Alison AplinAcacia cognata and cultivars

As a dedicated plant lover, what I look for first with any plant is its foliage and how it would work in the garden. The plant Acacia cognata is one that seems to fit in well almost anywhere – as either a formal plant or in mixed planting.

Acacia ‘Fettucini’ (Photo from PMA)

There are numerous dwarf forms, those that I have tried are ‘Limelight’, ‘Fettucine’ and ‘Mini Cog’. There has been a lot of hype about ‘Limelight’ of late, but I have not had a lot of success with it. Because of this, I am now trialling it in a pot, which I plant on incrementally as the plant seems to require. I have found the other two to be far stronger in growth.

Acacia cognata Photo by Melburnian

The parent plant grows up to 10m in good conditions. Commonly called the River Wattle, this very attractive weeping wattle has pale yellow flower balls between July and October. The plant is endemic to Australia, naturally occurring in NSW and Victoria. Pruning is not required to keep the plant looking good.

Acacia ‘Mini Cog’ Photo from Bushmajik


All of the cultivars are frost tolerant, suitable for coastal and inland planting, are relatively drought tolerant once established and tolerate full sun to part shade. The variety ‘Mini Cog’ grows .75 cm tall by 1.8 metres across.

Acacia ‘Fettucini’ (photo PMA)

‘Fettucine’ is more compact, with the same height but half the spread. The foliage has a twisted appearance to it, making it a very desirable plant in the garden or rockery as a foliage display.

The variety ‘Copper Tips’ is fast growing and quite stunning. We have it growing in a couple of places in our garden, in full sun and in quite a bit of shade under gum trees. Both are doing really well. It will grow up to 6 metres tall in an upright fashion, but will probably spread somewhat with age. The new growth is copper coloured, hence the name. It is a fantastic foliage plant, but also has potential as a screen plant because it is quite dense. Planted in a row behind other foliage or general shrubbery, it would make an excellent feature screen.

Acacia ‘Lime Magik’

‘Lime Magik’ is a soft lime green form with strongly pendulous foliage like a Weeping Willow. This plant will grow to 4 metres, initially quite erect but broadening with age. It has pale yellow flowers but it is the foliage that this plant is grown for, like the ‘Copper Tips’.

The main prerequisite of this plant and its cultivars is the need for good drainage. Irrigation is needed while young and actively growing, but once well established, will tolerate dryness well. If planted near to trees, then supplementary water will be needed during extended periods of dry.


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Alison Aplin

About Alison Aplin

Alison is a passionate, multi award winning sustainable landscape designer, Horticulturist and arborist. She has been the owner and designer of 2 Ecotourism gardens that have both won significant awards. Her writing is based on knowledge, empirical learning which is essential to sustainable ethic, and a questioning mind leading to much research. Her articles are often controversial - with a disclaimer that she is responsible for the written matter, and not Garden Drum. A deeply caring person about the natural environment, Alison's writing endeavours to explain why sustainable landscapes are so important. Without people like her, they will be lost and gardens will become merely concrete

20 thoughts on “Acacia cognata and cultivars

  1. I’ve had an Acacia ‘Limelight’ in the garden for several years now. It’s part shaded, & that side has died right off but the rest is still looking good. People often comment on its lovely, limey foliage and weeping habit. I like the look of Acacia ‘Fettucine’ though, with that narrower form, so I think I’ll give it a try too.

  2. AliCat on said:

    I agree with you about the ‘Fettuccine’ – it is quirky which is instantly appealing to me.
    I have found ‘Mini Cog’ to be better suited to our climate – not as demanding of water and stronger in general.

  3. Amanda on said:

    I was interested to read your article on the Acacias. I am disappointed you haven’t had much luck with ‘Limelight’ though. As you mention, there has been a lot of hype around it lately – it has just celebrated its 10th year in the marketplace, a milestone for a plant. At Plants Management Australia it is one of the most popular varieties in our portfolio and we receive numerous positive comments from it every week.
    Glad ‘Fettucini’ is performing well for you. It’s also worth checking out Acacia ‘Curvaceous’, ‘Bower Beauty’ and ‘Green Mist’ if you’re a fan of dwarf Acacias.

  4. Helen Young on said:

    I love these plants but think most are doomed to failure in Sydney. Sadly, they don’t seem to cope with our summer humidity at all and I very rarely see any that are growing well. In a pot they have a better chance. Those that do survive are terribly prone to scale, which I suspect is related to their struggle to thrive here. I’ve seen them looking great in the Blue Mountains though, where the climate suits them better.

    • AliCat on said:

      Hi Helen
      I think that you might have the answer to my poor performing Limelights – humidity. I have even tried one in a large pot and it is now defoliating and not looking too happy. It is not potbound either. We are coastal and have high humidity for a lot of the year. Drainage is not a problem where I have grown them, so can only assume that it is the humidity. Mind you I have also had other people tell me that their are poor performers, so can’t quite
      work out why. But I do know that I wouldn’t grow again. Mini Cog is far better as is Copper Tips.

      • Rosie Marson on said:

        I agree, I think it is Sydney’s humidity. It is the only plant in our new garden that is just not coping, I’ll see if it works in a pot. thanks for advising.

