Adenanthos sericeus, commonly known as Woolly Bush and also called Albany Woolly Bush or Silver Streak plant, is a native Australian plant and a beautiful addition to any garden.
Often used as an indigenous Christmas tree because of its triangular shape and silvery-green leaves that resemble a dusting of snow. This shrub is perfectly suited to the Australian climate.
In our ultimate guide, you’ll find out everything you need to know about growing and caring for this easy and iconic Aussie favourite.
What is the Albany Woolly Bush?
The Albany Woolly Bush is a perennial small tree or shrub that grows to approximately 1.5-3m in height with a 1-3m spread, making it a great addition to smaller gardens as well as large ones.
Although it has red flowers that attract birdlife, it is the silky, silvery-green foliage that is the main attraction of this tree which is why it is commonly used as a Christmas tree.
(Speaking of Christmas, don't miss our comprehensive guide to growing NSW Christmas bush.)
When does Woolly Bush Flower?
This is an attractive plant all year round but really comes into its own when flowering during the spring and summer months. The red flowers on the Albany Woolly Bush are small and inconspicuous but are still very pretty. Birds and other native wildlife will love them too.
Is the Albany Woolly Bush Fast-Growing?
This is a fast-growing plant that quickly becomes established if it has well-draining soil and plenty of sunshine.
Growing Adenanthos sericeus Woolly Bush
As with all plants, the Albany woolly bush has it’s preferences for soil type, climate and other environmental factors.
- Sun – The tree does well in full sunlight but will also grow in light shade.
- Soil – As a native plant, it enjoys sandy as well as loamy and combination sandy/loamy soils. It can also handle salt well, and is a great addition for coastal properties. In terms of soil Ph, it tolerates fairly acid, neutral and fairly alkaline soils easily. The soil should drain well and not waterlog the plant.
- Water – It will need regular watering at first, but once it’s established it tolerates drought fairly well. During the first 6 months, water once a week or if you notice the soil is very dry.
Once the tree is established it should be able to survive well on rain water unless a severe drought strikes.
- Climate – This tree grows well in all Australian climates, including coastal areas, semi-arid environments, and both cool and warm temperate climates. It will also tolerate light frost.
- Nutrients – Because it is a native plant, it requires little or no fertiliser, although a dose of a slow release low phosphorus fertiliser like a 13-2-13, a 14-0-14 or a native blend fertiliser in the spring is recommended.
Where to Position Adenanthos sericeus in Your Garden?
The best spot for growing these natives in your garden is a sunny, well-drained position. Woolly Bush will also tolerate a semi-shaded position in your garden. It’s best to plant in autumn or winter.
Adenanthos sericeus is a versatile plant. Some gardeners like to grow Woolly Bush as a feature shrub. Others use the native shrub as border plants, along fence lines, as hedging plants, and screens. Their dense, compact habit can also provide a good windbreak.
If grown in a container pot the plant can serve as an Aussie Christmas tree and makes a great alternative to plastic! This is a common use of the dwarf Woolly Bush cultivar, Adenanthos sericeus ‘Silver Sensation’.
Can I Grow a Woolly Bush in a Container or Pot?
Yes, this eye-catching Australian native is often grown successfully in large container pots. If growing Woolly Bush in a tub or container it is best to use high quality, low phosphate, native potting mix.
Although drought tolerant you’ll need to water this shrub more regularly in a pot than if it was planted in the garden. Watering every couple of weeks should be fine. Water more during extended dry periods. When planted in a pot, you will also want to make sure to feed the plant. Use a native fertiliser once a year.
Growing Adenanthos sericeus in a pot is the perfect solution for gardeners wanting to use the plant as a Christmas tree. This way the plant can live outside most of the year and the pot can be moved inside temporarily at Christmas.
It is worth noting though that this isn’t a plant that can be grown indoors all year round as it needs sunlight to thrive.
