Wollemi pine update

wollemi pine 2The recently discovered Wollemi pine was a topic of discussion on the Don Burke gardening radio program recently. This fossil conifer has been a source of considerable disappointment to many gardeners since its release. One could reasonably think that a species of tree that has survived for 200 million years, according to the accompanying care guide, would be fairly hardy, but this is not the case. These trees cannot handle heavy rainfall, drought, or full sun. They are easily stressed, and prone to phytophthora root rot, as well several other soil diseases.

The tree I received last Christmas was soon re-potted into a slightly larger container with some coco peat, compost and worm castings as fertiliser, and a little coarse river sand. After re-potting, the tree was positioned on a verandah on the northern side of our house, but it quickly became apparent that it was not happy in a warm environment, and was transferred to the verandah on the south side where it has survived, but has made only a couple of centimetres growth. The care guide gives no real indication of the species’ fussy moisture requirements other than the vague advice to “check moisture levels regularly”. Neither did the care guide state that soil in the area where the trees were discovered could have a pH as low as 4, which is too acidic for most plants to survive, or that a coir supplier had developed a special potting mix for these trees.

Don said that little information on the species had been available, resulting in the death of a lot of purchased Wollemi pines, and asked a spokesman from Sydney’s Botanic Gardens why the tree had been released for sale prematurely. The spokesman’s response was that it was to prevent people from damaging the discovery site when attempting to obtain a specimen of these trees. This reasoning would be easier to accept if they didn’t charge such exorbitant prices for these pines.

My advice, if you would like to grow a Wollemi pine, is to visit the web site below and find out if you can provide suitable conditions for this plant before outlaying any money.

wollemipine.com

17 thoughts on “Wollemi pine update

  1. I took delivery of Wolkan – the first wollemi pine in Kanwal.NSW, on April 5 2006. My little dude is doing very well, albeit despite my having taken many pieces off his branches trying to propagate him.
    When I first decided to order one, I went onto the Sydney Botanical gardens website and befriended a young chap in the office there, as an email buddy and we sent messages back an forth about the wollies.
    The biggest thing he said over and over was DO NOT CODDLE THESE PLANTS – THEY ARE TOUGH LITTLE DUES – I took him at his word.
    When I took Wolkan home, after a month or so I potted him in a ceramic pot, with ordinary cheap potting mix, with some rocks added to make it more like the soil where he came from. You see my home is about 100kms due east of the wollemi national park, and where those old trees stand! My soil is concrete like and I figure that the wollemi site would be very similar indeed.
    We were in severe drought when I brought him home, with no watering allowed, so he lived on recycled final rinse water from the washing machine and never blinked a leaf at it.
    Why is he in a pot still, because he has enjoyed it so much, I fear if I put him in the ground he will grow like crazy!
    What have I fed him. NOTHING! I must say though for mulch, I have used sugar cane mulch, which breaks down into beaut soil, and I may have dropped a tad of my worm farm tea, in the pot but that is all. Now we got the rainwater tank in 2007, so he has rainwater or recycled depending on how the tank is fairing!
    I have taken my friend at the gardens word, and not coddled this plant, and I am being rewarded for my non spoiling efforts! Thank you Simon at Royal Botanical Gardens Sydney, at least I believed you and am being rewarded for it, by still having my Wolkan sitting under the palm tree smiling at me!
    Maybe it is because he is under an Aussie palm, an Alexandra x Kentia, and has blue flax lilies nearby, all other Aussie plants to share the air etc! I leave him to do his thing, and I do mine, and say hi every now and again! He does look cute with Chrissie lites in him too!
    So the only thing I can think of, is that these people have all killed their plants with what they thought was kindness!
    The instructions sheet, goodness me how would they know what the trees need except for the couple of years they have grown them, not enough time to develop a full routine, but leave them to it and they are happy. Well drained soil, they DO NOT like to get their feet wet! – Cathie Taylor of Kanwal – Central Coast NSW

    Thanks for that Cathie. Perhaps the secret is the sugar cane mulch and worm pea plus not fussing. Don Burke was on Channel 9 this evening repeating how difficult they are to grow. It is good to know that they can grow happily because they are very expensive little critters. – Lyn

  2. Hi from Holland,
    I bought a tree in June 2006 in Germany. It’s been in a large container since. It grows about 5 to 10cm a year and that first tree is now starting to produce the specific chocolate colour bark!

    During growing season they like a bit more water. In 2008 I bought two more trees.
    They are all standing outside during the spring, Summer and Fall. Last year when it was minus 16 degrees centigrade I moved them inside the greenhouse where it is frost free. But they were outside with a temperature of minus 10 degrees!
    Who says they are not hardy??
    Also it rains a lot in Holland, but the branches are preventing that too much rain is coming in the container.
    Already in September they are starting to protect themselves by forming the polar caps.

    I replanted the trees in my own mix (normal potting mix 30%, peat 8%, coarse sand 30%, French pine bark 30%, vermiculite 2%). Topped up with French pine bark, so a real grainy mix that let the water through easily. They only get rainwater. So they are in a low pH environment.
    They grow well.
    Next year I am going to plan them out in the garden. Already in Amsterdam botanic garden there is a tree that is in the ground sind 2005 and it is doing well.

