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Geraldton Wax | Australian Native Growing Guide

The Geraldton Wax is a truly Australian native and has captured hearts (and vases) the world over. They make brilliant and long lasting cut flowers in a whole host of gorgeous shades. The shrub is also drought resistant and known for being easy to please (and keep alive).

In our growing guide, we’ll do an official introduction to the Geraldton Wax, look at some of the popular varieties, go through the growth and care of this shrub, the pests and diseases you need to be aware of, and also cover Geraldton Wax as bush tucker.

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Introducing Geraldton Wax

Geraldton Wax plant is one of Australia's most famous wildflowers and immensely popular in the cut flower industry throughout the world

When the Geraldton Wax plant is in full bloom, it looks a bit like cotton candy swaying in the wind. The needle-like and thin leaves are anything from bright to dark green, depending on the season.

The leaves look great against the texture and colour of the shiny berry shaped buds followed by masses of star-shaped flowers. When the leaves of the Geraldton Wax are crushed, they give off a lemon scent, and the flowers have a sweet honey fragrance. This of course means lots of visits from butterflies, bees (learn more about native bees here), and other pollinating insects.

The pink or white flowers of the Geraldton Wax plant grow quickly into a rounded shape. It’s usually cut into a thick shrub, but if you leave it mostly unpruned, the plant can reach a height of about 2.5m with a spread of 2m.

This hardy shrub has changed a lot in the past decade, with improved breeding and hybridization. The Geraldton Wax plant is very popular and comes in a range of colours from white to shades of pink, mauve and wine.

It’s even possible to have all the colours on one bush. Traditionally the plant blooms in winter and spring, but some hybrids can bloom into early summer and certain new cultivars are even frost hardy down to -2°C. There are new dwarf varieties of Geraldton Wax that are ideal for containers, or even the smallest gardens.

The evergreen Geraldton Wax is part of the Myrtle family which contains about 3,300 species of trees and shrubs widely spread in the tropics and usually with leathery leaves with oil glands.

Some of these like allspice and clove are great spices, and others are important for their timber. Chamelaucium is a genus of about 30 species, all occurring only in south-western Australia.

Plant Name:

Geraldton Wax 

Genus:

Chamelaucium

Family:  

Myrtle

Plant type: 

Shrub

Sun:  

Full sun

Soil:  

Well-drained

Soil pH: 

Acid, neutral or alkaline

Height: 

2.5m

Spread: 

2m

Maintenance: 

Low

Poisonous to pets: 

No

GeraldtonWaxflower Natural Habitat 

Geraldton Wax is endemic to the Shark Bay region of extreme Western Australia, and doesn’t grow in the wild anywhere else in the world.  It’s found in coastal areas (making it perfect for coastal gardens), on the edge of swamps, hillsides and plains.

The plant can thrive in white, grey or yellow sand, in limestone and laterite. Laterite is a clay soil rich in iron and aluminium oxides and is formed by weathered igneous rocks in moist warm climates.

In the wild, Geraldton Wax varies in height from 50cm to 4m tall. Young branches are a smooth greyish-brown and they become rougher with age. Young twigs are reddish and look beautiful against the flowers.

Geraldton Wax Varieties

Geraldton Wax Varieties

Here are some popular hybrids of Chamelaucium uncinatum:

  • Chantilly Lace has masses of buds that form clusters of pure white flowers with frilly edges and lime green middles.
  • Dancing Queen produces flowers that range in colour from soft baby pink through to bright candy-pink.
  • Moonlight Delight produces an abundance of red buds in mid-winter, and this is followed by white flowers with dark crimson middles in early spring.
  • My Sweet 16 has pure white flowers which appear in early spring. The flowers later become a crimson colour, which means you have a colour palette of crimson, white and all shades in-between.
  • Purple Pride has purple flowers that mature to a dark magenta.
  • Raspberry Ripple is a beautiful screening plant, with dark pink-crimson flowers on thin stems.
  • Sarah's Delight is a tall shrub which produces loads of bright pink flowers with dark crimson middles during late winter and early spring. 
  • Strawberry Surprise has gorgeous pink flowers with frilly petals. The flowers are abundant in spring.

How to Grow Geraldton Wax

How to Grow Geraldton Wax

Source: iplantz.com

If your goal is a drought tolerant garden, the Geraldton Wax is perfect because of its consistency of flowers, it’s easy to care for and is very tolerant. You can kind of plant it and forget about it – this plant has minimal pests and diseases issues, and doesn’t need much food and watering.

Geraldton Wax will need some light pruning, but if you’re a busy gardener, you couldn’t ask for a more low maintenance and water-wise shrub.

Geraldton Wax can be grown as a screen or windbreak, can be added to a mixed shrub border, and of course is a joy to pick because of the beautiful blooms. 

The sweet fragrance of the flowers and their rich nectar attract butterflies, bees, and other insects. This plant certainly makes your garden feel like springtime.

How to Propagate Geraldton Wax

How to Propagate Geraldton Wax

Source: inaturalist.nz

To propagate a Geraldton Wax, your easiest method is from taking a cutting. Fill a 10cm pot/s with fast-draining soil. You can use a standard potting mix and add perlite, or make your own mix, combining perlite and peat moss.

Woody plants like Geraldton Wax will benefit from a mix that is more perlite than peat moss. Try and combine three parts perlite with one part peat moss to propagate. Spring and autumn are the best seasons for propagation of shoot tip cuttings.

Once you’ve prepped your pot, you can follow this process:

As early in the morning as possible, take 10cm cuttings from non flowering shoots, remove the bottom leaves and dip their stems in root hormone. Make holes in the soil mix with a pencil and then firm up the soil around each cutting after it is placed in its hole. 

