Native Grass: How to Grow Lomandra Longifolia

Published March 29, 2021
Lomandra longifolia flowers

Looking for a plant that will tolerate drought, salt air, poor soil or a windy location? You can grow Lomandra longifolia, a native Australian grass, just about anywhere. Even if you don't have the perfect site, or you're not a green thumb, this hardy plant is easy to cultivate, propagate and care for.

Lomandra Longifolia: A Hardy Evergreen Plant

Native grasses are so fashionable right now, and the good news is that Lomandra longifolia is a cinch to grow.

Also called spiny-head mat rush, spiky-headed mat-rush, or basket grass, this plant will tolerate sandy or clay soil conditions, coastal winds, occasional flooding, and drought. You can also grow it in searing sun, or in part shade. In fact, the only condition Lomandra longifolia finds challenging is extended cold, wet seasons. Fortunately, since this native plant is most commonly found in eastern Australia and the grasslands of Tasmania, it is unlikely to have to put up with these conditions.

Choosing the Right Site

With its gorgeous, grassy leaves and scented, yellow flower, Lomandra longifolia is a striking addition to your garden and can even be used as an indoor plant.

You can grow Lomandra longifolia:

  • Poolside
  • In a coastal garden
  • On a rocky hillside
  • In a spot with poor soil
  • In a container

In a dryland area where you don't think you can grow anything on site? Lomandra tanika, with its soft, green leaves and small, yellow flower spikes, is an even tougher Lomandra species that will thrive where other plants can't - it even tolerates frost. However, it doesn't like wet feet so don't overwater.

Using Lomandra Longifolia in Your Garden

This hardy perennial species can help prevent soil erosion, shelter young trees, and bring barren parts of your garden to life.

Some variations of this native grass species, such as Lomandra longifolia 'Katrinus Deluxe', are actually grown to help stabilise soil.

The foliage of Lomandra longifolia looks stunning mass planted. It has a sculptural quality that can be used to good effect by amateur and experienced gardeners to create an eye-catching green space.

A bonus: it produces a scented yellow flower in winter and spring, followed by seeds four to eight weeks later, that you can use to propagate the Lomandra longifolia plant.

Other Uses for This Native Grass

From weaving, to breadmaking, Lomandra Longifolia has other uses besides adding beauty to your garden.

  • The foliage of this plant, which is about 8 mm to 12 mm wide, was favoured by the Wurundjeri people for weaving baskets or headbands, as well as eel traps and hunting nets. With handcrafts making a comeback post-Covid, you may like to try using the leaves for a hobby like weaving.
  • You can eat Lomandra longifolia. The seeds, which are high in protein, can be pounded and used in a bread mix, and the core of the plant and base of the leaves can be eaten as a vegetable.
  • Aboriginal peoples also used the roots to treat bites and stings.

Lomandra Longifolia Varieties

There are many different species of Lomandra, and most species have several varieties too. All have similar characteristics to Lomandra longifolia. Examples include:

  • Lomandra longifolia 'Breeze'
  • Lomandra longifolia x confertifolia subsp. pallida (Lomandra Lime Tuff)
  • Lomandra histrix 'Tropic Belle'
  • Lomandra longifolia 'Katrinus Deluxe'

Variations can be as subtle as a slightly softer foliage, or a smaller flower, with the overall hardiness of the genus common to all of these ornamental grass species and varieties.

For example, Lomandra longifolia 'Breeze' has bright, slightly finer foliage than longifolia, with its leaves inclined to weep into an arch, while Lomandra longifolia 'Katrinus Deluxe' is an erosion control plant with masses of yellow flowers.

No matter which Lomandra species you choose, the following guidelines will help you grow beautiful specimens in your garden.

Lomandra longifolia flowers

How to Propagate Lomandra Longifolia From Seed

Unlike many Australian native seeds, Lomandra longifolia seeds don't require any special treatment for them to germinate. So, if you're keen to grow some from seed, you'll find the process pretty simple. Select online nurseries sometimes sell Lomandra longifolia seeds. If you can get your hands on some, follow steps 3-5 below. If you can't find somewhere to buy them, you'll have to save some yourself.

To do so, find someone who has a male and female plant of the Lomandra species you want to grow. (If you don't know anyone with both, you could ask your local nursery for both genders and save seeds from your own plants.) You will then have to wait for the female plants to 'fruit', after they are fertilised by the male plant and bees, between December and February.

  1. When Lomandra are fruiting/flowering, cut off the seed heads of the female plants. These look like fruit but are actually hundreds of tightly woven balls of seed head.
  2. Place the flowering stalk in a paper bag in a warm spot. The fruit will open, releasing the seed into a bag so you don't lose it.
  3. Scatter the seed over seed raising mix that encourages quick germination and strong root development.
  4. Cover the tray with a clear plastic to protect it from rodents.
  5. Keep the soil moist and wait for a month to six weeks.

How to Divide Lomandra longifolia

An easier way to get more plants from this spiny headed mat rush species is to divide mature plants.

  1. Dig up a clump.
  2. Use a sharp knife or a pair of hand pruners to divide the root ball.
  3. Trim back the strappy leaves.
  4. Put the 'new' plants in soil.

Caring for Lomandra Longifolia

There are fussy plants, like maidenhead ferns, that you might try to grow in your garden, and then there are low-maintenance plants like the Lomandra species.

  • They are wonderfully attractive, evergreen plants that will grow in almost any soil conditions and provide glossy green foliage, yellow flowers, ground cover, understorey planting, and basket grass that can be used for hobbies - all with pretty much no maintenance.
  • Babied a little, with a slow release fertiliser and a regular, light watering, Lomandra longifolia will grow to about one metre high. Even without much attention, many specimens will achieve that height if they're happy with the spot you chose from them.
  • If the green foliage gets damaged by wind, frost or age, you can simply cut it back to about 20 cm in winter or early spring, and it'll bounce right back.
  • Pruning every two years, to no lower than 15 cm, can also help control growth and keep strappy leaf plants in an attractive shape. For example, Lomandra tanika and Lomandra longifolia 'Katrinus deluxe' plants look stunning pruned into a ball shape.
  • After pruning, apply a slow-release fertiliser to the soil.

Troubleshooting Lomandra longifolia

It is a very rare gardener who has trouble with the Lomandra longifolia plant. It's resistant to pests and disease and is tolerant of dryness and other adverse conditions.

But, occasionally, problems with this species do occur.

  • Phytophthora causes a root rot disease that can kill off native plants. The first sign will be foliage turning yellow, the next will be your Lomandra dying.
  • Making sure the soil for your ornamental grass is healthy by incorporating compost and, occasionally, a dose of rock minerals - a natural, mineral fertiliser you can buy at a nursery - can help prevent root rot. Some varieties of Lomandra are also resistant to this root disease.
  • If you have been swayed at a nursery to buy the slightly trendier Lomandra confertifolia, you should know that it is slower growing and weaker than Lomandra longifolia. Yes, it has a very thin, attractive grassy leaf, but it is not good for mass plantings where it may not outcompete weeds, it may die without enough water when it's a young plant, and it can discolour in frosty conditions. This plant also dislikes humid climates and heavy soils.

Why Lomandra Is a Great Garden Choice

No matter what type of soil and other growing conditions you have, you can probably grow a Lomandra species. This plant with its attractive, grass-like foliage looks striking in a mass planting, or in a container, and requires almost no maintenance. It will also help control soil erosion and provide you with flowers, seeds and native grass for weaving.

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Native Grass: How to Grow Lomandra Longifolia