All You Need to Know About the Lilly Pilly Root System

Lilly pillies are popular Australian native plants that gardeners like to grow both as feature plants and also as screening or hedging plants.

Lilly pillies are perfect as screening plants because they love to be pruned and shaped. Plus, they attract birds and wildlife to your garden.

But before planting lilly pillies in your garden, you may wonder what type of root system these small trees have as this will determine where you can grow them.

What type of root system does a lilly pilly have?

A lilly pilly has a spreading root system rather than a long taproot like many other native trees such as eucalypts.

The roots of a lilly pilly will spread for quite a long way as they go in search of water.

Do lilly pillies have invasive roots?

In general, Lilly pillies have non-invasive root systems. However, their roots can travel underground for up to 7 metres in search of water.

If these roots happen to find a leaky pipe underground, it could mean further problems as they break through the damaged pipes to access the water.

However, as long as the pipes are not damaged and there is no water leakage, the roots will not cause any damage to them.

In fact, even if Lilly pilly roots don’t find any water, the plant will acclimatise and survive in relatively dry conditions.

However, according to Brisbane Trees, the wild cultivars of Syzygium australe can have an aggressive root system, so it’s best to stick to cultivars that have been bred especially for planting in backyards.

Keeping the top growth in check with regular pruning will also help to contain the root system.

Does the root system vary between Lilly pilly varieties?

It makes sense that the root system in different Lilly pilly varieties would vary somewhat.

All of the natural species would have a similar root system as they have similar growth habits.

However, dwarf cultivars will likely have a smaller root system because they do not grow as large.

Plus, Lilly pillies that are grown in pots would also have a more restrictive root system than those grown in the ground.

What you need to keep in mind is that Lilly pilly root systems will grow in direct proportion to the size of each plant.


How far do you plant Lilly Pilly from fence?

As Lilly pillies generally do not have invasive roots, you can plant them quite close to a fence. The distance depends on the variety you’re growing. Generally, if a Lilly pilly variety has the capacity to reach a width of 2 metres, you can safely plant these at a distance of 1 metre from the fence.

How much space does a Lilly Pilly need?

The amount of space a Lilly pilly needs will depend on the variety that you’re growing. Many varieties grow into small trees but there are also dwarf cultivars available that are much smaller. In addition, there are cultivars that have been bred to have a more columnar shape to make them better for hedging.

How long does it take for Lilly pilly to establish?

It doesn’t take all that long for a Lilly pilly to become established. They are relatively fast-growing and some varieties can grow up to 2 metres in just one year.

How high do Lilly pillies grow?

Lilly pillies growing in their natural environment can reach a height of up to 30 metres. However, this is unlikely for Lilly pillies growing in a more urban environment. It’s common for popular garden cultivars to only reach a maximum height of 6 metres if left unpruned.

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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.


2 thoughts on “All You Need to Know About the Lilly Pilly Root System”

  1. We have planted lilly pilly resilience as a hedge. Are they a cultivar that has been bred especially for planting in backyards so their roots are not as invasive? I am hoping your answer is yes 🙏 Thank you

    • Hi Nicole

      I believe that Lilly Pilly Resilience has been specifically bred for backyard planting. In general, lilly pillies don’t have invasive roots. But you can easily restrict the root growth of most plants by also restricting their top growth.


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