· Guest post by Julia Hazel ·
Short answer: hard to predict. Long answer: please read on…
Expect natural variation
Native plants at CDTLI’s nursery are grown from locally-collected seed to maintain the natural characteristics of each species, including natural variability between individual plants.
This variation between individuals is essential for native species to survive in the wild. It’s also valuable in revegetation planting and can be good for gardens too. But it means we cannot expect our native plants to behave like commercially cultivated species. Those have been selected, over many seed-generations, for predictable growth in human-regulated farms and gardens.
The planting guide said…
Flowering periods mentioned in books and web pages usually indicate ‘typical’ or ‘average’ timing for a species if it’s growing in the area(s) known to the authors. Even if you are in the same area, each of your plants will be influenced, sometimes in unpredictable ways, by very localised variations in soil, climate and weather.
Give them time
Small, short-lived species will typically flower during their first year. Slower-growing shrubs and trees are likely to need a few years of growth before their first flowering. Then they may start with rather sparse flowers and take a few more years to reach peak flowering.
Can we help them flower sooner?
To some extent, yes. Do some research first, and choose each plant to suit the particular spot you have for it. Some species like part shade but many of our native plants flower best with lots of sun. Take care, however, at the planting stage: tiny plants may need temporary shade.
Get your new native plants off to a good start. Early progress will help them flower sooner. Ensure they get regular water and a little native plant fertiliser at first. Transition to less frequent watering as the plant gets established, and allow it to adapt gradually to natural conditions. For some species, flowering is triggered by the onset of rain after a prolonged dry period.
Another tip: don’t prune unnecessarily. More branches and leaves help the plant take in extra energy for growth and flowering. Also consider where on your plant the future flowers will appear. If you cut back a species that produces its flowers at the ends of the branches, the plant must grow new branches before it can flower.
For many species, flowering is influenced by natural changes in day length, temperature and dry season/wet season moisture levels – but the interaction between all those factors is complex and hard to predict. Some people like to intervene, for example giving copious water at certain times, and it can be fun to experiment.
It’s often easier to let your established native plants do their own thing. Most likely they will give you a some nice flowering surprises over time.