    In short: make sure the mix is freely draining and don’t cuddle them.

  3. G’day from Melbourne, Australia,
    I have two Wollemi trees from the original Sydney Botanic Gardens lot which I planted out in West Gippsland Victoria beside the West Tyers River at 300 metres a.s.l., 1200 mm av. annual rainfall. An open site with little shelter on fertile brown clay loam (mildly acid), a freely but slowly draining soil, not waterlogged in winter.
    Despite the severe frosts during the winter and early spring from bodies of cold air draining down off the Baw Baw plateau at about 1300 meters a.s.l., they have never shown any damage at all, even when the native treeferns and ground ferns nearby have been cut back severely.
    They were planted at the height of about 30 cms in 2005 and are now about 1.8 metres high.
    Remarkably disease free trees..just an odd fungal spot here and there on the leaves.
    Pot culture requires more care I suppose, but my experience suggests that Wollemia nobilis is an adaptable species, despite its restricted and localised natural occurrence.

  4. I live in the state of Louisiana, USA, along the gulf coast. Our climate is hot, very not from June through Sept. and horribly humid with LOTS of rainfall. Winters are generally mild but we do get short frost and freezes down to the upper 20s F. I bought my first Wollemi about 4 years ago. It was about 18 inches tall when I purchased it. I immediately moved up to a 15 gallon plastic pot, the soil mix I used was nothing very special, like most commercial potting soil. It contains peat, perlite, fine pine bark, and some sand. The Wollemi has more than doubled in size since I obtained it. It make substantial growth the first year, somewhat less but almos the same the second and third year. It produced less new growth this year, BUT it still looks very healthy and gives all appearances of a well grown plant.

    I have done nothing to it since I first planted it in the larger pot. I have not added much of any fertilizer to it, and perhaps thats why it had grown less this year than previous. We get lots of rain, sometimes day after day, for weeks at a time and it has not affected the plant adversely. I do water it regularly during periods of no rain, so that its soil has ever been completely dry.

    I have spoken to others in my area who purchase very small plants and lost them quickly. Perhaps since the plant I purchased was sizable it made a difference, I dont know. I now have a second plant it appears to be doing well also.

  5. I live in New York State, USA. Where can I purchase a Wollemi Pine?
    Sorry John, I have no idea if Wollemi Pines are available in the United States. – Lyn

  6. I live in Alabama can a wollemi pine grow here? If how can I get one?
    Sorry Ann, I have no idea if you can buy a Wollemi pine in Alabama. They are an ancient rainforest tree and are a bit fussy about conditions. They are difficult to obtain here but, in years to come they may be available where you live. – Lyn

  7. Wollemi Pines are available from San Marcos Growers in Santa Barbara, when we lived in San Diego we imported several thousand Wollemi Pines and SMG took some and I believe that they have the only ones left. We have several hundred growing well at out present location in Queensland.
    Thank you, Bruce. : )

  8. Would really like to plant a wollemi pine on my property a place called bungundarra in the capricornia region Not far from byfield nation park how do you think it would go and how do i get one.
    Cheryl, I am not sure if these trees are suitable for your area but this website has a list of stockists for Wollemi Pines and the nearest stockist would be able to advise you. Wollemi Pine

  9. Hi, guys! I have inherited a wollemi pine with our new property. The tree is planted part way down a sloping bank which was created when the house site was being prepared. It appears to be mainly clay And the previous owner has planted several oaks, camellias, diosmas, proteas and some fruit trees, which I have yet to identify. Some of them are okay but the camellias have some yellowing which I will try to deal with. But the wollemi pine is completely new to me. It is sort of yellowish with quite a lot of browning on the leaves. I feel that is due to some very hot summer days over the last few summers as well as it’s feet are probably encased in clay. After a bit of reading, my plan is to relocate it at the end of a row of pittosporum. I would be preparing a raised garden bed from pallets, lined with weed mat, mixing some local soil with gypsum and perlite, mulching with sugar cane mulch and, until it gathers some strength, screening it from the hot northerlies and the strong summer sun. Does anyone think these measures might work? I would appreciate your input, Thank you.

  10. Try to keep it out of the wind. The older it is, the stronger it is. Do not over water it. Watch out for caterpillers on the tips of young growth. It prefers acid soil. Between 4pH and 6pH is preferred. If you need to water is then give it a good watering but ensure it has good drainage. If I need to water it I usually only do it once a week with the ones in pots but extremely rarely with the one planted in the garden. Hope this helps.

