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Grow Guide: Melaleuca thymifolia (Thyme-leaf Honey Myrtle)

This easy-care shrub is great for hedging and will attract beneficial insects and birds to your garden.

The thyme-leaf honey myrtle is a gorgeous native shrub that only reaches a height of around 1 metre but can spread to a width of up to 2 metres. It has small bright blue-green leaves and delicate purple feathery flowers.

The flowers can appear sporadically around the year but are most prominent in summer and autumn. The leaves give off a spicy aroma when crushed.

This easy-care shrub is great for hedging and will attract beneficial insects and birds to your garden. There are also cultivars available that have white or pink flowers.

Light requirements

Melaleuca thymifolia prefers to grow in a sunny position in your garden. This is especially important if you want to see plenty of those lovely flowers.

However, the plant will tolerate some light shade but it won’t flower quite as well without adequate sunlight.

Temperature and humidity

This plant is highly adaptable and will grow in most parts of the country if given the right conditions.

It will tolerate light frosts and is also moderately drought-tolerant once it has become fully established.

Melaleuca thymifolia Thyme leaf Honey Myrtle | Plant care
Photo by John Robert McPherson / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 4.0

Soil requirements

The thyme-leaf honey myrtle will adapt to most soil types and will even grow in wet soil. This makes it a highly versatile plant for different areas of your garden. 

Water requirements

While the plant is young and just establishing itself in your garden, make sure that you give it adequate water.

Once the roots have established themselves in the soil, the plant can handle periods of dry weather but it will respond better with more flowers if kept well-watered.

It’s also a good idea to mulch the soil around the base of the plant to keep in the moisture.

Fertiliser

While most native plants are used to living in relatively infertile soils, Melaleuca thymifolia will benefit from an annual application of organic fertiliser such as blood and bone or Dynamic Lifter in spring.

Make sure that only give the plant a light application so as not to add too much phosphorus to the soil.

You could also just use a light application of aged compost to give the plant a boost in spring.

Pruning

Melaleuca thymifolia responds well to regular pruning to control the shape of the plant. This should be done after the flowers have finished in late autumn. 

Melaleuca thymifolia Thyme leaf Honey Myrtle 1 | Plant care

The plant can be grown quite successfully as a low hedge and shaped accordingly. It can also be useful as a low-growing ground cover when kept regularly trimmed.

Regular pruning, especially tip pruning, will also ensure that the plant doesn’t become too woody in the centre.

Problems, pests and disease

Melaleuca thymifolia is considered pest free when grown in Australian gardens.

How to propagate Melaleuca thymifolia

If you already have one of these plants growing in your garden or you come across one in a friend’s garden, it’s quite easy to propagate. This can be done in a number of ways.

Growing from seed

You can gather the seed capsules and put them into a paper bag. Keep this indoors until the capsules open and release the seeds inside.

Sow the seeds into a seedling tray filled with seed-raising mix and keep them moderately watered until the seedlings start to emerge.

You can cover the seeds with a cloche to help keep the soil moist for longer. 

Growing from cuttings

You can take semi-hardwood tip cuttings from an established plant in December or January. The cuttings should be around 10 to 14 cm long. Strip off the bottom leaves but leave some at the top.

Dip the base of the cuttings into some rooting hormone and stick them into some seedling trays or small pots filled with seed-raising mix.

Place these in a warm spot out of direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist but not overly wet. Once again, you can cover the cuttings with a cloche in order to provide a bit of humidity. 

Growing Melaleuca thymifolia in pots

Thanks to its adaptability and compact growth habit, Melaleuca thymifolia is perfect for growing in pots. This makes it an ideal specimen for gardeners who love native plants but don’t have very much space to garden.

Choose a pot that is at least 30 cm in diameter and that has adequate drainage holes.

It’s best to use native potting mix but this plant will handle any premium potting mix that you have on hand.

Apart from giving your plant a regular prune and an annual application of slow-release fertiliser, all you have to do is keep it well-watered.

Remember that soil in pots does dry out much faster especially when the pot is positioned in a sunny spot.

Popular cultivars of Melaleuca thymifolia

As this plant is so easy to grow and propagate, a number of different cultivars have been developed over the years. Here are some of the more popular ones.

M. thymifolia ‘White Lace’

This is similar to the main species but has delicate feathery white flowers.

M. thymifolia ‘Pink Lace’

This particular cultivar has pink flowers and is highly attractive both as a garden specimen and a potted plant for the patio.

M. thymifolia ‘Little Beauty’

This is a more compact form and is great for growing as a ground cover. It will reach a height and width of around 0.9 metres and has lovely pinky-mauve flowers.

FAQ

How tall does Melaleuca thymifolia get?

This lovely native shrub, Melaleuca thymifolia, generally reaches a height of 1 metre. However, this may depend on the growing conditions and the particular cultivar that you’re growing.

Are Melaleucas fast growing?

Melaleucas are generally regarded as fast-growing and can easily reach their full height in well under 10 years. However, they lend themselves beautifully to regular pruning to maintain a nice shape and more compact growth.

Is Melaleuca thymifolia edible?

The true species of Melaleuca thymifolia is regarded as bush food by indigenous people. The flowers are rich in nectar and can be soaked in water to produce a sweet nectar-rich drink.

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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