My favourite supplier for Grass Trees is located on the Northern NSW coast they are called Bruinsma Grass Trees and stock lovely healthy specimens, however that is not all they do…

They also follow up and offer excellent advice through their newsletter and love talking about growing this iconic sometimes mystifying Australian native.

Below I am sharing their last email newsletter as I thought it was valuable information that needs to be spread as far and wide as possible. Please get in touch with them and sign up if you grow Xanthorrhoeas in your garden and want more information or have some tips to share. Enjoy!

I’m willing to bet that you can relate to this story…

Grant and Stephanie are wanting to transform their garden. You help them decide that grass trees are the perfect feature plants for their space. They’ve splurged a little, but when planting day arrives, they’re over the moon with their choice – the grass trees look stunning.

Some months later, you get a phone call from Grant. He’s concerned. One of the grass trees doesn’t quite look right. The leaves aren’t looking as full they once were. Stephanie thinks it’s gone a bit “flat” on top. Some of the leaves have even discoloured a little yellow. They’re worried it’s dying.

What do you tell Grant and Stephanie? Is it sick? Is it dying? What’s happening? How do you reassure them?

Two years ago I planted a cluster of grass trees in my own front garden. Four out of the six flowered a few months later. As an experiment, I cut a couple of the flowers off and I left a couple on to grow their full measure. Three of the four took a couple of months before they shot back with new growth.

But the fourth, well… check out this photo.

 18 months after flowering.

My friends have been hassling me about this tree for a while. Telling me it’s sick and dying. But I know it flowered. I know it’s just dormant.

Flowering is quite a rigorous process for the old grass tree. It uses a lot of water and energy to produce that fantastic flower at quite a rate of knots. After flowering, it will often lay dormant for long periods of time. Of these three trees pictures, only the one on the right did not flower. The middle tree appears to be struggling.

New shoots begin to emerge once again.

Just the other day, I discovered these new shoots! In 6 months or so, these little green shoots (they look greener in real life) that I’m pointing at will be almost full length. I’ll remove the older yellow leaves and you won’t believe it’s the same grass tree.

The solution? Patience, water, and more patience.

The first question to ask Grant and Stephanie is if their tree has flowered recently? If the answer is YES, you can reassure them that this is totally normal for the tree to go through a period of dormancy.

Grass trees are survivors. Shonky harvesters have given grass trees a bad reputation. But in reality, grass trees have an amazing ability to survive – and going dormant for long periods of time is one of those strategies that make grass tree stunningly unique.

Patience and consistent watering is the best way to nurture it through this dormancy period. Regular seasol won’t hurt either. The tree is exhausted, depleted and stressed from flowering. Like an introvert after a week of visitors, it just needs some time out to recuperate. Be patient and soon it will be thriving again with new life.

Happy to help!

Should you have any questions about the health of the grass trees in your nursery, or how to help your customers with their grass trees… with dormancy, or anything else, we’re always happy to help. Send a photo/s to support@grasstrees.net.au and we’ll do our best to help you out.

Thanks Mitch! we need more growers in the industry like you, passionate and helpful, keep up the good work!

Comments

54 responses to “Expert Grass Tree advice!”

  1. Margaret Mitchell

    Hi Grass Tree Supporters, I have four grass trees two have propagated two more trees over the last nine years. The two taller ones each flowered yearly, but one looks sick since October last year when pest control guy sprayed around the windows. It hasn’t recovered. Any ideas please?
    I’ve tried to attach photo no luck so far. Many thanks for reading. Margaret

  2. Martine Maurizio

    Hi Mitch
    My hubby bought my tree in September 2018. It has been beautiful with new growth popping up from the centre. It has flowered twice since we got it. It has always been in same position. It gets rain water and is protected from the wind, gets morning and some afternoon sun. I also water it and give it a brown sugar water drink every 2 months. Since my hubby cut out the last flower earlier this year it has become yellow and I do not see any new growth. My hubby in his wisdom also decided to cut off the yellow leaves. I’m so worried it is dying. Are you able to advise me what to do. I am unsure how to post a photo. Thank you very much. Martine

  3. Mark Starkey

    Hi
    I bought a mature tree about 2 years ago and had green growth on top, it is in a well drained area and gets watered regularly. The growth on top appears dead and no new growth yet. Is it dead or should I persist with it

    Hindmarsh Island South Australia

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Mark,

      Have you tried cutting the grass head back to about 10-15cm long? this will encourage fresh new leaf growth.

