Lifestyle block planting is a simple case of matching the right plant to the right conditions.
We spoke to local native plant and landscaping experts Alter-Natives in Whangarei about which plant to place where – and we learned a few things along the way.
So whether you’ve recently joined the ranks of the NZ small landowner’s society (in which case, welcome!) or whether you’re a long-time lifestyle block owner, sit down, take your gumboots off, grab a cuppa and read this handy pocket-sized planting guide: Lifestyle Block Planting Advice! clever planting really is the key to enjoying your lifestyle block!
Plants for Coastal Land
Are you the proud owner of land by the sea? Congratulations! You’ve achieved every Kiwi’s ideal: your own patch of paradise overlooking our pristine coast. One thing to keep in mind when planting however, is that many of our native plants aren’t that keen on salty, coarse coastal winds… so choose your plants with care! Here are 3 top picks from the experts at Alter-Natives:
Pohutukawa – Metrosideros
The much lauded NZ Christmas tree is a favourite coastal specimen, being salt-wind tolerant, and able to withstand significant drought. The Pohutukawa is a great coastal choice and comes in a massive variety of shapes and sizes – from ornamental (Tahitian Sunset) right through to the large varieties (such as Metrosideros excels). Unfussy, strong, gorgeous and native: what more could you want!
Karaka – Corynocarpos laevigata
The word I always use to describe the Karaka is ‘verdant’. With it’s glossy dark green leaves and large orange olive-shaped fruit, the Karaka attracts prodigious birdlife – including our stunning native woodpigeon, the kereru. It’s a strong, fearless grower, capable of withstanding fierce heat and drought alike. Coastal areas are perfect for this native; but growing to 10mtrs, you may want to plan it’s location well!
Kanuka – Kunzea Ericoides
If you are lucky enough to be living in Northland (yes, I might be biased!) then the good folks at Alter-Natives recommend the Narrow-leaved Kanuka in particular (linearis variation). This gorgeous form of Kanuka only grows around the coast of Northland, and it’s beautiful delicate blooms are truly stunning. The original form of the plant is also hugely popular for coastal lifestyle block owners, as it is hardy, attractive, is an important bee-attractant, and makes a wonderful wind-shelter.
Plants for Wetlands
Don’t be glum if your lifestyle block is soggy around the edges! With some creative planting, you could soon be attracting a variety of specialised birdlife and encouraging native regeneration: win, win really!
The Carex genus is a fantastic choice for wetland or boggy areas. This native tussock-like sedge comes in many shapes, colours and sizes, and creates a really attractive feature in any garden. Be aware of which Carex you choose however, as some are more suited to dry sandy areas than wet boggy ones! Alter-Natives recommend the Carex dipsacea, Carex lessoniana, Carex maorica, Carex secta and Carex virgata.
Cabbage tree – Cordyline australis
While most Cordyline genus enjoy free-draining soil, the australis species bucks the trend by thriving in swampy environments. Our iconic cabbage tree is a favourite fruiting food source for the kereru and many other native birds; another reason to plant as many as you can! Again, these trees can grow rather tall (the largest on record is currently standing at 17 metres, with a trunk circumference of 9 metres!) so be aware of your planting location!
Giant rush – Juncus pallidus
Also known as the ‘leafless rush’ or ‘giant rush’, the Juncus pallidus is a commonly-found lowland plant. Robust and easily-grown, the Juncus pallidus can sometimes be viewed as somewhat of a pest plant by farmers, as they tend to grow in pasture lands. These plants love damp, swampy ground, and will add an attractive texture to your lifestyle block.
Plants for Exposed/Windy Sites
Many plants can’t survive strong winds in exposed sites, so be sure to select plants that enjoy a fresh breeze! There are many to choose from: here are Alter-Native’s top picks.
Manuka – Leptospermum scoparium
The humble Manuka is without a doubt one of our favourite plants. This hardy, drought- and bog-resistant plant can live through pretty much anything you can throw at it! With twinkling white flowers to attract honeybees and wood that’s perfect for burning, these plants are ideal. A strong, wind-tolerant grower!
