Plants Management AustraliaSyzygium ‘Big Red’ lilly pilly has big impact

Lilly Pillies have long been popular in Australia, particularly for hedging and topiary purposes. They are evergreen, usually with glossy green foliage that flushes with colour when the new growth comes through. There are many varieties on the market – here are some of the virtues of our favourite at PMA.

Syzygium Big Red grown as an informal screen or hedge

Syzygium Big Red grown as an informal screen or hedge

Syzygium ‘Big Red’ comes from Queensland nursery owners Scott and Peta McLean. The pair own and operate Crystal Waters Nursery in south east Queensland and have been working with lilly pillys for decades. Back in 2003 they identified a lone seedling within a batch of Syzygium australe that had a much faster growth rate than the rest and also much bigger leaves with a dark red flush.

Quickly recognising the potential of a new variety that could offer faster results and with increased colour displays, they isolated the seedling and the rest, as they say, is history.

Syzygium Big Red showing its striking, deep crimson-red new growth

Syzygium Big Red showing its striking, deep crimson-red new growth

The plant basically named itself, being christened after its rich colour and large leaf size. It will grow to a maximum height of approximately 4m (as with every plant, it’s dependent on location and climatic conditions), making it a medium growing lilly pilly perfect for a range of applications. Like many other varieties, ‘Big Red’ also produces lovely white flowers over summer followed by berries. These attract native birds, so it’s a good choice if you would like to encourage wildlife into your garden.

‘Big Red’ is celebrated for its deep crimson colour which is amongst the darkest available on the market. This makes it perfect for adding interest into the garden by creating striking colour contrasts. ‘Big Red’ is a winner for hedging and can screen a shed or provide you with some much needed privacy around entertainment areas.

‘Big Red’ responds very well to shaping and as such is often used for creating displays with a formal edge. It’s a great choice for those keen on using Australian natives, but replicating a more formal garden design. The colour lends another dimension to topiary shapes. When the new red growth bursts into life it’s nothing short of striking.

Syzygium 'Big Red' clipped as topiary standards

Syzygium ‘Big Red’ clipped as topiary standards

I’ve seen some great plantings around pools too. Regular pruning if you’re wanting a particular size and shape also means you are constantly removing the flowers and therefore preventing the berry production – not something that most pool owners relish.

Syzygium Big Red Label Front PrintA fast growth rate has resulted in ‘Big Red’ becoming popular for new home gardens but also for bulk landscape purposes. Look out for this great all round choice for many Australian gardens. It’s hardy, frost and dry tolerant too – however protect from frosts while your plants are young and still establishing themselves.

[This is a sponsored post brought to you by Plants Management Australia]

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Plants Management Australia

About Plants Management Australia

Plants Management Australia is an Australian based licensing and marketing company which manages the protection and introduction of new plant varieties across the globe. PMA represents the interests of independent breeders, providing professional management for new varieties and quality, transparent service.

30 thoughts on “Syzygium ‘Big Red’ lilly pilly has big impact

  1. Elizabeth Swane on said:

    Is Big Red resistant to psyllids?

  2. Hi Helen,
    It is not resistant to psyllid.
    If you are unfortunate enough to experience any damage, remove the damaged foliage and the new rich red growth will grow again.
    There are now some commercial preventatives that come in the form of tablets that are inserted into the soil. These are apparently very effective preventive treatments so would be worth researching is your area is prone to psyllid damage.

    • Craig Thompson on said:

      Good question Elizabeth.

      I am amazed that such a pest prone plant would still be promoted today. Lacing the soil surrounding the plant with poison is hardly a long term solution to enhance its appearance. I thought that we as a society, as well as responsible urban caretakers had moved away from such practices. I know of a large wholesale nursery in Sydney that has culled all its psyllid prone varieties from its list, because they aren’t good enough to market. There should be no place for under-performers in horticulture, especially when they are being promoted as newer varieties. Please develop new plants by all means; but don’t expect us, the public, to embrace them if we are required to resort to poison to keep them attractive.

  3. Mohan K on said:

    I’ve been trying without success to buy 2 Big Red Syzygium topiary in Sydney.
    Do you know where I can buy them?
    Regards
    MK

  4. Hello Mohan – you should be able to order some from Crystal Waters Nursery (07 5533 7900).

  5. Nick Macolino on said:

    Is it possible to apply the method of pleaching to lilly pilly around a pool to create a formal looking hedge. We were hoping to use capital pear trees, but concern has been raised re roots and ideally prefer not to be cleaning leaves out of pool when they drop.

  6. Hi Nick,
    We haven’t trialled pleaching with Big Red so I can’t give you a categorical ‘yes’. Based on its performance to date and strength of the trunk we are inclined to think it would lend itself well to this application. If you go ahead with it I would love some see some photographs and hear the results.

  7. daniella on said:

    Is there anywhere in South Australia I can buy small big red standards? Thanks

  8. Give the team at Native Plant Wholesalers a call. They will be able to advise you of stockists in SA – 08 8726 6210

  9. Lium jike on said:

    Can human eat these berries?

