How to Plant a Grass Tree

The grass tree is a very symbolic plant to have in a native garden. They can be a specimen plant, a feature plant or work well with a minimalist Japanese theme, and they look amazing in containers. Planting one can be a little daunting as there are many stories out there of them turning up their toes after a rough transfer.
Please note these instructions are a guide only and are based on planting on the NSW east coast.

The first thing you need to do is position them, often they are a central focus so make sure they are visible and not lost amongst the other plants. Place them carefully as they don’t like being moved very much, really you only have one chance to get the placement right.



Next you need to dig a large hole twice the pot size, measuring it out or marking it on the ground can be a good idea, especially in a clay soil.


Dig the hole and put the soil you have dug out in a bucket or container so that it is easy to mix back into the planting hole when needed.


Grass trees like good drainage so if you have a heavy soil it is very important to add something free draining. I like to use a good quality native potting mix, 2 bags per grass tree is usually about right. Fill the hole with plenty of the native potting mix and add some of the exiting soil too.

P1080267Cut the pot away from the root ball, the reason for this is to avoid root disturbance, you will probably find that the root ball is quite compacted and stays together. Carefully break the pot away and lift the grass tree into the hole by holding underneath the root ball.

P1080277Position the plant in the planting hole, make sure it is facing the right direction, the rotation can be visually important, especially if you have a grass tree with two heads or an interesting trunk.


Next it is very important to check the soil level, you don’t want to bury it too deeply or have the root ball exposed. You can plant them into a mound but that is created by mounding the soil of the whole garden bed, and is usually only done when the soil is a heavy clay.

The mulch should be at the same level as the soil was in the pot, keep the mulch away from the trunk of the grass tree as this can cause fungal diseases.


Lastly back fill with soil and water in. Don’t water the grass head, always water the soil around the base. In my experience you can usually just water them in once and then leave them alone. They are usually killed with kindness more than neglect, unless it is extremely hot weather, you shouldn’t need to water at all.

22 replies on “How to Plant a Grass Tree”

  1. Jessica Mitchell on

    Awesome for my bush bees,thanks!This is great looking in my backyard,too!

    Thanks so much,from, no-one you need to know about


    I have a huge biack boy in my garden. Can i cut the limbs and replant them to grow as separate plants? Also where i cut off the limbs what do i need to do with the exposed area of the cut?
    The tree stands about 8 to 10 feet tall. I am also looking to move the tree and replant it elsewhere. Can you give as much advice as possible to the above processes?
    Many thanks.
    Mark Wardrop

      • Kath Gadd on

        Hi Emma,

        Grass trees are usually bought with a trunk already developed as they are extremely slow growing! They grow approximately 5mm a year.

        Best Wishes,


        • Lawrence on

          Actually. Grass trees grow anywhere from 10mm to 100mm a year depending on their environment.

  3. Christian Dorau on

    If you have a grass tree thats 8 feet tall I wouldn’t move it or try to propagate at all. if its 8 feet with a 5 or 6 foot trunk then its probably 70 years old. Leave it be and admire it

  4. Glenda on

    Hi Mark,
    I’ve got a grass tree that was replanted last December 2019. ’m wandering if I could move it again?
    Will it damage the grass tree by doing so?


    • Kath Gadd on

      Hi Glenda,

      It should be ok to move your grass tree again as long as you get all the original root ball.

      Good Luck,


  5. Kev Pearce on

    How deep do the roots penetrate downwards and wide? Thank you in anticipation.

    • Kath Gadd on

      Hi Kev,

      Xanthorrhoea have a strange tuberous, fleshy root system which seems to be fairly contained. I would guess the root ball stays around 0.5 to 1 metre deep and wide.
      Hope this info helps,


  6. Linda on

    Thank you for helpful instructions. Are they picky about aspect (ie full sun/shade, sheltered, etc? In my local bush land they seem to grow often in dappled shade under eucalypts. The spot I have in mind is under canopy of large corymbia citriodora, pretty much full shade in midwinter but dappled in other seasons

    • Kath Gadd on

      Hi Linda,

      Yes, you are right they enjoy dappled shade and grow naturally under the canopy of Eucalypts, therefore your position sounds perfect.

      Happy gardening,


  7. Jayne Ross on

    I am due to move into a new house and have 2 plants I would like to take the plants with me any hints on digging the plants to re-plant in our new house the plants have only been in the garden here for 2years and are roughly a foot in trunk size
    Hope you can give advice on the best way to dig up and re-plant. Black Boys

  8. I suspect my Xanthorrhoea is more than twenty years old and has been in the one pot since we bought the plant(many years ago). The pot is an enameled clay pot 600mm diameter, 300mm deep the trunk of the tree is 250mm high and 100mm wide. The soil looks as hard as concrete and has settled well down in the pot. It doesn’t get watered regularly or fed but still it flowered twice in one season last year.
    Does it need to be seen by an expert to make sure that it is o.k?

    • Jeannette Hales on

      Hi Colleen, I too have 2 Grass Trees in pots with soil like you described like cement. We were given them about 2 yrs ago so I am wondering if they should be repotted in a bit bigger pot as we don’t want to plant them into the ground.
      Looking forward to getting advice on this matter.

  9. Lisa Jenkins on

    I have a grass tree that has lived happily in a small plastic pot however now requires replanting to a bigger container. I would like it to remain in a pot so I can take it with me after I leave this property, I was thinking of replanting it into a fabric grow pot but have been told this will damage the roots – does it need a hard pot or can it go in a fabric one? I was told by a nursery there are “communicating roots” the fabric pot will damage with movement but all the research indicates it is a symbiotic relationship between roots and microbes. thanks in advance.

  10. There are some very old established grass trees up in our paddock and I would like to transfer a couple to my garden, is it possible to transplant an old established tree, if so how? are you able to cut the trunk above the ground and move it, or do you need to get the full root system – which could be huge?

    • Kath Gadd on

      Hi Belinda,

      You need to move the whole root system with as little disturbance as possible, if they are very large you probably need to do this with a machine.
      Good Luck!


  11. Kevin Hord on

    I have purchased 2 plants and have treated them the same but one appeared to be dying then came back -with new green shoots although still very sparse and short – any ideas how to help it would be greatly appreciated

  12. Katy on

    Someone is selling a grass tree that’s been removed from the ground and has been out for a while. How long do they survive without being potted. I want to buy it and save it but I’m not sure if I’m wasting my money and it’s going to die

    • Kath Gadd on

      Hi Katy,

      Apologies for the delayed reply. The root systems of grass trees are sensitive, so if it’s been out in the open for a while I’d expect it to struggle. When planting the root system should be disturbed as little as possible.

      All the best,

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