The lilly pilly tree (Syzygium smithii) grows quickly and makes a smart choice for informal hedges or privacy screens up to 25 feet tall in the warm climates of U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11. This Australian native produces white flowers that bloom through summer, later developing lavender, pink or white berries. You can plant a lilly pilly from cuttings, seeds or nursery stock.
Growing Lilly Pilly From Cuttings
Cuttings from new shoots grown in spring root readily, allowing you to plant a new lilly pilly from an existing tree. Take an 8-inch-long cutting from a stem tip, using shears that have been disinfected in a 10 percent bleach solution. Cuttings root best when they have two or more leaf nodes, or buds. Trimming the end of the cutting to just beneath a node also improves rooting. Coat the cut end with a powdered rooting hormone. Plant the cuttings in pots filled with a propagation mix, such as equal parts peat and vermiculite, in containers with bottom drainage holes. Cover the pot with a clear bag, keeping the mix moist and providing the cutting with bright but indirect sunlight to encourage it to form roots within four to eight weeks. You can remove the bag once new roots and leaves begin to grow.
Lilly Pilly From Seed
Lilly pilly seeds don't germinate dependably, but you can try planting new trees from seeds. You first need to remove all the flesh from around the seed for successful germination. An article published by Australian Plants Online, the online magazine of the Australian Native Plants Society, suggests placing the seeds in a zip-lock bag with some water and setting the bag outside in the sun for two weeks, which results in fermentation and easier removal of the flesh. Plant the cleaned seeds about 1/2 inch deep in a sterile seed-starting medium, using a pot with bottom drainage. The seeds usually sprout within six weeks if the soil remains moist at temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant several seeds in each pot for a better chance of success.
Transplanting a Lilly Pilly
Transplanting a lilly pilly in late winter or early spring allows it to rapidly establish its roots over the summer. The tree tolerates most soils, but grows best in moist, well-draining loam or sandy soil in an area that gets full, all-day sun. Dig the planting hole slightly deeper than the root ball but two to three times as wide. When set in the planting hole, the roots should be at the same depth as they were in the nursery container. After planting, fill in the hole and water thoroughly to settle the soil.
Basic Lilly Pilly Care
Proper watering helps a lilly pilly establish well after transplanting. It requires moist soil and does not tolerate extended dry conditions. Water a newly planted lilly pilly tree weekly for the first month after transplanting, so the soil remains moist but doesn't stay soggy. After that, reduce watering to once every 10 days, providing just enough moisture so the soil doesn't dry completely. Once established, a lilly pilly needs watering only during dry periods. The plant tolerates heavy spring pruning, so you can remove overgrown or crossed branches or prune to help shape the tree into the desired shape beginning in the second year after planting. Before pruning your lilly pilly, disinfect the pruning tool by wiping or dipping the blades in isopropyl alcohol.
- Cal Poly Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute: Lilly-Pilly Tree
- The Kitchen Gardener: Lilly Pilly
- Australia Handyman: How to Take a Cutting -- Propagating Plants
- Australian Plants Online: The Blooming Lilly Pilly
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Disinfection of Horticultural Tools
- Gardening Australia: Pruning Lilly Pillies
- San Francisco Botanical Garden, In Bloom: Syzygium Smithii "Lilly-Pilly Tree"
- University of Kentucky Department of Horticulture: Cleaning Seeds
Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.