The Lilly Pilly plant is a fantastic tropical, ornamental native, with some varieties growing delicious little fruits. This fantastic plant can grow quite large in the wild, but there are also many dwarf varieties you can grow at home.
With wonderfully dense foliage, it also makes a perfect hedging plant. Here’s our guide to help you propagate, grow and care for lovely Lilly Pilly plants.
Getting to Know the Lilly Pilly Plant
Lilly Pilly is native to Australia and some parts of SouthEast Asia. Formerly known as Eugenia, Lilly Pillies now form part of the Syzygium genus.
They are technically part of the Myrtle family and are a cultivar of myrtaceae.
Other names you may find this plant under include:
- Monkey Apples
- Cherry Satinash
- Australian Cherries
More so, aboriginal Australian’s refer to this plant as “medicine berries’ as the fruits of the Lilly Pilly have quite a few health benefits.
Due to its fast-growing, dense and glossy foliage Lilly Pillies are great as a natural fence, protective screen or privacy hedge. Plus, they are likely to attract lots of bird life to your garden.
The most commonly cultivated varieties of Lilly Pilly include:
- Straight & Narrow
The sublime and straight and narrow varieties are ideally used for hedging. Whereas the Red-Head cultivar is commonly grown for its fruit and fire retardant capabilities.
The fruits of the red-head are oval-shaped berries which range in colour from a pink-red to a violet or magenta colouring. These fruits are usually quite tart when freshly picked but also have a fruity, spice filled flavor said to be close to that of cinnamon.
How to Grow Lilly Pilly
Lilly Pilly have quite flexible growing requirements and specific needs will depend on the cultivar you have chosen to grow. It is important to note that not all varieties of Lilly Pilly are fruit bearing.
Most varieties grow quite happily in the garden but also make fabulous container plants. You will need to note that Lilly Pilly have invasive root systems, so be sure to give it plenty of space to grow.
In general, Lilly Pillies enjoy full sun or partial shade, moist soil and slightly salty conditions. Choose a good quality soil, which offers adequate drainage. Clay or loam soil is also suitable.
Growing Lilly Pilly From Seed
This cultivar is incredibly easily grown from seeds; however, they are rather slow to germinate. So, patience is key.
You can collect seeds directly from fresh fruits once they have ripened. Here’s what you should do:
- Remove the fruit from around the seed and clean the seed of any debris.
- Place the seed into a seeding tray with high-quality seeding mix.
- Keep your seeding tray in a warm and humid climate.
- Be sure to keep the soil moist to enable germination.
How to Grow Lilly Pilly From Cuttings
While this is a slightly harder method, it is possible to propagate Lilly Pilly from a cutting. Here’s how:
Tips on Planting Lilly Pilly
Planting is an important process, so you’ll want to make sure you’re doing right and giving your plant plenty of room to grow.
Firstly, prepare your soil with a slow-release fertiliser before planting. Then:
- Dig a hole twice the size of your root ball.
- Gently tease the roots of your Lilly Pilly plant and place into the hole and backfill.
- Form a raised ring or donut around the base to help it retain water.
- Mulch the area around the donut. A mix of sugar cane is recommended as it tends to hold more moisture.
When it comes to spacing out your plants, it’s always good to go with a 3:1 rule. If you’re hoping to grow your plant to 2 meters tall, space then 60cm apart.
Of course, if you’re planting into individual pots, just make sure the pot is at least twice the size of the root ball.
How to Care for Lilly Pilly Plants
Once established, Lilly Pillies are quite hardy and easy going. However, they’ll take a solid 3 to 5 years to reach full maturity.
Lilly Pillies don’t do well in extreme cold so be sure to protect from extreme, frosting temperatures and clear of drying, freezing winds.
The main things you'll need to consider with Lilly Pillies is regular watering, pruning and fertilising.
These plants enjoy moisture, so be sure to water them often. The soil should remain slightly moist at all times. However, waterlogging will pose a problem. Well-draining soil should help with this.
Pruning is a great way to keep your Lilly Pilly the size you want it and it can take quite aggressive pruning without a problem. Be sure to prune at least once a year and water the soil well before and after pruning.
It is recommended to do so only after its flowering season.
Pests & Diseases
Especially when kept outdoors, you may find some sap-sucking insects on your plant. The three most prominent issues with Lilly Pillies include:
Lilly Pilly Psyllid
Also known as Trioza Eugeniae, psyllids are insects which burrow into the leaves of the Lilly Pilly. While it’s not fatal for your plant, they do cause unsightly, pimple-like deformations on the leaves of your plants.
Luckily, these are treatable with a good insecticide.
Lilly Pilly is native to Australia and there are quite a few Aussie plants which suffer from scale. This will only become an issue when the plant reaches maturity, however, it can pose devastating if not treated.
Ladybugs are known to prevent scale or treat it with white oil.
Some Lilly Pilly varieties have been bred to be resistant to rust, but it’s not always easy to tell if yours is. Be sure to remove any affected foliage and treat immediately with a fungicide.
Benefits of Lilly Pilly Fruits
Fruit-bearing Lilly Pilly plants offer up some fantastically delicious berries which are good for you and great to eat. Aboriginal Australian’s used the berries of the Lilly Pilly to prevent colds and even fight infections.
In terms of nutrition, Lilly Pilly berries are known to:
- Be high in Vitamin C.
- Be a great anti-oxidant and boost the immune system.
- Reduce inflammation
- Boost collagen production in the skin.
The berries are quite tart when eaten raw, so it’s often cooked, baked or boiled. Due to its diverse, spice-filled flavor it actually has a lot of culinary applications.
It’s often used in salads or in salad dressing, in smoothies or over ice cream, mixed into muffins, cakes and pies and anywhere where it can enhance flavour.
More so, Lilly Pillies are great when paired with meats like Kangaroo, Poultry and Pork. For those cheese-lovers, it’s also fantastic with Cheddar, Manchego and aged Gouda.
Wrapping Up Our Lilly Pilly Growing Guide
There really are so many applications for this fabulous fruit. So, why not start growing some of your very own Lilly Pilly plants in your garden. Plus, it’s even safe for pets.
Whichever variety of this Australian native you choose, just be sure to keep that soil moist and jam-packed with nutrients. If you’re choosing a variety for hedging or screening, be sure to give your plants plenty of space to grow and keep up with regular pruning.
Easily propagated, and fairly easy to grow, now you have everything you need to know to start growing lilly pilly today!