How Do You Propagate Adenanthos sericeus?
You can propagate this plant at home. It’s best to do multiple cuttings at a time, as the propagation is not always successful. All you need to do is:
Take a cutting of 5-10cm in spring or autumn. It’s best if you take your cutting from new growth rather than older growth.
Place it in a container of water, submerging the cutting completely.
Pinch off the leaves at the base of the cutting, leaving 1-2cm of leaves at the top.
Dip the base of the cutting into rooting powder.
Place the cutting in a small container of soil from your garden or potting soil from your local nursery.
Place the container in a spot that gets plenty of light but no direct sunlight, and keep the soil moist.
At 3 months, move cuttings that are showing new growth into larger pots and feed with a weak dose of native blend, low phosphorus fertiliser.
In 6 months, the cutting should be ready for planting.
Caring for Adenanthos sericeus
Caring for Albany Woolly Bush is very hands-off. Once established this native plant needs little ongoing love and attention. As a drought-tolerant plant, you only have to water Adenanthos sericeus during extended dry periods, after the plant is established.
The plant will happily thrive on rainwater most of the time. Mulch well around the plant’s root zone to help the soil retain moisture and suppress weeds. This low-maintenance shrub also doesn’t require constant pruning.
Should I Fertilise My Woolly Bush?
Because the Adenanthos sericeus is a native Australian plant, it is well-adapted to the local environment and doesn’t really require additional nutrients. However, you can fertilise your tree with a single dose of slow-release or native blend fertiliser in the spring to boost growth.
It is important to use a low phosphorus fertiliser, as native plants have adapted to the low phosphorus environment, and a high dose of phosphorus may damage the plant. For the same reason, it’s best to avoid using manures and composts on native plants.
Pruning Your Adenanthos sericeus
This is a very low maintenance plant, so pruning is optional. Most people only prune it to create a desirable shape, especially if the tree is growing in a container or more ornamental garden. It can also be cut into a hedge or as topiary.
Adenanthos sericeus can also take a severe pruning well, and should produce strong growth and new foliage after.
Treating Pests and Diseases for Your Woolly Bush
Albany Wooly Bush is a very hardy shrub that is resistant to most pests and diseases, which is one of the best advantages of using native plants in your garden. On occasions, it may suffer from the following:
Caused by the soil-borne Phytophthora cinnamomi fungus, dieback is a severe problem facing indigenous plants in Australia. The fungus can stay dormant for long periods during dry weather, and then spread quickly from plant to plant through soil disruption and moisture.
To prevent it, always use clean tools when pruning your tree, dispose of garden waste carefully, and get soil and gardening materials from responsible sources.
To detect dieback, look for distinct areas between healthy and diseased vegetation, especially in native plants. To treat dieback, you need a dieback treatment solution which should be available at your local nursery.
Small trees with a chest diameter of less than 10-14cm should be sprayed with the solution, while larger trees require an injection of the solution. Treatment should be repeated every 3-5 years for injections and every 1-2 years for spray solutions.
On rare occasions, woolly bushes can get minor infestations of mealybugs, which look like soft, cottony masses on the leaves and stems of the plant. These are sap-sucking pests that can damage the plant, but the main risk is that the pests will spread to more vulnerable plants in the garden.
You can wash them away with a blast of water from the hosepipe, use an insecticidal soap/spray or neem oil, or make a mix of 1 tablespoon dish soap to 500ml of water and spray the plant. Repeat the process every few days as new eggs hatch.
Adenanthos sericeus Frequently Asked Questions
Should I use soil improvers on native Australian plants?
Some soil improvers like lime or dolomite can raise the Ph of the soil too high for native plants. Instead, use gypsum, as this won’t affect soil Ph. Check out our in-depth guide about gypsum for more details.
How do you care for established Adenanthos sericeus?
The best tip we can give for Adenanthos sericeus care is to allow nature to do its job, with as little intervention as possible. Established Adenanthos don’t need additional irrigation and can cope with summer temperatures throughout Australia.