  11. We live in Melbourne and purchased a Wolli last year. In the pot it stood over 6ft tall. It had both male and female seed pods, for want of another word. The female have gone but it still has the male many of which are new and larger than when it was bought. We stood him in the garden and have shown no special attention except water. I read they don’t like to be kept too wet. So only once a week usually and much less lately. It has grown quite a bit and needs support. We repotted last weekend in a large terracotta type pot and used a superior readily available potting mix. Also purchased Australian Native fertiliser. Well so far Wollie looks great. Fronds are high and outstretched so that the trunk is visible throughout the tree. Gave it a HUGE drink as it was dry prior to repotting as fronds were quite limp and flattish against the trunk.
    After reading above comments, will leave it alone now. It is under the pergola now but must say stood up to lots of heat last Summer and cold wet and winds during Winter and still looks pretty gorgeous.
    We have plans to shorten it by a few feet. Does anyone have advice re when and how. We won’t be doing this for a while to give it time to adjust to its new container.
    Happy and successful growing everyone. Cheers.
    PS. Don’t forget to enjoy and just imagine what you have. Amazing don’t you all agree? If you stress about it you defeat the purpose of owning one.

    You can prune these pines Dorothea, but it is usually done in winter. You can find details about pruning and other care, here:
    Wollemi Pine Care – Lyn

  12. Our 5 year old, outdoors, 2m Wollemi pine is in a pot in Melbourne. We are thinking of replanting it in the garden. A botanist has suggested its pot-bound root structure may need root pruning. Can anyone give some advice on this please?

    If you are going to plant it in the garden, it should not need root pruning unless the roots have become very tangled or curled around the shape of the pot. I would take it out of the pot and gently tease out as many roots as possible. Then only trim any that are hopelessly tangled. He probably suggested pruning because, if the roots have wound around in a circle they would stay like that in the ground, restricting the tree’s growth. We have a potted Wollemi of a similar age that my husband recently repotted. He just put in in a large pot with several cms apace between the rootball and the pot’s edge. He didn’t need to trim the roots, so you could be lucky. – Lyn

  13. Goodness me – I”ve just read all these posts! I bought my Woolemi in 2005. Ten years ago. I have transplanted it into a larger pot once and twice cut the top off (the conical top makes a lovely xmas tree). But other than that, I’ve done nothing!! I water it when it looks dry and that’s about it. I suppose I should fertilise one day. But it is the most beautiful healthy tree. In fact it’s growing so well I think I’m going to have to cut the top off again! At the moment it’s 2 metres high. I live in an inner suburb of Melbourne (Australia). I have a small backyard so it is protected from wind and the tree faces west. I do try and shade it on days over 40 degrees but it is very hardy. They are really the most wonderful plant to grow. Olwyn
    I’m pleased to hear your Wollemi Pine is doing well. – Lyn

  14. We bought Jax in approximately 2009 and we put him straight into the ground – direct sunlight. We kept him hydrated in the beginning and luckily we have sandy soil on our property.
    It has been a joy watching him take shape and getting larger and larger, just in the last year the growth has been amazing. It is approximatley four meters high ( I think that this is a very conservative guess ) I would not even think to stop it from being exactly the height what nature intended. Grow Jax Grow

  15. I’m a bit late reading this, but it is wollemi.com.au whose site you have suggested to go to who are the sole producers of the pine and who sell at the ridiculous price. They then sell to other nurseries.
    …and just to add, it is that same site, wollemipine.com , who deliver all the crap about surviving in high temperates.

    Jennah, I cannot find anywhere on my blog where I have suggested “wollemi.com.au”. However, I agree that they are charging ridiculously high prices when they claim to have a higher than 95% propagation success rate, and they want to discourage people from going and digging up pines themselves.

  16. Hi, my Wolllemi tree lives in a pot on the north east coast of England. I’ve had the tree for 2 years and really other than ocaisonally feeding with a high potash food I’ve done nothing to it. Wow just this month it’s produced yellow buds the shape and texture of miniature pineapples. Can you explain this for me ..is there anything I need to be doing.
    Kind regards, Maggie

    Hi Maggie, those ‘miniature pineapples’ are the tree’s female pine cones. You don’t have to do anything except enjoy your thriving tree. – Lyn
    You can find the information you need on this website: Wollemia nobilis – Growing Native Plants

  17. Wollemi are easy to strike and easy to grow. Patience and neglect are key.
    My grandfather was given a Wollemi for his birthday. When he died 3 years later it had grown from about 30cm to 2m in horrible unimproved grey Melbourne clay. I took cuttings before his property was sold, literally snipping off bits of foliage, removing lower leaves, and poking them into tubes (without hormones). From 25 cuttings I had 17 strike successfully. This is a better strike rate than I typically achieve with lavender and rosemary!
    I’ve given most of these cuttings to family members and friends who have planted them in varied soil (from pH8, potting mix, sand or clay), either in their garden or in pots (with whatever potting mix is on hand). All 17 are still alive after >2 years from being snipped off the parent plant.
    They don’t like too much blistering sun when they are small or boggy soil from being over watered. Other than that, they seem keen to live and grow.
    They do take a long time to grow roots (>1 year in some cases), and are not quick to put on foliage when establishing roots (I’ve some that have not grown at all in 2 years – but they’ve had put a lot of energy into roots). I anticipate that once there are sufficient roots these cuttings will grow from <10cm to more substantial plants quite quickly.
    If you want a Wollemi and think commercial sources are too expensive ask a friend for a cutting and be patient. Maybe toss in some soil from near the parent plant in case microbial relationships are required to help roots do their thing quicker.
    And no – side shoot or top shoot – cuttings do not become prostrate plants!

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