Expert Grass Tree advice!

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 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!

24 replies on “Expert Grass Tree advice!”

  1. Margaret Mitchell on

    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 on

    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 on

    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

    • Kath Gadd on

      Hi Mark,

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

      Good Luck,


    • Michael on

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

    • Geoff on

      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 on

    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

    • Kath Gadd on

      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,


  5. paris karambelas on

    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

    • Kath Gadd on

      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,

  6. Narelle Johnson on

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

    • Kath Gadd on

      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,


  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?

  8. Shaun Jones on


    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.

    • Kath Gadd on

      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,

  9. Olrog Annette mobile Aus Vodafone on

    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 on

    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

  11. Kevin on

    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 on

    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

    • Kath Gadd on

      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 on

    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

    • Kath Gadd on

      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:

      All the best,
      Hannah and Kath

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