Planting & care tips

Plant being planted
Follow a few simple planting rules to give natives a head start

When & how to plant

For most areas the best time to plant is the cooler months from late autumn to early spring, giving plants time to establish roots before the warm weather arrives. After rain, when there is good moisture in the soil, is an ideal time.

Clearing weeds

The located area must be cleared of weeds and grass. See our weeding section. Weed spray is a quick method for larger areas. Herbicides can be used on persistent weeds such as agapanthus and blackberry. Do this at least three weeks before planting, by which time the effects will show and any missed spots can be identified. For grass, weed control matting can be used and left for some months until the grass has gone.


If you have room, plant 3-5 trees of each species. In smaller gardens plant 1-3 at sites where they are likely to grow naturally and thrive. Plant in triangles, with a reasonable distance between for maximum interaction between each species, and mix species to avoid monocultures. 

Planting diagram

  • Create two to three rows along edges and dig holes twice the size of the container size. The hole needs to be deep enough to enable the plant to sit at the same level in the ground as in the container. At very dry sites, the plant can be planted a few centimetres deeper.
  • In the case of slopes create steps and form saucer-shaped depressions around the hole, where rainwater can be retained.
  • Loosen soil or roughen on the edges of the hole for an easier penetration of new roots. Stunted growth can occur especially on hard or clay soil if the sides are too smooth.
  • Water crystals can be used at dryer sites; these can increase the chance of survival over the plant’s first summer by over 50%. Water crystals, or crystal rain as it is sometimes called, are available in garden markets such as California or Palmers. Let crystals soak in water for 20 minutes then put a handful in the bottom of the hole.
  • Remove the pot/wrapper and set the plant well into the hole. Do not disturb the root system unless it is very tangled. Some plants, such as grasses and ferns, do not like having their root system disturbed. Never squeeze roots into a hole that is too small.
  • You can use a slow release fertilizer if the soil is poor. Note, too much fertilizer can actually kill the plant so follow the instructions.
  • Pack soil back around the root system and sides. Add some water crystals if using, but not too close to the surface since weeds can benefit from them. Avoid any air gaps.

Mulch and gravels

Place a generous amount 5-10 cm of mulch around the base of the plant. This will create a healthy environment, encouraging worms, rain penetration and moisture retention, while also helping to suppress weeds. A good layer of mulch can reduce evaporative water loss by more than 70%. Organic mulch keeps soil temperature low which also benefits roots density and helps promote a good structure and productivity of the soil. Keep mulch however from plant stems to avoid any plant diseases.

Ongoing plant care

Plants need a little care after planting to establish quickly and become self-maintaining. In the case of trees this can take up to three years.


Watering is highly important, especially during dry times of the year. Consider irrigation if possible and necessary.

Weed control

Keep the area clean of weeds for at least a year or two. Maintain a weed-free area of about 50cm either by mulching, weed mats, hand weeding or herbicides. Beware that even the slightest wind push of spray herbicide can kill your small sapplings.

Grubbing and mulching is just as effective, but remember to remove roots as weeds will compete underground for space and moisture.

Never use weedeaters around young plants without hand clearing the area first. Ring-barking is the most common causes of plant death. Stake plants out.


Fertiliser is not usually needed with local plants. Rapid growth will cause plants to be leggy, weak and relatively short-lived. High levels of phosphorus can harm or kill plants.

For low-fertility soil apply compost or mulch annually. Potted plants needs a little more care - a low phosphorus fertiliser can be added in spring

Animal pests

Eliminate pests such as rats, rabbits and possums by trapping or using poison bait. Animal pests can devastate young plants, even pet cats and dogs. Protect sapplings by fencing them off or protective cover. See our pests section.