prune off some of the lower-growing lateral branches so that you end up with a clean trunk and a dense canopy.

For a very low-maintenance shade tree in your garden that also looks attractive, you really can’t go past Brachychiton populneus.

Kurrajong tree problems, pests and diseases

There are a few pests and diseases that can affect kurrajong trees but these are more common for trees grown in rural areas or on farms. Here are some problems to watch out for.

Mistletoe

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that can attach itself to the kurrajong tree and kill an entire branch. Trees that are subject to periods of drought are more affected by this pest.

The best way to rid your tree of a mistletoe growth is to cut off the affected branch below the point of attachment. Once you’ve done this, give your tree a little extra care by watering it and applying some fertiliser.

Kurrajong weevil

This pest mostly attacks stressed or old trees that have been affected by drought. The larva of this pest buries into the wood of the tree and can damage it. Unfortunately, insecticides are usually ineffective in controlling this pest. 

Kurrajong seed weevil

This particular pest only attacks the seed pods as the larvae feed on the seeds. It will not reduce the vigour of your tree.

Kurrajong leaf-tier

This pest is a moth that lays its eggs on the leaves. Once the larvae hatch, they mat the leaves together with a silk thread that they produce. The best way to get rid of these pests is just to clip off the damaged leaves with the larvae inside and dispose of them.

Wear protection if harvesting the seed pods

One important point that you should be aware of is that the seed pods contain numerous fine hairs that can be extremely irritating to the skin and eyes.

Therefore, if you want to harvest the seeds, be sure to wear gloves, long sleeves, and eye protection. 

FAQ

Are Kurrajong trees fast growing?

No, kurrajong trees are actually quite slow-growing. In fact, it can take around 7 to 8 years for a tree to reach a height of 5 to 6 metres.

How long does it take to grow a Kurrajong tree?

You may be surprised to learn that it can take around 35 to 50 years for a kurrajong tree to reach full maturity and a maximum height of 20 metres.

Are Kurrajong tree roots invasive?

Kurrajong trees have deep roots, so they are not considered invasive. However, the roots will search for water, so these trees should be planted at least 3.5 metres away from water or sewerage pipes.

What are the Indigenous Australian uses for the Kurrajong tree?

Indigenous Australians use the seeds from the kurrajong tree by either roasting them or grounding them up to make a coffee substitute or to make bread. They also use the taproot as a vegetable.

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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