Try growing: Broom Heath (Monotoca species)

This is a short and sharp post about Illawarra's local Broom Heath (Monotoca) species, which are not much known in cultivation. They deserve much wider use, as they are hardy, attractive and will bring in all sorts of insects to your garden. 

Broom Heaths are in the Ericaceae family, also known colloquially as the heath family. There are two local Broom Heath species, both of them shrubby in form. The taller of the two is Tree Broom Heath (Monotoca ellipticawhich can reach up to around 2m in height, and take on something of a tree form.   

This little Tree Broom Heath is growing at Puckey's Estate in Fairy Meadow, and shows the species' capacity for survival in very harsh coastal conditions. Image by Emma Rooksby. 

The leaves of Tree Broom Heath have a distinctive sharp tip. The new growth is a stunning lime green. Image by John Tann, reproduced from Flickr under CC BY 2.0 (

The flowers can be prolific in good seasons. Individual flowers are quite small, but together the many flowers can more or less cover a plant. Image by Emma Rooksby.
In natural conditions, Tree Broom Heath may be somewhat sparse and leggy, particularly when they are growing in the shade of taller plants. In cultivation, specimens can be managed for a more compact shape. Image by Leon Fuller. 

The smaller Broom Heath is the Prickly Broom Heath (Monotoca scoparia), which only reaches around 1m tall. It can be dense or somewhat leggy, depending on conditions. 

Prickly Broom Heath in its natural habitat, exhibiting its characteristic sprawling habit. Image by John Tann, reproduced from Flickr under CC BY 2.0 (

The flowers are small but may be present in large numbers. Image by John Tann, reproduced from Flickr under CC BY 2.0 (

Both local Broom Heath species have a natural preference for well-drained sandy soils, but they can be grown on other soil types if sufficient attention is given to ensuring appropriate conditions. Our garden has several Monotoca scoparia plants, growing in clay-rich soil in the escarpment foothills, and we have not lost one yet, despite the very heavy rains in 2022. 

Difficult to grow from seed, Broom Heath plants may be hard to find for sale. Luckily for Illawarra locals, the Wollongong Botanic Garden GreenPlan Nursery regularly has both local species for sale. 

Are you growing Broom Heaths at your place? How are they doing? What advice do you have for other local gardeners on growing these species? 

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