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Local White-Flowering Shrubs

This selection of white-flowering shrubs includes some of our best local plants you can get. Many have scented flowers, they are versatile in the garden and are all suitable for small gardens.

Balloon Milkweed

This small shrub (up to 2m high) has the prettiest white flowers with touches of pink, although it’s better known for its lime green, inflated, hairy balls. These hold hundreds of little black seeds attached to white cottony threads that parachute to the ground to start the growing cycle again when the balls burst open. It is a short-lived plant, so the self-seeding is essential for its longevity in the garden. Plant in a sunny position in well-draining soil and feed and water regularly for healthy bushes. It flowers mainly from November to April and attracts butterflies to the garden. One warning, though, is that it is poisonous and should be kept away from children.

White Gardenia

For an evergreen shrub or small tree 2 – 5m in height with the most glorious scented white flowers, invest in Gardenia thunbergia. Although it is slow growing, it can be used in so many ways: as a specimen plant, in a container, in a garden bed and even as a bonsai. It does best in sun or semi-shade in rich organic soil (which can be slightly acidic) with extra compost added. It needs regular deep watering. Young plants will need frost protection, but once mature will do okay in temperatures down to 0°C. The large, heavily perfumed flowers are the showpieces of the plant and will appear during spring and summer from October to March.

September bells

One of the most beautiful white-flowering shrubs is September bells. It’s quite an insignificant tree or large shrub (4 – 7m) with shiny green leaves, but when it flowers in August – November it’s a mass of scented bell-shaped creamy white flowers that are bee magnets. It is usually in full flower during September, which is how it got its common name. It has very few needs: rich soil with added compost, moderate watering and a sunny or semi-shaded spot in which to grow. It’s great for narrow spaces, as a feature tree and in containers.

READ MORE: Click here to find out more about gardenias!

Grey Barleria

This medium to large shrub (1.5m tall) is known for its velvety grey leaves that are very useful in garden design, especially when using a grey and white combo. An added bonus is their white tubular flowers that form in spring and summer. They also have tinges of purple in their leafy bracts below the flowers – a pretty colour combination. This plant prefers a sunny spot but will take a little shade. Its requirements are rich and well-draining soil, a good layer of mulch to keep the roots cool in the summer heat and warm in cool winters, and watering at least once a week. It attracts many pollinators including butterflies and bees.

Forest num-num

A tough shrub that makes a great security hedge due to its thick growth and thorny nature, it grows to about 2 x 2m and produces sweetly scented star-shaped flowers from October to March followed by edible berries from March through to October. It does well in an informal garden bed with well-draining soil and plenty of added compost in the soil. The forest num-num can be pruned to keep it neat or in a hedge form. This shrub prefers warmer coastal areas but will grow in colder conditions – it will just be slower growing. It can tolerate moderate frost and can be grown in full sun and semi-shade. When planting for a hedge, make sure to space plants about a metre apart so that they eventually form an impenetrable barrier.

Violet Pea

This small tree or large evergreen shrub (6 – 10m) is perfect for a sunny or semi-shaded spot close to the home, where the fragrant white blooms can be enjoyed from August through to January. The violet pea does well in pots and is a good local plant to choose for a small garden. It is sensitive to frost and needs regular watering to keep them healthy, although it will withstand some drought. It prefers rich soil with loads of added compost. This plant is a slow grower but is also a great attractor of pollinators.

Small Honeysuckle Tree

This small shrub (1.5m high) with glossy green leaves and star-shaped flowers is one of the few pollinated by moths. It has a short flowering period in summer in January and February, when the flowers’ fragrance is only evident at night. It’s a fairly slow grower but makes a lovely pot specimen plant and is good for flower beds if you want to attract birds. It prefers moist, rich, well-draining soil with plenty of nutrients, and a position in the sun or in the semi-shade. It is frost sensitive and needs to be watered well in summer but will handle drought in winter. All parts of the plant are poisonous and should be kept away from children and pets.

READ MORE: Click here to fill your garden with butterflies and bees!

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The Gardener