While this plant does not enjoy having wet feet, it does enjoy a bit of wind through it’s hair, making it perfect for your wind-break hedging needs. Keep it pruned to shape, or let it grow wild; with it’s glossy green leaves, it’s a winner either way!
Ngaio – Myoporum leatum
Perfect for coastal areas and exposed sites, the Myoporum genus is a hardy and fast-growing plant. Growing to around 6 metres in height, it’s another ‘watch where you put it’ species, better off as a wind-break boundary than a house-side plant!
Plants for Clay Soils
Clay soils can make planting hard work – hard work to dig, hard work to plant, and hard work to replace all of the plants that don’t make it! Try choosing from one of these Alter-Native-recommended plants to save yourself time, effort and money.
The Coprosma genus covers a hugely variety of plants; each with a different set of likes and dislikes. For clay-like, heavy, non-draining soils, Alter-Natives recommend the repens species, as it is particularly hardy and – although it still prefers well drained soils – it can cope with heavy soils too.
Purple Akeake – Dodonaea Viscosa v. purpurea
The purple Akeake is a vibrantly coloured hardy shrub, with a name meaning ‘forever and ever’ in Maori. The purpurea variation has a gorgeous purple/red colour that looks stunning in amongst other plantings. This evergreen shrub is fast-growing and reaches around 4 metres in height: a perfect height for most locations!
Plants for Shady Land
For shady spots and dark, damp areas, you may want to choose your plants carefully – many plants need a fair amount of direct sunlight to thrive. We’ve highlighted some of the safer options below.
Kawakawa – Macropiper excelsum
Who doesn’t love a multi-tasker? The Kawakawa is just that: a popular medicinal plant used by Maori to combat toothache and stomach ache among other complaints, the kawakawa leaves also make a fantastic bath infusion for relaxation. Oh – and it’s quite happy to live in the shade, too!
Renga renga lily – Arthripodium cirratum
This plant would win the hardiness stakes hands down: sun, shade, dry, wet – you name it, the Renga renga lily will adapt and thrive! As an evergreen, it will add a welcome splash of verdant colour even in the driest months… and with the added bonus of graceful creamy flowers, the Renga renga is a fantastic choice to brighten up your sun-less environment.
Silver Lady Fern – Blechnum gibbon
Add a touch of fairy land to your dark regions with the Silver Lady fern; they adore filtered light and shady spots, although if your sunless areas are absolutely light-free then these guys may not thrive. They’re also not fans of temperatures dropping below 10C, so south islanders may have to think again!
Plants for Dry/Sandy Soils
Lifestyle block planting in dry and/or sandy soils is just as tiring as planting in clay-like soil… and at the end of your hard labour, only a select few will survive in such free-flowing soils. Take a look at our plants below for a safe bet!
Sand Coprosma – Coprosma acerosa
The perfect plant for your dry, sandy soil, the Coprosma acerosa – or Sand Coprosma – is a tangled mound of hardy foliage. Frost hardy, tolerant of full sun, dry conditions and those salty coastal winds, the Sand Coprosma is the easiest-growing plant for your sandy soil.
NZ Ice Plant – Disphyma australe
Another coastal favourite, the NZ Ice Plant is a creeping groundcover that has delicate pink and white flowers that open and close with the sun’s movements. Being a succulent, it’s not too fond of frosts, so again this may be more of a north island choice than a southerner’s pleasure!
Daisy Bush – Brachyglottis greyi
The aptly-named ‘Daisy Bush’ looks like just that: a pretty grey/green sprawling evergreen shrub that bursts into lovely yellow daisy-like flowers. They’ll take to hot, sunny spots with dry, sandy soils, and will even grow up into mounds around 1.5 metres tall if left undisturbed.
For more lifestyle block planting advice, call the friendly team at Alter-Natives: and if this article has inspired you to look for a larger section or country escape, contact us here at goodGround Real Estate: we’re always happy to help!