Telopea speciosissima (Red waratah)

Waratah in Australian Landscape Design

Waratah, or Telopea, is a group of large shrubs or small trees native to Australia, especially the southeastern parts of New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. There are five species of waratah. The most well-known is the Telopea speciosissima (Red waratah), which is known for its bright red flower and is the state symbol of New South Wales. The word "waratah" derives from the native Eora Aboriginal people, meaning red flowering tree. In the flowery vocabulary, waratahs represent beauty.

Tree in bloom
Alloxylon flammeum (Queensland Tree Waratah) is a rainforest tree that only grows naturally in the Atherton Tablelands.

Where do Waratahs grow best?

Ideal Growing Conditions

Growing Conditions: The ideal climates for growth are temperate and semitropical. This plant prefers moderate shade with morning sun, although it will also thrive in full sun. Make sure it only gets a little exposure to the hot afternoon sun. Soils with good drainage are ideal for the growth. The optimal soil for planting waratahs is slightly acidic, sandy soil.

Waratah blooms in bushland under the spring sunshine in NSW, Australia. The inflorescence is surrounded by a whorl of big, red bracts that protect them.


Lewin's Honeyeater on a waratah flower. A great way to attract wildlife to your garden.

Plant Description

Description: Red waratah is simple to grow and grows rapidly once established. It has partially branching stems that can grow 3-4 metres tall and 2 metres wide. The leaves are big, oblong, leathery, and have roughly toothed edges. The upper side of the leaf is dark green and smooth, and the veins are easy to see. The lower side of the leaf is lighter green. They are dark green and are placed alternately on the branches.

Telopea speciosissima (Red waratah)
Telopea speciosissima (Red waratah). The leaves are big, oblong, leathery, and have roughly toothed edges.

The flower heads of these plants are huge, beautiful, and dome-shaped. The inflorescence comprises 250 pairs of flowers surrounded by a whorl of big, red bracts that protect them.

Waratah flower inflorescence comprises 250 pairs of flowers.

The bloom opens from the base or the exterior of the head. The flower's diameter varies from 5 to 15 cm. The flowering season is from September through November. Flowers produce a great amount of nectar, which attracts birds and insects, the plant's primary pollinators.

Yellow Waratah (Telopea speciosissima x oreades)
Yellow Waratah (Telopea speciosissima x oreades)

Waratah fruit is a reddish brown leathery pod with a big, beige-coloured winged seed. When the fruit is ripe, it splits lengthwise, releasing two rows of 10-20 winged seeds. Waratah can survive bushfires because it has a lot of dormant buds in its underground stem that starts to grow soon after the fire.

Waratah seed pods. When the fruit is ripe, it splits lengthwise, releasing two rows of 10-20 winged seeds

Caring for your waratah plant

Watering: Newly planted trees need constant watering for the first summer, especially during the establishment phase. During the early growing season, water thoroughly once every two weeks. In extreme drought, older trees could need watering. Overwatering your plant can cause fungal problems, especially around the roots. Waratah does not require water in late autumn and winter.

Fertilisers: Waratah is sensitive to phosphorus in general-purpose fertilisers. Phosphorus-containing fertilisers might be hazardous to your plant. Feed in the spring with bone and blood or slow-release fertiliser low in phosphorus and specially prepared for native plants to encourage vigorous growth and many flowers.

Pruning: Mature plants require regular pruning to keep their thick structure and encourage more flower production. Once flowering has finished, prune the branches down to one-fourth their length. As you notice any weak stems, cut them off.

Disease and Pests

Waratah is particularly susceptible to root rot; however other fungal diseases can affect these plants in waterlogged soil. These plants really require excellent drainage. Waratah can also be grown in raised beds or pots to prevent root rot.

Scale can occasionally be an issue on these plants, especially on the younger ones, but it is usually easily treated with pest oil, which suffocates the. Bud and stem borer can damage flower buds, but Bacillus thuringiensis is a good way to get rid of them.

Landscape Design ideas for Waratah

Waratah is such a beautiful plant, and its amazing floral displays are fantastic additions to the garden, which adds uniqueness to your environment by attracting animal and insect life. If you want to get the most out of your waratah, put it in a visible area where you can easily access it, such as a driveway, a path, or the front of your house. Additionally, they will contrast beautifully with wooden decks, putting you right in the middle of the flowers.

Queensland Tree Waratah Royal Botanical Gardens Sydney.

More Information on Waratah and Related Plants

Banksia Coccinea Landscape Design


Australian Nation Herbarium Growing Information on Telopea species


Australian Native Plant Society


New South Wales National Parks