The Q&A Archives: Australian Tree Grass

Question: I recently purchased an Australian tree grass (Xanthorroea). I was told that they come from an area where the soil has extrememly low concentrations of phosphorus and that it will die if fertilized with "normal" balanced fertilizer. Can you recommend a fertilizer? Are there any other micronutrients that should be avoided/included? They are apparently quite slow growing as I was told that specimen I purchased was 4 years old and it was in a 4 inch pot! Any cultivation tips you could pass on would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: The genus Xanthorroea contains about 12 sub-species of slow growing, long lived, woody perennials. Tree Grass plants are native to Australia, growing thick, woody, palmlike leaves in a tuft at the top of a trunk. The plants are best suited to dry climates and thrive in poor sandy or gravelly soils. There's no documentation to support the theory that a balanced fertilizer will have a detrimental effect on your plant. It's not a heavy feeder and can get along with an annual application of an 8-8-8 fertilizer formulation. After planting, water well and then water once every two weeks until the plant is established and you can detect new growth. When it does become established, soak the soil once or twice during the summer season. The culture of this plant is very similar to that of Yucca - full sunshine, soil on the dry side, and trimming if it becomes unruly or unattractive.

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