Native plants to spruce up your garden

Department of Conservation —  16/10/2017 — 9 Comments

It’s Conservation Week from the 14th – 22nd of October. One of the ways you can get involved is by filling your garden with native plants.

New Zealand’s native plants aren’t particularly well known for their pretty, bright-coloured flowers, so it’s understandable that your average gardener might not choose to bring a native home from the nursery.

But natives are pretty too, and they can bring more than just good looks to your garden. Here are some New Zealand plants that are sure to add that ‘wow’ factor to your yard.

Kōwhai

You know that spring has arrived when the kōwhai trees are covered in their brilliant yellow flowers. A perfect addition to the garden, kōwhai trees are versatile, hardy plant that thrives throughout the North and South Island.

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Kowhai tree. Photo: Aidan

An added bonus is that your kōwhai treet will provide food for tūī,  bellbird/korimako, kākā and kererū.

Harakeke/flax

You could be forgiven for not thinking of harakeke when planning your flower garden as they are best known for their green, sword-like leaves. But our native flax plants sport deep red flowers throughout the summer months.

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Tūī on flowering harakeke. Photo: Sid Mosdell

An added bonus is that tūī and bellbird/korimako love to feast on the nectar produced by harakeke flowers, so they’ll come flocking to your garden.

Chatham Island forget-me-not

These small native plants produce striking blue flowers throughout September and October. While beautiful, the Chatham Island forget-me-not is threatened by coastal development, invasive weeds and trampling by domestic animals. As a result, these plants have a nationally vulnerable conservation status.

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Chatham Island forget-me-not. Photo: Bernard Spragg

Luckily, Chatham Island forget-me-nots can be found in most native plant nurseries, and will thrive in a well-fertilised area with partial shade.

Kākābeak/ngutukākā

Named after its clusters of vibrant red flowers that are shaped like a kākā’s beak, these plants can be found in garden centres throughout the country. However, even though they are popular in cultivation, they are seriously threatened with extinction in the wild.

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Kākābeak. Photo: Dick Veitch

If you live in the northern North Island, where the last wild populations of kākābeak are found, ask DOC about using local plants in your garden, rather than bought ones. Find out more about how you can help here.

Mount Cook Lily

In fact not a lily at all, this giant buttercup is found in South Island mountain ranges. Giant is an accurate description, with Mount Cook lillies growing over a metre tall, with leaves the size of your hand.

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Mount Cook Lily. Photo: Bernard Spragg

Because it comes from harsh alpine conditions, the Mount Cook lily grows best in a cool spot with plenty of drainage and not too much fertilizer.

Rata and pōhutukawa

The red flowers of rata and pōhutukawa trees are iconic in New Zealand, with pōhutukawa being celebrated as the kiwi Christmas tree.

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Pōhutukawa. Photo: Lesley Parker

Consider where you live when you’re choosing what to plant. Pōhutukawa and Northern rata prefer warmer conditions while Southern rata thrives in cooler areas with higher rainfall. Find out more about growing pōhutukawa and rata here. It’s also important to be aware of the alert in Taranaki regarding Myrtle Rust. Talk to your local garden centre if you have any questions.

By planting some of these in your garden, not only will you have a stunningly colourful yard, you’ll also be contributing to New Zealand plant conservation, and feeding our native birds too.

Learn more about planning a native garden on our website.


 

It’s Conservation Week from the 14th – 22nd of October. Get involved by protecting, growing, nurturing and caring for our nature.

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9 responses to Native plants to spruce up your garden

  1. 

    I was interested reading about Kākābeak and how it would be beneficial to take plant material from existing wild plants rather than buying from nurseries. Is this because plants coming from nurseries are genetically different and a different species or subspecies? I am living in Northland and I should be able to get to one of the sites mentioned. Is there some further information on where exactly to find them and the best way to propagate from them?

    • 

      Hi Jason, thank you for your interest in looking after this threatened species. Nursery-bred kākābeak plants tend to be genetically similar as generally every plant has been propagated from a single ‘mother’ plant. However, wild plants are genetically diverse, which is important in the conservation of a plant with such limited genetic diversity. Get in touch with Sandra Elia, she’s the Kākābeak Recovery Group Leader and will be able to give you more information: phone 06 837 3805 or email selia@doc.govt.nz

  2. 

    Mum coming at the weekend with some Kowhai seedlings so can’t wait to get them planted.

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