      Good Luck,

      Kath

    2. Michael

      Grass Tree has large hole in its side. How do I treat the hole, to avoid infection

    3. Geoff

      Hi, I have a very mature grass tree which is need of heavy pruning to remove the old dead very dense woody shoots. I have removed all of the long shoots with a hand pruning tool, but now I need to remove the end shoots a inch or two from the trunk, what tool would you recommend to remove these hard dense dead base shoots. Don’t want to burn it as it is to close to the house – cheers Geoff

  4. Case

    I have a grass tree about 2 meters tall with four heads about 4 weeks ago I set fire to it for I was led to believe that they needed burning at times now one of the heads is dead I can jus pull out the dead leaves I am afraid I might loose the hole tree is there any thing I can do to save it I think I should’ve put the fire out by hose and should have let it burn out on its own.
    Look forward to your reply
    Case

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Case,

      It’s probably still too early to tell if your grass tree will bounce back, the grass head should re-sprout give it a few months.

      Fingers crossed,

      Kath

  5. paris karambelas

    Hello
    I have a grass tree that is weeping black sout stuff from the top of the grass roots
    What do you think this may be – I have had the grass tree for about 10 years
    Thank you

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Paris,

      That oozing black stuff sounds like sooty mould, which isn’t good news. The mould grows on exudate from scale pests, which coats the leaves of the grass tree and suffocates the leaf pores. I would prune the affected areas vigorously, leaving only 10cm of the grass head remaining. You could also spray the scale with neem oil to try control it.

      Best of luck,
      Kath

  6. Narelle Johnson

    Why do grass trees have black sections on the trunks of these plants?

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Narelle,

      The black trunk on grass trees is from being burnt in bushfires, if they are from a nursery they usually run them with a blow torch!
      Best Wishes,

      Kath

  7. How can I tell if my Grass Tree has died? I have aquired one in a pot approximately 1 year ago but it’s just not doing anything. It has no greenery on the top.
    I’ve been told if the trunk comes away when you scratch it It’s Dead
    Is that correct?

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Phylis,

      I am not sure, I have not heard that before and would contact Mitch at Bruinsma Grass Trees who is an expert grower: https://bruinsmagrasstrees.com.au/

      Best of luck,
      Kath

  8. Shaun Jones

    Hi,

    Weve had two twin head grasstrees and both have died. One 3 years ago died and the grasstree company in Perth said we over watered it which we believe we didnt. Then the second one we lost where they said the same and we had our retic on exact amount of water it needed and only twice in summer and off in winter and they said we over watered it. The grasstree we have they green needles on the head easily started to separate. So we where told it was dead. So we removed the pin needles and set fire to it, now the trunk towards top is coming apart. Have we lost it or can we fix it. All other plants in the area are thriving and all are aussie native plants.

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Shaun,

      Apologies for the delayed response. Where did you get your grass trees from? Are they local species or from different parts of the country? Check if there’s any rotting in the crown, or if there’s any scale or sap-sucking pest in the broken trunk. Hopefully it will pull through.

      All the best,
      Kath

  9. Olrog Annette mobile Aus Vodafone

    Hello. Our problem is our over 20 year old grass tree developed a lot of brown leaves and on close inspection appears to have been ringbarked about half the trunk. Is this something that can happen. Thank you.

  10. Nicole

    I have a mature grass tree that’s is oozing sap. What does this mean? Is the tree sick? It was only planted about 2-3 months ago

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Nicole,

      Get in touch with Bruinsma https://bruinsmagrasstrees.com.au/
      What colour is the sap and where is it coming from?

      Goodluck,

  11. Kevin

    Hello !

    Our tree was going yellow and we were told to pruned it back and upon pruning it back found some healthy green new growth at the crown !

    However it’s about 2 month later now and the new growth just pulls out and smells I’m thinking rott at on the crown 🙁

    Is there a solution or is our tree a goner ?

  12. Donna

    Hi I purchased a beautiful little grass tree 7 months ago and doing well and looking healthy
    Unfortunately my husband accidentally sprayed some of the foliage with spray paint and concerned it will harm the tree, any advise please

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Donna,

      Apologies for the delayed reply, how much of the foliage has been sprayed? The paint will probably stop light reaching the leaves and the plants’ ability to photosynthesise (and therefore it’s ability to produce and store sugars for growth). It might be a good idea to remove the spray-painted leaves…

      All the best,
      Hannah and Kath

  13. shane Mothersole

    Hi there,

    I have a grass tree in my back yard that I have been told is in excess of 60 years old. I have attempted to prune it with both sheers and even a chainsaw and the tree has won on both accounts. Do you recommend burning it and if so can you recommend a company to do so in Perth.

    kind regards
    Shane

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Shane,

      If you’re having trouble pruning the lower, dead leaves you can burn them off every couple of years. It’s not a procedure I’ve done before – they burn hot and quick – so make sure you do it safely, and you want to leave some fresher new growth at the top. I would contact Bruinisma for extra advice on burning if you’re unsure: https://bruinsmagrasstrees.com.au/

      All the best,
      Hannah and Kath

  14. Scott Martin

    Hi there,
    Some cretin damaged our well established Grass Tree last night, basically ripping 25-30% of the entire head/crown off. It has exposed the core of the tree. Is there anything we can do to try and save the tree? Is there anyway we can ‘seal’ the damage?