  10. Hi Lium,

    Whilst the berries are edible, we don’t encourage this in case your plants have been subjected to some kind of treatment that renders them inedible. For example due to some kind of pest control or fertiliser. This plant isn’t marketed as an edible variety for these reasons, and to also protect against a member of the public confusing the berries with other similar looking fruit which may not be edible.
    If any doubt, please don’t eat any berries!

  11. Mel caruana on said:

    If young shrubs have been exposed to frost is there any way of salvaging them?

  12. Hi Mel,
    It’s always hard to answer questions like this without knowing the exact circumstances. Generally, if they just have a small amount of damage it would be ok to remove the damaged foliage, however you need to be wary of trimming off too much especially if further frosts are likely in your area – the combination of foliage loss and further frosts could spell disaster. I would recommend taking a photo and popping into your local garden centre. They are in the best position to advise how to proceed given your local conditions. I hope that helps.

  13. Daphne Cooke on said:

    Could you tell please me if the berries from Big Red Lilly Pilly could be a problem if planted next to brick paving or artificial turf

    • Hi Daphne – Amanda has sent on this reply for you – “It probably depends on whether you anticipate animals and/or kids running about regularly in close proximity to your plants. If you have fallen berries they can of course be squashed like any other fruit, but I have not noticed much mess around any of the plantings I have seen. Big Red is often used a hedge along paths and concrete driveways and has not been reported as a problem in terms of mess or staining. So I could only think that you should be fine unless you have ‘creatures’ that are likely to want to squash and play with them. Like all such plants, a quick sweep will tidy any fallen berries pretty easily.”

  14. I’m trying to find an approximate growth rate for Lilly Pilly. I know there are many different types but I can’t even find information about a single one of them. I have done a pretty thorough search online. The best I can find is they grow ‘medium to fast’ for the larger ones.

    So far I am assuming about 1 meter per year.

  15. Simon on said:

    Hi it’s Simon saying has anyone that has the big red standard topiary experienced a lot of diseases on the foliage

  16. coral hengst on said:

    Yes, I planted six big reds and at the first they looked very healthy but 18 months later they are full of disease. Gave them a heavy prune and used an Eco pesticide. Am waiting to see the results. If not successful, plan to remove them. A pity because they were very attractive.

  17. Bonnie Turner on said:

    Hi, I have also experienced big red standard topiary disease. Did the same as Coral above and they recovered, then the topiary leaves died but new growth has bushed at the bottom. What should I do with the bush to at least appreciate what is left? These are in pots. Would appreciate any advice.

  18. Hi Bonnie – yes you can remove the topiary section on top and grow the plant again from the new leaves around the base. None of the currently grown lilly pillies is as bullet proof as we might like. Some are prone to psyllids, which cause those raised bumps on the leaves, others to mealy bug, or white wax scale or leaf-eating beetle. Without knowing which of these pests is giving you problems it’s a bit hard to recommend treatment. In Australia, products containing imidacloprid are still registered for psyllid control but this chemical is implicated in bee colony collapse disorder and banned in Europe and in many USA states so I don’t use it in my garden. Sabrina Hahn has suggested this method of physical control http://sabrinahahn.com.au/factsheet/lilly-pilly-psyllid/. For the other plant pests you can try eco-oil and/or neem oil sprays.

  19. Yannick on said:

    Does Mitre 10 sell the big red lilly pilly

  20. Vicki Cameron on said:

    Hi , we have 2 ‘big red’s’ in pots and they have just started to turn yellow. The green glossy leaves are now light green and the new growth is light green/ yellow shades. What is wrong with our plants please. Regards from Vicki

  21. Ian on said:

    Hi, Can Big Red handle coastal conditions, approx 6 km from coast but with constant wind. Location is Bellarine Peninsula in Vic.

  22. Phyllis on said:

    Hi Ian, I live just before Geelong and I planted 9 of the Big Reds last March and they have hardly grown at all and are just green, no red growth, no flowers and no berries.
    I’ve have everything that they advised at the nursery, they look healthy enough, but no one can tell me why they look like they do.

    • HI Phyllis – do you know the pH of your soil? Stunted growth is often because nutrients are locked up in either very alkaline or acidic soils.

  23. Phyllis on said:

    Hi Catherine – thanks for that, what should the soil be, alkaline or acidic?

    • Most plants prefer a slightly acid soil, with pH close to 6.5. Although a pH of 5.5 might not seem like it’s a big difference to 6.5, as the pH scale is logarithmic, pH5.5 is actually 10 times more acidic than pH6.5, and pH4.5 is one hundred times more acidic. It’s quite common to find soil pH levels in Australian gardens as low as pH4-4.5, or as high as pH8-8.5. You can buy pH test kits at nurseries for around $20.

  24. Phyllis on said:

    Thanks Catherine – I’ll get a test kit and hopefully I can fix the problem.

  25. Riki lee Appelkamp on said:

    Hi
    Jist wondering if the berries are poisoned for kids if they eat them?

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