I have to start by confessing that I am a Restio addict. I have been growing Restios from seed and buying plants when and where available for the past 8 years. I now have 34 different species. 30 of which come from South Africa, 3 from Australia and 1 from New Zealand. I find it easy to source seeds from South Africa but far more difficult to source seeds from Australia and New Zealand.
The Restionaceae is a family of rush like plants largely from the southern hemisphere. They are valued for their great form and year round presence. Many of them make great cut foliage, with individual stems that can last for months in water. They have become popular in the florist cut foliage industry.
They are not easy to germinate. Best germination comes when seeds are treated with ‘instant smoke’ prior to planting, and when they experience a marked difference between day and night temperatures after they are sown. After germination I place the seed tray outside in a sunny, windy position. During their first year the seedlings look very different from the adult plants and have numerous finely branched sterile culms. In the second winter a new set of culms is made usually with the seedling morphology and the first year’s growth dies back. Only in the third year do the plants reach the typical adult form.
All Restionaceae are dioecious (male and female flowers are borne on separate plants) and are wind pollinated. I am experimenting at the moment having planted a male Elegia capensis upwind of a female Elegia capensis, I have gathered the seed and will be sowing it shortly and hoping that it is viable! Given sun, lots of air movement (which is never a problem in our coastal garden) and lots of water Restios grow very fast. They prefer acid soil of low fertility and hate phosphorus. They also hate root disturbance and can sulk for 2 years or more if moved or worse still split!!!!!!!!
Identifying Restios is a nightmare as is their names.
The Australian Restios I am growing are Baloskion australe (was Restio australis), Baloskion tetraphyllum (was Restio tetraphyllus) and Tremulina tremula (was Restio tremulus). The names were changed as the taxonomists decided that the Australian Restionaceae family was totally different from their South African cousins. Certainly the South African Restios I am growing on the whole are much larger and robust than the Australians I am growing, but then I only have a very small representation of the Australian plants. The sole New Zealand Restio I have is Leptocarpus similis and only one seed germinated so it is being carefully monitored.
I would love to try more Australasian Restios and would be very grateful for any information on seed sources in Australia and New Zealand.
If you do not have acid soil Restios can make stunning accent pot plants given the required sun, air movement and plenty of water. As they are fast growers they will need to be potted on frequently, but they look so good all year round unlike some other members of the grass family.
Author: Phemie Rose
Published: Issue 40 (May 2008)