  15. Tony Sullivan

    Hi,

    I have a very healthy 7 year old grass tree that has produced multiple stalk for the last three years. The problem is some of stalks are severely bent. Is that a problem and is there something I can do?

    Thanks,

    Tony

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Tony,

      I don’t know why some grass tree spikes grow in bent fashion (it is very uncommon) but I have seen some like that in the bush. I wouldn’t think it was a problem unless you really wanted the aesthetic of straight grass tree spikes but I’m not sure there’s anything you can do about it. Hopefully someone else in the comments can shed light on this.

      All the best,

      1. John Selby

        Hi Kath , I’ve two grasstrees the one out the back grew a megga flower spike several years ago and started to bend so I put a padded brace to it from the hedge behind it because it had nearly bent horizontal by the southerly wind. That worked well but I dont recall that one flowering again after the massive flower spike. Anyway I’ve just burnt it again and I cover the top with damp cloth and leave more leaves in the cloth than I want as the heat gets in to the outer leaves. They will get a brown line in them near the trunk which I will trim off later when it appears.
        The other one bends due to many birds on the spike at once while it is still growing with flowers only at the bottom. Its crazy how many Lorrikets can be there at once, Cheers John

  16. Gary

    Our new grass tree is unexpectedly growing a spike – great news.At various times of the spike is perfectly vertical, and at other times the top end almost bends to the horizontal – mostly north. Can you provide an explanation for this strange behaviour.

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Gary,

      No, I don’t know why grass trees do this sorry. Hopefully the brains trust out there will come up with some further info one of these days!

  17. Deborah Bell

    Hi there,
    We have 2 different grass trees and they have both flowered over the years. One has narrow round thin leaves the other has flat leaves. I don’t remember the names as I have had them for over 30 years and lost the tags.

    I have repotted over the years since we have had them and they are now in 60cm wide plastic pots that I bought from Bunnings. I’d like to be able to reduce to pot sizes to something smaller and easier to move around. Is it possible to trim back their roots and repot them into smaller pots without killing them.

  18. Ross

    Hi,

    Our grass tree has grown a healthy spike and now is getting too tall and will hit our veranda roof. Is there a way to stop it growing at 1.5m?

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Ross,

      You could try directing it off to the side with some Bonsai wire, often in the bush they will swerve to miss tree branches, or you could just let it go, it will probably hit the roof then bend itself out where there is more space.

      Best,

      Kath

  19. Heather Persky

    Good morning, I have a question that I can’t find an answer to, and was hoping you might be able to help.

    I’ve got a very tall, multi trunk grass tree growing on my property. The problem is that the trunk is so lobsided and top heavy it’s slowly falling over … like the leaning tower of Pisa ! I’ve tried propping it up with a tree fork but that’s not enough. Question: could I cut off the top section of the trunk ? …. In the hope it might regrow in a better shape – or would cutting the trunk kill the tree ?

  20. Julie Green

    We are in Melbourne. Our 2 potted grass trees have trunks about 600-700mm tall. They both flowered last year (around August/September) with tall straight flower spikes. The leaves remain green. Should I remove the spikes? If so, when and how please? I am hoping to transplant them into our new garden. Any advice on when and how to transplant please? I have read that grass trees don’t like to have their roots disturbed. I couldn’t bear to loose them. Thanks

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Julie,

      You don’t need to do anything with the flower spikes, leave them be, they will topple/break off in their own time. There’s some more info here about how to handle grass tree spikes in Bruinsma’s FAQs https://bruinsmagrasstrees.com.au/pages/frequently-asked-questions
      Grass trees don’t transplant well, especially if they’re established and as big as you’ve said. Trying to transplant at this stage would very likely kill them so I wouldn’t try it!

      All the best,

  21. Lei

    Hi, we have a big grass tree at our front yard and it has a flower spike of more than 4 meters tall at the moment!
    We are worried it will fall down eventually and damage the car or other property on the street.
    As we want to preserve it as long as possible, but at what point should we cut the spike off before it falls down by itself? (It happened once before and luckily the whole thing fell into an area by itself that didn’t cause any harm.)
    Thanks.

