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Planting to prevent myrtle rust

Reduce the impact of myrtle rust by planting alternative plants that are less susceptible.

​What is myrtle rust?

Myrtle rust (Austropuccinia psidii) is a significant disease for a wide range of species within the Myrtaceae family.

It reduces fruiting and seeding to the point where no new plants are growing, meaning that extinctions in the wild are expected.

Plants that are susceptible to myrtle rust

Lilly pilly is a popular ornamental hedging plant in New Zealand gardens and is native to Australia.

There are three varieties including Syzygium asutrale that while attractive, are highly susceptible to myrtle rust. It also requires regular trimming, increasing the chances of a hedge being infected by contaminated pruning equipment.

Once infected, myrtle rust can then spread to other myrtles nearby, including susceptible New Zealand natives like pōhutukawa, ramarama and rohutu.

Instead of planting lilly pilly, we recommend planting alternative species that have aesthetic and ecological benefits.

Fast-growing hedges that you can plant instead

Consider replacing your lilly pilly hedges with the following alternatives recommended by Auckland Botanical Gardens staff.

​Botanic name ​Native / non-native ​Height
​Camellia sasanqua ‘Little Liane’ ​Non-native ​Medium
​Camellia sasanqua ‘Paradise Belinda’ ​Non-native ​Medium / tall
​Camellia sasanqua 'Paradise Helen’ ​Non-native ​Tall
​Camellia sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’ ​Non-native ​Medium
​Camellia transnokoensis hybrid ‘Transpink' ​Non-native ​Medium
​Carpodetus serratus prostrate form ​Native ​Medium
​Coprosma ‘Beatson’s Gold’ ​Native ​Medium
​Coprosma tenuicaulis ​Native ​Medium
​Coprosma virescens ​Native ​Tall
​Corokia cotoneaster ​Native ​Medium / tall
​Corokia virgata ​Non-native ​Medium / tall
​Griselinia littoralis ​Native ​Tall
​Hebe ‘Wiri Mist’ ​Native ​Small
​Hebe diosmifolia ​Native ​Medium
​Lavandula dentata ​Non-native ​Medium
​Melicytus obovatus ​Native ​Small / medium
​Muehlenbeckia astonii ​Native ​Medium / tall
​Myrsine aquilonia ​Native ​Small / medium
​Pittosporum ‘Little Squirt’ ​Native ​Small
​Pittosporum ‘Wrinkle Blue’ ​Native ​Small
​Pittosporum crassifolium ​Native ​Tall
​Podocarpus totara ​Native ​Tall
​Teucrium fruticans ​Non-native ​Medium

Alternative plants not susceptible to myrtle rust

Planting ornamental trees

These plants are of proven excellence in suitable conditions within Auckland:

  • Aloe barberae – architectural, quite large with age.
  • Camellia sasanqua upright forms – various flower colours, reliable.
  • Cercis chinensis ‘Avondale’ – small vase shaped tree, early spring flowering.
  • Lagerstroemia subcostata – beautiful bark.
  • Magnolia ‘Genie’ – small tree, royal purple flowers.

Planting native trees for small gardens

These plants have been recommended by staff at Auckland Botanic Gardens.

They have been selected for gardens with limited space and present no issues with falling leaves or vigorous roots:

  • Myrsine australis, mapou – small upright dense tree.
  • Pittosporum cornifolium, tawhirikaro – dense, small tree, glossy foliage.
  • Pseudopanax ferox, toothed lancewood – tolerates wind, distinctive adult or juvenile foliage.
  • Rhopalostylis sapida, nikau – single trunk, tolerates sun and wind, handsome.
  • Sophora chathamica, kowhai – tolerates wind, attractive foliage.
  • Piper excelsum subsp. excelsum – deep red-brown stems, attractive heart-shaped leaves.

Planting native shrubs to increase diversity and for small gardens

  • Hebe – (Hebe sp.) a good, robust, reliable performer. Easy to grow, good for smaller gardens, and provides food for insects and butterflies.
  • Kawakawa (Piper excelsum subsp. excelsum) – small tree, excellent insect and bird food source.
  • Hangehange (Geniostoma rupestre) – small native tree with small flowers. Fruit attracts small native birds.
  • Mahoe (Melicytus ramiflorus) – a medium-sized tree that can be pruned and is hardy to most soils. Berries are eaten by native birds, including tūī and kereru. It can be pruned to a reasonably upright tree if started early.

Find out more about how you can protect plants from myrtle rust.

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