Only water through prolonged drought, and if you notice any signs of nutrient deficiency, mulch or feed it annually.
What are other names for Adenanthos sericeus?
Adenanthos sericeus is also known as the Albany Woolly Bush, or simply, the Woollybush, due to its dense and soft, needle-like foliage, which creates curving branches packed to the brim with fluffy foliage, mimicking the appearance of lamb’s or dog’s tails.
What is the best way to propagate Adenanthos sericeus?
The best way to propagate Adenanthos sericeus is through cuttings. While it will self-seed in Australian gardens, and can be propagated that way too, propagation from cuttings is faster and can produce plants that are garden-ready in under six months.
How long does Adenanthos sericeus last?
Adenanthos sericeus lives for 10 years before its flowering slows down and its sporadic blooms become a thing of the past. After that, it will still be a gorgeous shrub for its foliage alone, but the bright red flowers won’t have the same vigour or impact as they once did.
Is Adenanthos sericeus fast growing?
In a bright, sunny spot, or well-drained soil, Adenanthos sericeus is a fast growing shrub that establishes incredibly quickly, providing year-round colour and structure in as little as five years.
In the first year, you might get a first flush of flowers too, but the longer you leave them, the better they become.
Is Adenanthos sericeus frost tolerant?
Adenanthos sericeus is not fully hardy, and will not tolerate prolonged frosts. Short spells of frost in mid-winter won’t harm it, provided the ground frost doesn’t last for longer than a week, but they are not used to cold conditions, and are best moved into a greenhouse when frost is predicated, or covered in fleece.
How tall does Adenanthos sericeus grow?
Adenanthos sericeus is a fairly low-growing shrub, reaching about 5m tall without pruning after ten years, with a spread of 1.5m wide. It is a naturally cone-shaped shrub, but can be pruned hard to encourage new foliage each year.
When should you prune Adenanthos sericeus?
The best time to prune Adenanthos sericeus is in winter. This gives you a chance to cut back quite hard, which will encourage new growth in spring and summer. Just make sure to leave a few green buds below your cuts to give the best chance of a fast recovery.
What is Adenanthos sericeus used for?
Adenanthos sericeus, or the woolly tree, does not have any medicinal uses but is a useful garden plant for attracting wildlife, which will use it as nest sites, and as a food source thanks to its pollen and nectar, which is available for most of the year, and the insects which hide amongst its leaves.
Are woolly bush roots invasive?
Generally, Woolly Bush doesn't have an invasive root system. Its roots are typically non-aggressive, and it's often considered a safe plant to grow near buildings and other structures.
Are Adenanthos sericeus invasive?
Adenanthos sericeus can be invasive, and will easily take over your border without regular care. Remove spent flowers to discourage self-seeding, and dig out any volunteers of new plants that develop from the root system.
Is Adenanthos sericeus native to Australia?
Adenanthos sericeus is native to Western Australia, but thanks to how easily it can cross pollinate with other species in this genus, there are dozens of subspecies found all over the west with each having its own unique traits.
Is Adenanthos sericeus a good Christmas tree?
Adenanthos sericeus is a useful alternative to Christmas trees for anyone with pets or young kids, as the soft foliage is safe and non-toxic (though ingesting large quantities can make humans and pets nauseous), as well as being less likely to cause rashes, and drop needles while indoors.
Start Growing Your Woolly Bush Today!
Overall, the woolly bush is a fantastic addition to any garden. It is exceptionally low maintenance and drought resistant, and can grow anywhere in Australia, including the coast. It requires little to no pruning, can grow well as a container plant, and only requires a single dose of native blend, low phosphorus fertiliser in the spring in order to thrive.
Now you have all the information you need to grow this great native plant and enjoy Australia’s own Christmas tree, the Adenanthos sericeus Woolly Bush!