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Lei,

      Usually it’s best to let the flower spikes fall off naturally but you can cut it down early if you need. Use a sharp blade to make the cut clean near the base, and you can spray around the cut zone with pyrethrum to protect the cut site from insect damage. After cutting the tree may remain dormant for some time and not put on much new growth, this is nothing to worry about, just the tree adjusting.

      All the best,

  22. John Gaydon

    Hi
    I purchased a grass tree from Margaret River grass trees with 12 months warranty just over 12 months ago and it looks dead. The supplier who planted the tree in the ground doesn’t want to know me any more.The top of the stems looks dead and are very easy to pull out and the bottom of the stems are wet.
    Can you you please give any advice would be much appreciated.
    Regards
    John

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi John,

      Margaret river grass trees come from margaret river area which is a differnt soil type to what we have here. It’s likely your tree suffered planting shock and with the wet weather and humidity the crown is now rotting. As a last resort to try save it you could cut back the leaves and give it a burn, there’s some good advice here on how to care for grass trees: https://bruinsmagrasstrees.com.au/pages/frequently-asked-questions#Troubleshooting%20grass%20tree%20problems

      Good luck,

  23. Angelo

    There are ants burrowing in my grass tree. How can I get rid of them and what repellants can I use?

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Angelo,

      That depends if the ants are damaging the tree by burrowing into it or not. If the tree seems okay, they may be able to co-exist. If you think the ants in tree is causing a problem, or especially if they are bringing scale to your grass tree you can use a white oil to treat them. You could also try contacting the Bruinsma for advice on this: https://bruinsmagrasstrees.com.au/pages/contact-us

      All the best,

      1. This is great advice Kath. Ants can sometimes live in grass trees without affecting them. Another thing i’d check is that they are not White Ants, as these will eat out the centre of the grass tree.

      2. Angelo Reyes

        Thanks for the e advise.

  24. Matt

    Hello I have a grass tree near 1 meter tall was in a pot from the shop then watered well in the pot then now for 2 years in the ground the bottom seems soft and slug around the bottom still looks ok in the centre crown can’t pull any pins out what’s going on I’m worried ??? Anyone have same problems!!!??thanks

  25. Matt

    Hello I have a grass tree near 1 meter tall was in a pot from the shop then watered well in the pot then now for 2 years in the ground the bottom seems soft and slug around the bottom still looks ok in the centre crown can’t pull any pins out what’s going on I’m worried ??? Anyone have same problems!!!??thanks

  26. Rhys James

    My grass tree is starting to shed the external layer around the trunk. Is this common? I would really like to post a photo.

    It has always grown well in the pot, however over the last 6 months it’s looked a little sick.

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Rhys,
      Maybe send us an email with some details. How long has it been in the pot, how long do you water it, you can also send a photo with the email.
      jo@malleedesign.com.au

  27. The top fell off like it was scalped. What would make this happen?

  28. Danielle Smith

    We had a grass tree that pushed out resin and all the leaves went brown. I didn’t see any evidence of grubs or any reason for it. Not overwatering. Maybe not enough? Another one we have has a nice healthy main crown with a lovely big flower stalk, but the other lower crown had its little flower drop off and has resin and dead leaves. I know it’s not from too much water and this plant doesn’t have any scale on it. I can’t see evidence of grubs either. All the other grass trees in this garden are really healthy too. What can cause this? I find it odd that the main crown is happy and healthy and the smaller one isn’t. Do you think whatever is happening to the small crown could affect the whole plant? What can be sprayed systemically to control what I think must be grubs that I cannot see?

  29. Interesting question ……….have a small group of grass trees (Preissii) Western Aus there was a small leaved vine that grew from the trunk or soil surrounding it, the situation is now the small trees have leaves with yellow segments of colour ? just wondering if this vine is causing this to happen and is using the Grass tree as a host plant.

  30. Marise Davis

    Hello my grass tree got planted 6 weeks ago , has being looking great , grass on the top growing , but have noticed since the hot weather kicking in Its splitting on the sides where it’s being burnt and sap is coming through parts and it sets really hard .

  31. Mark

    Hi. I replanted my grass tree about 12 months ago into a well drained planter and have given it plenty of water. While the leaves have remained green they are very brittle and easily can be snapped like dry spaghetti. I’ve not noticed any new growth in the centre. Any clues?

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Mark,
      Can you send photos to hello@malleedesign.com.au
      Thanks,
      Kath

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