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Complete Guide to Pruning and Thickening Up a Lilly Pilly Hedge 

Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to thicken up a Lilly Pilly that has become a bit sparse. 

Lilly Pillies are ideal for hedging. If treated well, your Lilly Pillies will form a nice dense hedge that you can keep in check with a regular prune.

However, you have to give your plants the right start to ensure that they grow thick and lush.

Here are our top tips for pruning and thickening up your Lilly Pilly hedge.

Give your hedge a good start

The best time to create a nice thick Lilly Pilly hedge is to start when the plants are still young.

What you do at this stage is crucial to achieving a dense hedge with lots of lush growth.

Here’s what to do:

Tip prune new growth

To achieve a bushy look, your Lilly Pilly needs to be tip pruned when it’s young. You want to do this on new growth consistently.

To tip prune, just cut off the tips of each branch down to where a set of leaves are growing with a sharp pair of secateurs. 

What will happen when you do this is that the plant will produce two new stems from where the cut was made.

This will encourage dense growth and make the plant much bushier and helps to fill in any gaps.

Syzygium Australe Lilly Pilly small | Plant care
Young Lilly Pilly plants

You can do this at any time of the year, but it’s important to start when the plants are young as this sets the groundwork for a lovely thick hedge with plenty of bushy growth.

It also adds a little colour as the new growth will have a lovely pink blush.

Avoid just letting the plants grow tall

When you’re trying to grow a hedge, it can be tempting to let your Lilly Pillies get to the height that you want as quickly as possible.

However, you shouldn’t do this because you’ll be limiting the bushiness of the plant.

The plants are unlikely to ‘fill in’ if you fail to constantly tip prune their new growth.

Create the shape that you want

While you’re tip pruning, it’s easy to create the perfect shape that you’re after. This means that you can cut back any longer branches that are growing outside of the shape you want. 

Syzygium Australe Lilly Pilly hedge 2 | Plant care

If you start your Lilly Pilly hedge correctly by constantly tip pruning your plants, you’re definitely going to love the result of a dense, thick hedge that will require very little maintenance once it’s well established.

Fixing an overgrown and sparse Lilly Pilly hedge

Lilly Pilly Tree | Plant care
A Lilly Pilly tree that has been allowed to grow

If you’re Lilly Pillies have become a little overgrown and sparse, you can revive them to achieve a more manageable and thick hedge. 

Lilly Pillies will respond even to the harshest prune and will astonish you with the result once they start producing a new flush of growth.

Here’s what you can do to revive and thicken up a sparse and overgrown Lilly Pilly hedge.

Don’t be afraid to give the plants a hard prune

Lilly Pillies will respond with lush new growth even if you cut them back to almost ground level.

The best time for hard pruning is late winter but it’s a good idea to wait until the danger of frost is over if you live in a cooler climatic zone.

Start by reducing the height

Decide on how tall you want the hedge to be before you start and take a step back regularly to check the top is level.

Use hedge shears or a hedge trimmer to cut back the taller branches to around 30 to 60 cm below your desired height. You may need to use a lopper for thicker branches.

Remember that you want to allow enough room for the new lush growth so that you don’t have bare-topped branches at the tops of the hedge.

Prune back the outer branches

Once you’ve reduced the height of the plants, you can start to create a better shape by pruning back the outer branches.

Once again, cut back just a little further to allow for the new growth to create the final desired shape.

After you’ve given your Lilly Pillies a hard prune, don’t be too perturbed by the bare branches. Once spring arrives, your plant will produces lots of lush new foliage, especially if you give the them a dose of fertiliser or add some organic compost or mulch to the soil around the base of the hedge.

Don’t forget to do some gentle tip pruning on this new growth to make your plants as bushy as possible.

Feed your Lilly Pillies after a heavy prune

After you’ve given your Lilly Pilly hedge a heavy prune, it’s a good idea to give them a good dose of fertiliser in early spring to encourage a flush of new growth.

Neighbours Be Gone tree Syzgium paniculata | Plant care
Syzygium Australe Lilly Pilly

Bear in mind, that Australian natives need a fertiliser that is low in phosphorus so select one that is designed specifically for native plants. 

Lilly Pillies also do well with an addition of Blood and Bone or Dynamic Lifter added to the soil around the base of the plant. To avoid disturbing the roots, just scatter this around the base of each plant and water in well.

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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