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Emu Bush | Australian Native Growing & Care Guide

With over 100 species forming a part of this subfamily of plants, the Emu bush is a stand out thanks to its silvery-green tapered foliage that shoulders soft, tubular radiant red to orange flowers.

These delicate flaring flowers are cherished by nectar-loving birds, bees, and butterflies so this plant is great for those interested in adding a touch of wild lusciousness to their gardens.

We are very passionate about our Australian natives so let’s take a deeper look into what makes this shrub so special and how you can grow, care, and use this evergreen in your garden.  

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Plant Name:

Emu Bush 

Genus:

Eremophila

Species:

 glabra

Common Names:

Emu Bush, Tar Bush

Location:

Outdoors

Type:

Shrub

Growth:

0.3 to 3m tall, 1 to 3m wide

Sun requirements:

Full Sun

Foliage Colour:

Silver Green

Flower Colour:

Orange, Red, Yellow

Flowering:

Winter to Spring

Maintenance level:

Low

Poisonous for pets:

Non-toxic to cats and dogs

Introducing Emu Bush

Emu bush or Eremophila glabra is endemic to Australia and forms a part of the Scrophulariaceae family

Emu bush or Eremophila glabra is endemic to Australia and forms a part of the Scrophulariaceae family. Commonly referred to as Tar Bush, this plant grows natively in the inland arid parts of Australia where it thrives in a mostly dry climate. 

Growers have however also had success cultivating emu bush in more temperate climates. There are a couple of popular garden plant varieties that form a part of the Eremophila genus ranging from small prostrate shrubs to taller upright shrubs. Emu bush itself can be low-growing or sometimes grow in a more upright fashion. 

Eremophila glabra is a medium shrub identifiable by its grey-green open foliage and red, orange or sometimes yellowish tubular flowers that bloom between autumn and spring. This fast-growing shrub has a habit of spreading and is very water-wise.

Commonly used as a feature plant for drier gardens, emu bush can also be potted for use as an ornamental accent in outdoor spaces. Low-growing varieties are often used as a native ground cover that can suppress weeds and help stabilise the soil. 

Popular Eremophila Varieties

  • Eremophila Glabra – Known as tar bush, this medium variety of shrub is the most accessible and features red, orange, or yellow tubular flowers with grey to green lance-shaped leaves that taper gradually towards the stem. 
  • Eremophila Nivea – Known as silky eremophila, this smaller variety of shrub is a flowering plant that is declared rare in nature. It has hairy branches and leaves with blue, purple or violet flowers.
  • Eremophila Biserrata – Known as prostrate eremophila, this shrub is a low-growing variety that has snake-like stems with serrated leaves and flowers that bloom in green and yellow. 
  • Eremophila Laanii – Known as ‘Pink Beauty’, this variety is taller and grows more like an upright shrub or small tree with long tangling branches and purple to pink flowers.

Luckily, these varieties all share the same needs when it comes to growing conditions and care so this guide can be applied to any one of them.

Since the other varieties are rarer and therefore grown less, we will be focusing on the Eremophila Glabra variety for this guide.

Growing Emu Bush

Growing Emu Bush

This plant is the perfect pick for drier areas and gardens thanks to its hardy nature. Being native to arid inland areas of the country, this shrub can tolerate long dry spells and is easy to grow given the right location and environment. It is however not suited for cool climates.

Emu bush can also be successfully grown in more temperate areas where it is essential to provide the plant with good drainage and lots of sunlight. A shorter lifespan can often be expected in more temperate conditions. 

Many growers prefer to seek out healthy plants from reputable native nurseries that can simply be transplanted into their gardens. However, these shrubs can also be propagated using softwood cuttings.

It is not recommended to try to propagate this plant using seeds as it is known to be an unreliable method. 

Eremophila Propagation

Propagation Eremophila Using Cuttings

Members from this family can be propagated using stem cuttings from the current season’s growth. To propagate emu bush using cuttings, you can follow these simple steps:

  • Using a sharp knife or sharp scissors, take cuttings of about 75 to 100mm in length from a healthy plant after the flowing season has passed.
  • Carefully remove the leaves from the lower two-thirds of the stem. 
  • To improve your chances of success, you can “wound” the lower stem and remove a sliver of bark. Then dip the stem into some rooting hormone. 
  • Place the cutting into your potting mix and cover lightly with the soil. 
  • Water well and place the container in a warm location that gets a lot of light.
  • New roots can start to develop in about 4 to 6 weeks.

