Extremely fast growing screen: Homalanthus populifolius

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You have to love a species that can pop up by itself, grow a couple of metres in a year and will do so in full shade. Well I do anyway, although it may appear uninvited in your garden (it is easy to pull out) I have had the experience of it growing in just the right place to screen out my neighbours two-storey house. I was amazed at how quickly their roof line disappeared behind the thick luscious canopy of Homalanthus populifolius, until it was poised by the neighbours 🙁



The leaves are almost heart shaped and turn red as they mature, giving it its common name of bleeding heart, the stems are also bright red. It can be found in the Eucalypt forests of the Illawarra and north of Sydney, often appearing in urban gardens and disused land because of dispersal of the seeds by birds.



In the image above you can see a mature specimen used as a feature tree in a front garden, they are technically a small tree usually only growing to 3 or 4 metres but in good situations can reach up to 8 metres.



They have a lovely habit with a single main trunk and a bushy crown of large leaves, they make a good shade tree for a small garden or excellent privacy screen for above fence height.



There are usually a greater number of the red leaves in winter which give the crown a nice highlight in the drab colder months. This is a wonderful species for quickly establishing new gardens, they can also be pruned to shape if need be.
So if you find one poking its head up in your garden think twice about where it has positioned itself as it may be in just the right place.


13 responses to “Extremely fast growing screen: Homalanthus populifolius”

  1. Love your article, hope you are right about native. I have probably half dozen “popping” up just like you said AND a couple are in the RIGHT spot. Thanks

  2. Raina

    I have just planted a H.populifolius along my back fence . I am hoping to prune it to keep it shrubby and bushy — with foliage down to the ground — while still allowing it to reach above the fence to screen our yard from the neighbour. (And although I’ve learned to be patient with my garden, it’s always great to have some fast-growing plants for quick reward.)

    1. Vivien Mulondiwa

      Could you send me some seeds please. I have been looking everywhere for them

  3. Cynthia House

    I am wondering about the correct way to prune my young tree. It’s about 18 months old and about the same height but looking gangly. It has two main trunks leading of the central one. Any advise ?

  4. Lida

    I have one that has poppped up over a year ago on the side of my carport. It’s too close to the neighbours fence and carport.

    How deep is the root system would like to move it. It’s currently over 2m tall and has a lovely shape although slight lean.

    By the way I live in the western suburbs of South Australia so interesting to hear whether or not the SA weather can sustain it.

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Lida,

      I’m not sure how easily they can be transplanted once they have become that tall, could you prune it to compensate for the lean?
      It would be good to know if it enjoys your Mediterranean climate ?

      Best Wishes,


  5. Steph Shaw

    One of these trees has popped up approx 30cm away from our partially underground concrete water tank. It is growing so fast and I’m worried the roots will penetrate the water tank. Should I remove it? I could try a transfer.

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Steph,

      Sorry for the delayed reply. Yes I would remove the plant if it’s that close to your water tank as its roots could do some damage. If it’s under 1m tall still you could try relocating it but otherwise relocation is likely to be unsuccessful.

      Hope all goes well,

  6. Elana


    What type of root system and what aggressive root system does this tree have?
    Can it stand near a wall or house?

    Will I be able to move a 4yr old tree to another corner in the yard?
    And if I can when and how do I do it?

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Elana,

      This is a very fast growing pioneer species, as I’m sure you will have already noticed, so by 4 years time its root system will be deep and established. You won’t be able to move it now. I would just plant a new one in your desired spot and in a year or two it should be getting quite large and beautiful. It will do fine by the side of a house and doesn’t mind the extra shade.

      All the best,

  7. Shirley

    Hi there Mallee Design,

    Thanks for this information. I have a couple of questions please:

    1. Is it safe to plant next to a retaining wall? I have a spot next to a raised carport where I would like to plant one or two of these Bleeding Heart Trees. But don’t want the carport retaining wall damaged by the root system.

    2. The powerline to the house runs diagonally across the carport, and the last little bit of it runs across the corner of the garden bed where I want to plant this. Up to 3-4 metre height would be great, but above that could end up problematic. If it gets to that height, would it be suitable to prune?

    3. It appears to have a 20 year life span, although I realise it will self-seed underneath. But I am thinking of putting a few camellias along the actual carport wall so that in 20 years they will have grown, so the death of the Bleeding Heart(s) won’t be such a shock to the landscaping. (I want to provide a screen from southerly buster winds for the carport, as well as some privacy to a front bedroom).

    Many thanks for your input.

  8. Angela

    Well I found this growing in my garden in Auckland! Presumably seeds from birds. At first I thought it was a native to NZ , kawakawa, because of the almost heart shaped leaves.
    I am intrigued , it is just under a metre at present so hopefully I’ll be able to transplant it in winter…it is mostly hidden under camellias.
    Thanks for the info and photo.

    1. Vivien Mulondiwa

      Angela am looking for these seeds would you by any chance have any.

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