What is Olearia?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Olearia is a genus of trees and shrubs found distributed across Australia, New Zealand, and parts of New Guinea. This genus is placed in the aster family and it is of medium size, with a few species being very rare and limited to small ranges, a common phenomenon seen in species that have evolved on islands. Other species have been domesticated and are cultivated in gardens all over the world. Nurseries and catalogs can usually provide seedlings or seeds and it is sometimes possible to grow from cuttings if mature plants are available.

Olearia attracts butterflies.
Olearia attracts butterflies.

Members of the Olearia genus have evergreen foliage and can vary in size, usually preferring temperate climates. Many of the plants are upright shrubs, while others have a more creeping growth habit, and some are classified as small trees. All are perennials and will grow steadily for many years in a hospitable environment. Gardeners use Olearia for borders, hedges, and specimen plantings. It is advisable to allow some room when establishing a plant, as they can grow quite large when fully mature and will overshadow neighboring plants.

Known by common names like “daisybush,” Olearia species produce small, daisy-like flowers in an assortment of colors. Pruning and pinching back can encourage a more bushy, branched growth, while plants left to their own devices can become more leggy. It is also possible to prune to shape, and this is recommended with hedges and trees to keep the growth even and aesthetically pleasing.

Butterflies and other pollinators use Olearia as food plants. Gardeners interested in attracting insect visitors can establish these plants along with other butterfly and bee-friendly plants. Attractive plants can be useful companion plantings in orchards, to encourage pollinating insects to frequent the area and fertilize as many flowers as possible in the process.

Soil conditions for Olearia should be rich and well drained, with neutral pH. The plants can be grown in full sun to partial shade and will create some shade of their own as they develop. Water requirements vary, depending on the species. Some have relatively low water needs, while others like to be kept moist, but not wet. If plants start developing browning leaves and drooping, it may be a result of insufficient water, excess water, poor nutrients, excessive nutrients, or unfavorable temperatures. Gardeners can use soil testing to check on nutrients and can adjust watering habits to see if plants perk up.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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