Planting Eremophila Glabra

This shrub is tough but will still grow best in conditions that allow the plant to thrive. Being a native, these plants should grow well throughout most of the country. Let’s have a look at some of the growing conditions for emu bush.

Eremophila Propagation

Source: anpsa.org.au/

Sunlight

This plant loves a lot of light each day. An open position that allows for full sun with little shade is recommended for these shrubs. 

Soil

Emu bush is not too picky when it comes to the soil as long as it is well-draining. Loamy or sandy loam soil should work great. 

Temperature & Humidity

These shrubs can grow in most climates from warm temperate to dry regions. They are known to be difficult to grow successfully in cooler climates.

How to Plant Tar Bush

Now that you’ve picked out the perfect sunny spot for your Eremophila glabra, you can prepare to plant it. These shrubs can be planted directly into your garden bed or potted for use as an outdoor pot plant

Planting Eremophila Glabra

Source: wateruseitwisely.com

Planting Tar Bush in the Garden

  • Pick a location in your garden that gets full sun to partial shade each day.
  • Dig a planting hole that is at least twice as wide and to the same depth as the root ball of the shrub. 
  • Gently remove the plant from its current container then lightly tousle the roots loose with your fingers.
  • Position the shrub in your planting hole where the root crown is level with the soil. 
  • Refill with your soil mix and gently pat the soil firm once the plant is in position. 
  • You can optionally create a raised ring of soil around the outer edges of the plants’ root zone to help the water stay where it is needed. 
  • Water the plant well after planting so that the soil will remain moist for the first few weeks. This will help the roots settle in the soil and establish themselves.
  • Add organic mulch around the base of the emu bush being sure to keep it away from the trunk. 

Planting Emu Bush in a Pot

  • Use a container that is at least double the size of the shrub you intend on planting. 
  • Position the pot in a sunny position around the garden.
  • Fill your container with your potting mix. 
  • Gently remove the plant from its current container then lightly tousle the roots loose with your fingers.
  • Position the shrub in your pot and fill it with soil. Gently firm the soil once the plant is in place.
  • Mulch around the base of the plant keeping away from the trunk. 
  • Water the plant well for the first few weeks to help the roots establish themselves in the new container.

Emu Bush Care Tips

Emu Bush Care Tips

Source: davesgarden.com

Once established, the emu bush will be tolerant to drought and lightly resistant to frost. These hardy natives won’t require much upkeep once they have matured.

Another garden chore you won’t need to worry about with these shrubs is fertilising. Emu bush requires no fertiliser. Here are our top care tips for Eremophila glabra. 

Watering Tar Bush

These shrubs are excellent water-savers. They will need more water after planting to help the roots establish themselves but thereafter, the plant will not need regular water.

Infrequent waterings that are generous should be ideal for the plant. Frequent, shallow watering is not healthy for these shrubs. 

Pruning Eremophila

Emu bush will respond well to light pruning after the flowering season. Try to avoid cutting back the hardwood and just prune the softwood and foliage as needed. 

Common Emu Bush Pests & Diseases

Tar Bush is the perfect pick for drier areas and gardens thanks to its hardy nature

There is little information available for pests or diseases that these shrubs are susceptible to. However, like with most garden plants, there can be smaller issues of bug infestation or fungal attacks. 

Most infestations can be treated with neem oil or a similar horticultural spray. Should you notice that the plant is developing fungal spores and spots, this could indicate that the soil is overwatered and that the roots are sitting in too much moisture.

Cut back on watering and allow the soil to dry out more frequently before your next watering.

Interested in growing more shrubs to your garden? Consider growing hebes which are  super easy to maintain. 

Wrapping Up Our Emu Bush Guide

The perfect pick for growers who are looking for plants that can thrive in drier gardens, Eremophila glabra is a must-have medium native shrub that will attract natural beauty to any space. 

Being extremely easy to maintain and care for, these shrubs can be used in wilder gardens and look fantastic planted alongside other Australian natives. 

With a beautiful contrast of silvery-green tapered foliage shouldering delicate red tubular flowers, emu bush is a great option for a low-maintenance, ornamental garden plant.

Emu Bush Australian Native Growing & Care Guide

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Author:

Gary Clarke

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