      • Paul washuta on said:

        Paul from Brisbane. Agreed. One 40C day, high humidity = 2 of 3 limelights dead and one clinging to life. Part shade, with irrigation.

  5. Mike on said:

    Anyone know the name of the rootstock that Acacia cognata can be grafted on? Thanks

    • Alison on said:

      Hello Mike
      I am sorry but I can’t answer that question. I have never heard of Acacia cognata being grafted. Angus Stewart may be better able to help here.

  6. SpicyRedHead on said:

    Good to read this article, as it reassures me that I am not the only Sydneysider who has problems keeping Acacia Cognatas alive. My first ‘Limelight’ survived happily in a hot afternoon sun position for years, but when we demolished old house, sadly this had to be transplanted and of course promptly ‘kicked the bucket’
    Since then I have purchased 2 varieties at different times, the last being Fettucine, but after a year, it is now getting that look, turning brown, dropping foliage etc. Have tried growing them in the ground and in pots, all to no avail. After 3 disasters, I think it’s time to give up on Acacia Cognata and stick to shrubs that like being in my garden!

  7. LusciousLiv on said:

    I had a new small Lime Magik in my Canberra garden which did not survive the hot summer (2013-2014, despite lots of watering). I am now considering another Acacia Cognata cultivar variety to see if I have any luck the second time around. I need to get it in the ground this Autumn so it is well established before the winter and frosts come. I want it to be bushy (to screen the back fence and neighbours) and about 2-3metres high, preferably fast growing, so I’m thinking the ’emerald curl’ or ‘copper tips’ might be the way to go. Do the copper tips of the ‘copper tip’ variety turn green when they get older? I think i read somewhere that the tips are only copper when the shoots are new. Any advice appreciated.

  8. Alison on said:

    Hello LusciousLiv,
    As a plant fanatic, I keep persevering with this plant group to see how different varieties perform. I have found the copper tipped varieties to be good performers. They also retain some of their coppery growth throughout.
    I feel that success is based on drainage more so than anything else. The plant that I have as a rainforest specimen, that is growing amongst tree ferns, is doing splendidly in my garden. It is on a steep slope (at the bottom) but has a limestone subsoil under all the mulch.
    Another plant is growing in an area that flooded in early spring. It is not growing as well but is still looking good. The drainage isnt too bad here – the water soaked in within 48 hours in spring.
    It seems to me to be the smaller varieties that are the most unreliable, but they also need a well drained soil with ample summer water.
    I hope that this has helped.

  9. Sally on said:

    Hi I am looking for advice. I am a huge fan of the acacia cognata plant and the numerous varieties. I have some beautiful Copper tips trees, several of the River Wattle and many of the mini cognata as well as Acacia ‘Fettucini’ All are growing well and thriving. My questions- Can you prune them? the foliage is all at the top and about 1.5 m high?? or is it possible to transplant the Acacia ‘Fettucini’ ?? I want t relocate them in my garden as they have grown too big they are at the front of a garden bed and overshadow the plants behind ? How would I do this without killing them?? thanks Sally

  10. Amanda Mackinnon on said:

    Hi Sally,
    I am also a fan of the cognatas, and PMA works with many of the varieties that you mention. Whilst the Copper Tips respond really well to a good hard prune (it really encourages them to bush right up), this is not the case with all the others. Yes, you can prune the smaller varieties but don’t prune them all the way back to dead wood as they won’t recover.
    Fettuccini can be pruned (with the above in mind) however I’m not 100% sure you have a Fettuccini as it sounds taller than they normally grow. If all the growth is on the top and the wood underneath is dead you need to be careful not to worsen the situation.
    Like many natives, they won’t respond well to transplanting, so I would avoid this. The success rate will be low. You would be better to plant new stock in your new area.

  11. trevor on said:

    Thinking of using the lime magik but have heard that it only has a life-span of 4-5 years. Can anyone verify this?

    • I do not believe that this variety [Lime Magik] is worth growing. It may do better in semi tropical regions but further south with colder winter soils appears to do badly. I think drainage may be a strong prerequisite for this variety.
      I have never yet seen a good specimen.

  12. Hi Alison, i have two acacia cognata mini cogs and have had them for two years. They have grown beautifully but i want to move them to a nicer area for them to grow. I would like to know do they need to be trimmed back to transplant?and do i make sure that all soil surrounding root system stays together or can they be broken up a bit?

  13. Glenys paterson on said:

    I have the acacia mini cog which are now quite large so why are they sold as dwarf. I put them in as a border and now they are nearly 160cm tall and over a metre wide. Can I cut them back.

    • Hi Glenys – Alison Aplin has sent me this reply for you…
      Did you know that anyone can have a label printed? You don’t have to be experienced or knowledgeable to do so. For this reason one should regard labels as a guide only to heights and widths. The parent plant, Acacia cognata can grow up to at least 10 metres high, so mini cog is still dwarf of this size at 1.6 metres.
      If you cut them back you will lose the beautiful habit and they may not reshoot. You have a dilemma.
      All this hybridising to me is going overboard. Why not allow people to get used to the new varieties before constantly bombarding us with new cultivars all the time? Its hard on the nurseries also because what they stock may not be the right variety.
      I have a tendency to stick with species plants where possible – these labels tend to be better tested for plant heights and widths.
      I hope that this helps.

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