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Plant type Shrubs

Best uses

Great as a container plant or an informal low hedge. Can also be incorporated into native plantings and used in coastal plantings.

Physical characteristics

Compact rounded evergreen shrub to 1.5m by 1m.

Flowers and foliage

Clusters of orange-red flowers are produced sporadically throughout the year. New foliage is silvery in colour emerging from red buds that mature to grey-green.

Preferred site

Although Metrosideros are tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions they prefer well-drained sites and an open position. Although they prefer even soil moisture, they will tolerate dry soil and exposed or coastal sites.

Preparation for planting

Always choose healthy well grown plants and plant after autumn rains as the soil is moist and warm and allows trees to become established before winter. This enables them to withstand dry periods during the following summer. Young plants require thorough watering during dry periods over the first two or three years mulching helps to conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Planting success is often improved on clay soils by adding extra topsoil and raising beds. Incorporate coarse sand, bark, compost or other organic material to improve soil structure. Before planting ensure the root ball is saturated and remove the planter bag or pot with minimal root disturbance. Trim any broken roots and plant at the same level as in the container. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the root ball and firm in and water once planted. Make sure plants are watered well until established if planting in a drier period. Plant with some general slow release fertiliser and then every spring apply an organic based fertiliser such as blood and bone at a handful per square meter as new growth begins.

Tall plants and those in windy positions require staking to stabilize the root ball until established. Position the stakes in the hole before planting and place the plant between them. Use wide ties that hold securely without chafing tie firmly but allow room for the trunk to increase in girth without constriction. This allows the plant to move a little in the wind encouraging the development of a strong root system without the risk of chafing or root damage

Maintenance tips

Mulching annually helps suppress weeds and conserve moisture. Organic materials such as sawdust and bark contribute to soil structure as they decompose but keep mulching material away from the trunk. They benefit from a dressing (50g/m2) of general purpose fertiliser in early spring as new growth begins this will encourage more vigorous healthy growth. Sprinkle evenly and work into the top 2 to 3cm of the soil taking care not to damage surface roots.

The first summer and autumn after planting is critical for young plants; water thoroughly during dry periods. Pests and diseases can have serious debilitating effects on young plants; check regularly. Check stakes and ties for chafing and constriction and remove as soon as plants are strong enough to withstand winds without damage.

If any pruning is required to keep plants in shape for their garden situation this should be done after flowering. Metrosideros are sometimes pruned to maintain a desired shape and for deadwood removal.

Ecological and biodiversity benefits

Attracts birds.

Pests and diseases

Pests include thrips and psyllids which cause blistering of the juvenile growth of pohutukawa and northern rata.

Location at Auckland Botanic Gardens

Palm Garden