If you aren’t able to propagate immediately after cuttings are taken, you can put them on a moist paper towel in a plastic bag in the fridge. They should stay fresh for about a day. Within 90 days the cuttings should take root.

Caring for a Chamelaucium Uncinatum

The happiest Geraldton Wax plant will grow in conditions similar to its native Australian environment of Shark Bay, which has a semi-arid climate with hot, dry summers and mild winters. The soil is sandy with little moisture, except during the rainy winter season. 

Geraldton Wax is easy to grow in a Mediterranean climate. It will handle light frost if planted in a warm, protected spot in the garden. The shrub doesn’t do well with high humidity or very wet summer conditions.

Caring for a Chamelaucium Uncinatum

Sun and Soil Requirements

Full sun is needed for good flowering. Geraldton Wax prefers sandy, very well-drained soils, and can handle acid, neutral or alkaline soil. If you’re trying to establish your plant in very poor soil, you can improve it with lots of organic matter and till to a depth of about 25cm.

For soil that does not have ideal drainage, you can add sand or other gritty material. You can also grow the plant in a raised bed.

Watering Schedule

Young Geraldton Wax plants need extra water as they become established. The mature plants can handle fairly long periods of drought but watering them now and then in the heat of summer is recommended. Avoid overwatering as this can cause root rot.

What Fertiliser to Use

The native soil of the Geraldton Wax is so low in nutrients so feeding your plant with commercial fertilisers might actually cause harm. Only use organic mulch around the roots, and add a layer of bone meal in spring.

This mulch will slowly release nutrients and also protect the root zone from cold, while preventing weeds from growing. Never dig around the roots of the plant – they really don’t like their soil being disturbed.

Pruning Geraldton Wax

Annual pruning when the plant has finished flowering will create a tighter and more compact shrub while keeping the centre of the plant open for light and air. The Geraldton Wax plant can take quite harsh pruning but rather cut back the stems by one third at a time to encourage new shoots.

Looking for a specific gardening tool or product? It’s helpful to have in-depth and honest reviews on all things gardening. Whether you’re looking for power tools or planters, we’ve got information in every category for you.

Geraldton Wax as Bush Tucker

Geraldton Wax as Bush Tucker

The leaves of the Geraldton Wax taste like a lemony pine needle. They are delicious with seafood and stuffed in whole fish. The flowers are also edible, just not in large amounts.

The leaves contain oil glands and give off a beautiful perfume when crushed. Geraldton Wax adds a citrus flavour to beverages and meals and can be added to stir fries and creamy seafood sauces.

The taste profile is zesty with citrus notes and is thought of as Australia's version of kaffir lime. The leaves can be dried and ground, ready to use as a spice when needed. 

While the leaves of the plant have been used to flavour food, no evidence has been found yet of the Indigenous use of Geraldton Wax flowers as a food.

You use the leaf in the same way you would use rosemary. You strip the leaf, blend it with some oil and a pinch of salt and create a green salsa-verde paste which tastes great with fish, prawns or lamb.

The leaves have been used in the food industry as a flavouring for sauces, stocks and in a botanical gin. You can now even find dried tea flakes, and a freeze-dried powder for pancake and biscuit batter.

You’ll be amazed at the world of Australian bush tucker once you start exploring it. Our articles have great information about how to identify and use native fruits, trees and plants. Check out our collection of Australian bush tucker.

Common Geraldton Wax Pests and Diseases

The Geraldton Wax plant doesn’t really suffer from any serious pests or diseases. It is however sensitive to root rot fungus (Phytophthora sp.), making them difficult to grow under humid summer conditions. Other than that, scale is the most common pest you might find. 

Phytophthora Root and Stem Rot

Phytophthora root and stem rot is a soil-borne fungal disease caused by the pathogen Phytophthora and affects the plant at various growth stages. Development of the disease is fuelled by high soil temperatures and very moist soil.

Steam heat is effective to kill Phytophthora in contaminated soil or planting containers. If you re-use pots you can soak pre-cleaned pots in hot water for at least 30 min or use steam for 30 min.

The most effective way of preventing Phytophthora rot diseases is good drainage and water management.

Geraldton Wax Frequently Asked Questions

Geraldton Wax is part of the Myrtle family which contains about 3,300 species of trees and shrubs

What is the most popular worldwide use of the Geraldton Wax plant?

The Geraldton Wax plant is one of Australia's most famous wildflowers and immensely popular in the cut flower industry throughout the world because the flowers last extremely well in a vase.

It was popular in California dating back to the 1940’s, and was introduced into Israel in the 1970’s. Today, it is widely grown in many countries, including South Africa, Chile and Peru.

Does Geraldton Wax have any medicinal uses?

There are no known medicinal uses for Geraldton Wax but it does contain natural anti-fungal properties that promote wound healing. The flower essence oil is used in aromatherapy for mental and emotional health.

Where does the scientific name for the Geraldton Wax come from?

The name uncinatum means "hooked" in Latin, and refers to the tips of the leaves.

Wrapping Up Our Geraldton Wax Guide

The Geraldton Wax is an Australian favourite that has made its mark on the world. Whether adding flavour to a dish, looking pretty in a vase, or jazzing up a garden, this shrub has well earned its good reputation.

Propagating your own plant from a cutting is very simple, and once established, this plant is easy to care for (in fact it doesn’t need much care at all).

Enjoy vibrant and colourful blooms as you select a cultivar and variety that speaks to your favourite colour palette. We give the Geraldton Wax our green thumbs up!

Geraldton Wax Australian Native Growing Guide

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Author:

Gary Clarke

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