The grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side, but it’s definitely growing – everywhere. Whether you’ve got a sprawling lawn or a tiny backyard, you’ve got grass. It’s the best groundcover, especially if you go native.
Whether grown as ground cover, lining a path, or acting as a border, native grasses are a fantastic, low maintenance option for your garden. They’re well adapted to growing in local soil and climate conditions. Native grass is drought tolerant due to its deep roots, which enables it to survive even a fire. From honey reed to kangaroo grass to bottlebrush – there’s plenty of ground to cover. (Ahem.)
There’s a wide range of Australian native grasses to choose from, so here are some of our favourites to grow right in your garden.
List of Australian Native Grasses
- Honey Reed Grass
- Weeping Rice-Grass
- Wallaby Grass
- Kangaroo Grass
- Bottlebrush Grass
- Brush Wiregrass
Honey Reed Grass
This is a hardy and fast-growing grass that makes a great accent for your garden. Grow it in patches as a filler plant or in rock gardens. Its glossy green leaves grow in clusters, with cream to yellow flowers in spring.
Honey reed will thrive in most conditions since it’s very drought and frost tolerant. It can also grow in damp conditions, or part shade. Once established, these plants are very low maintenance, although you should deadhead in late spring.
These native grasses are best grown in South Australia, especially in cool part-shade. You can mow Weeping Rice-Grass down to any height, which means it’s ideal for mimicking a more traditional lawn. They spread over short distances through their underground rhizomes.
Weeping rice-grass is native to wetter climate zones, but will tolerate drought and frost just fine. It can grow in a wide range of soils, including acidic ones. You can also plant it in coastal or shady areas. But don’t put it anywhere with high traffic – and don’t let your dog use it as a bathroom, either.
Wallaby grass grows across the temperate regions of Australia. It’s recognised by its white tufts, which gives it its other name, White Top. These native grasses are great for attracting beetles and butterflies to your garden.
So long as the soil has good drainage, wallaby grass can thrive, although it works best in light sandy loams. In spring, it produces fluffy white seed heads.
Wallaby grass has a high tolerance for both drought and frost, so you can grow it even in colder climates. Just don’t mow it shorter than 4cm, or it might have a hard time re-growing.
This is one of the most widespread native grasses in Australia – it grows in every state and territory! From the bush to the coast, you can find kangaroo grass just about everywhere. It’s easily recognisable by its long stems, and leaves that resemble a kangaroo paw. (Don’t confuse it with a Kangaroo Paw plant, though!)
Kangaroo grass has foliage that changes as it matures, going from green to red in colour. The reddish seed heads emerge from summer to autumn. It’s particularly attractive when grown in clumps.
Plant these native grasses in full sun, and mow twice a year if necessary as they can reach heights of a metre. They don’t do well with frost, but can tolerate drought once established.
This type of grass grows mainly in a coastal or slope environment. It features reddish leaves, and reddish-purple flowers in summer to early autumn. Redgrass is slow growing, with a naturally low height of 10cm – which means once planted, it doesn’t need much mowing.
Redgrass is well suited for lawns, especially in areas with low rainfall or low nutrient soils. Still, it grows best in heavy clays and loams which are slightly acidic. It will tolerate heat and drought, but doesn’t do well in frost. Its short rhizomes also make it good for sloped areas.
A grass of many names, from shuttlecock to bottle washers, all of which refer to its appearance. The seeds of this grass species make it look fluffy, like bristles – and no other species has seeds like it. Bottlebrush grass starts off green, then turns a light brown as it matures. Its stalks can reach a height of 1.5m, but the grass itself only reaches 30cm.
Bottlebrush grass is very hands-off and low maintenance, so it’s a popular choice to add some colour and texture to your garden. It likes full sun, but can grow in partial shade. Its ideal environment is sandy and loamy, but will tolerate most soil conditions.
The flower heads of this grass resemble the end of a broom, and are green with purple tips. As it matures, the flowers turn a cream colour, and they can emerge throughout the year. This is a fast-growing plant, and adds an interesting texture when planted.
Birds are attracted to brush wiregrass seeds, so be ready for your garden to receive some visitors!
The grass itself will grow to only about 20cm, though the flower stems reach higher. It tolerates dry conditions well, and doesn’t need much maintenance. It likes full sun but can grow in partial shade. Plant in sandy soil that’s slightly acidic.
Caring For Native Grass In Australia
Growing native grasses
Most native grasses can simply be grown from seed! You can get seeds and scatter them on the ground, somewhere with full sun. Water enough so that the seeds don’t dry out, then wait for germination. Slowly taper off the watering until your native grasses are established – then you’re good to go.
Some native grasses are also available as plugs, so check with your local nursery or gardening community to see what’s available.
Most native grasses are drought tolerant once planted. You’ll need to water regularly only while germinating since the seeds shouldn’t dry out. Once your native grass has grown, you can start increasing the time between watering sessions. Eventually, your grasses will survive on rainfall alone (although they might like a little sprinkling in the summer to keep their colour). If your grasses turn brown, don’t worry – so long as their roots are well-established, they’ll resprout once the rain comes.
Australian native grasses have adapted to low-nutrient soils, so they don’t really need the extra boost from fertilising. If you mow your lawn, you can simply use the clippings as mulch – otherwise you can use a lawn mowing service to mow and save the clippings for you. Minimising your use of fertiliser also discourages weeds from your lawn – one less thing to worry about!