Plant Profiles Darwinia

Darwinia is a genus of small to medium evergreen shrubs. They are endemic to Australia with most of the 45 or so species coming from Western Australia. Darwinias belong to the myrtle family (Myrtaceae). The leaves are small and marked with numerous oil glands. Long styles protrude from the tubular flowers. Some have flower heads which resemble pincushions while others point downwards surrounded by colourful bracts, giving a bell-like appearance. Generally the flowers are rich in nectar and highly desirable to birds. Some species are available as grafted plants.

Darwinia citriodora or Lemon-scented Darwinia is a rounded shrub of around 2 metres which comes from the far southwest of Western Australia. It is widely grown and the leaves have an aromatic, spicy fragrance when crushed. The oblong leaves are small, neatly arranged and a bluey, grey-green. There is sometimes a reddish tint to the foliage in autumn and winter. The flowers are borne in clusters of four with prominent orange and green leaf-like bracts. It responds well to pruning but can be subject to damage from frost. It is a favourite with birds.

Darwinia lejostyla is also native to Western Australia. It grows to 1 metre with a spread of about the same. It is a small, bushy shrub with dense, narrow leaves along the branches. The flowers are bell-shaped and an attractive pinkish red. Darwinia lejostyla flowers from August to February. It prefers a well-drained position with partial or filtered sun and is ideal as a container specimen.

Darwinia glaucophylla is a prostrate form from New South Wales. It will spread to around 2.5m and forms a dense mat. During winter, the leaves often turn an attractive purplish colour. It has a short flowering season from November to December. The flowers are insignificant and greenish-cream to pink. It is suited to garden beds or containers and likes well-drained soils with partial or full sun.

An aromatice variety is Darwinia fascicularis (2metres). Its native environment is the sandstone areas around Sydney, New South Wales. It has fine, needle-like leaves and pincushion-type flower heads. The small, creamy-white tubular flowers become red as they age. Very long styles protrude 18mm beyond the petals.

Darwinia grandiflora is another New South Wales native. It is a low, spreading shrub which blooms between May and December. The white flowers turn dark red as they age. It is an adaptable plant, suited to most well-drained soils. It prefers dappled or partial sun and can spread by layering. It also makes a good container specimen.

Most darwinias like a light, well-drained soil. Mulching around the root area will conserve moisture during summer. To maintain a compact shape, darwinias can be pruned lightly after flowering.