Waterwise Plant Selector
The Australian Institute of Horticulture (AIH) recognises the Queensland Government as the developers of the Waterwise Plant Selector. The Selector was developed in 2010 as part of the Waterwise program, in order to enable gardeners to select suitable plants based on their water needs.
Members of the Institute formed part of the team to develop the database of over 4500 plants which forms the basis of the Waterwise Plant Selector (WPS). This includes extensive horticultural information about each plant. The WPS was designed to have a comprehensive range of plants, not all of which are commercially available, to cater for a wide range or geographical and gardening interests.
The Queensland Government approached AIH as the pre-eminent national body that represents the interests and professional development of horticulturists in Australia. The government recognised that AIH provides national leadership to the horticultural profession, promoting excellence and environmental responsibility in horticulture practice through quality professional development, service and advocacy. As an advocate for all sectors of horticulture and landscape, the AIH is ideally placed to take on this responsibility.
Agreement was reached for AIH to host the WPS on the AIH website. The WPS is to be available/accessible to the general public at no cost. The Institute is to maintain, update and add to the database to ensure it continues to provide correct and up-to-date information, and to promote the WPS using communication networks. The Institute has agreed to continue the management of the Waterwise Plant Selector (WPS) with the view of expansion and will establish and co-ordinate a steering committee to provide expert advice to ensure the continued integrity and relevance of the WPS. AIH thank and acknowledge the copyright ownership of the photos included.
NOTE: The Waterwise Plant Selector is continually being enhanced, as such it is a work in progress.
The Institute is not responsible for the accuracy or completeness of the information, and holds no responsibility for any errors or omissions. Any decisions made by you (the user) based on the Waterwise Plant Selector are solely your responsibility. Information is from a number of sources and, as such, does not necessarily represent any Institute policy.
Plant suitability and availability
The Waterwise Plant Selector uses the best available information to help you find waterwise plants, however, the Institute does not guarantee that any particular plant you find will be suitable for your circumstances. Please consider your personal cultural conditions such as soil, frost, wind, sun, etc. The Waterwise Plant Selector includes a wide range of plants, not just those stocked by nurseries. Not all plants are commercially available and some may only be grown locally by collectors, specialist landcare groups, etc. You may need to contact your local nursery to find out how to locate some plants or attend specialist events run by plant societies, collectors or plant/garden expos.
Plants and water needs
The Waterwise Plant Selector provides detail for plants which will grow in your climatic zone with minimal additional water once established. If you have ample water supplies, the range of plants you are able to grow will be greater. While the emphasis is on waterwise plants, the Waterwise Plant Selector also includes plants with high water needs. This means it can also be useful for gardeners in the wettest parts of the state where plants need to cope with high rainfall conditions. Please refer to one of the tabs below which explains the water droplet symbols.
Plants and climate
The plant selector uses your postcode to determine which climate zone you live in. At present the search is based on QLD postcodes but the database will be expanded to address all postcodes as the project matures. In mean time you may relate to the mapping system as to the connection between regions and postcode groups.
Searches can be made against a climatic zone using Köppens Climatic Mapping System. Köppen Classification Climate Classification Some postcode areas extend over more than one climate zone and search results may include some plants which are unsuitable for a particular climate zone. If your postcode covers a wide geographic area, please check with a local nursery to ensure the plants in your search results are suitable for your area.
Some plants, including common garden plants, are toxic. You should contact your Local State or Regional Advisory Centres, such as Queensland Poisons Information Centre (telephone 13 11 26), for further information.
Plants which are grown as garden plants in one area of Australia may be categorised as weeds in another and the classification of plants as weeds can change from time to time. The Waterwise Plant Selector excludes all major weed species, but may include some plants which are classified as weeds in one or more Australian regions. You can check the weed classification status of plants on the all Government websites.
Some plants are classified as protected, because they are either endangered, vulnerable or near-threatened, under the various Nature Conservation Acts in each state or territory. Where protected plants are included in the Waterwise Plant Selector, this classification is shown on the relevant page. When acquiring these plants, it is important to ensure that the supplier has the appropriate permits or has lawfully obtained the plants.
If you have enquiries about any of the information included in the Waterwise Plant Selector, or have any additional information or suggestions, please use the website comment page for feedback. Feedback will be reviewed on a regular basis and plant information will be updated as required
Adding a new plant to the Waterwise Plant Selector
If you know of a plant species not included in the Waterwise Plant Selector you can suggest that it be included by contacting email@example.com
Adding a photo to the Waterwise Plant Selector
We do not have photos for all of the plants included in the Waterwise Plant Selector. If you have a photo for one of the plants without a photo, and would like to suggest it be included, you can send it to us via email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Waterwise Plant Selector has been developed with all due diligence and care and is managed by the Australian Institute of Horticulture (AIH) Inc. Before using it, you should read the About the Waterwise Plant Selector tab above, which includes information about:
- plant suitability and availability
- plants and water needs
- climate zones
- poisonous plants
- protected plants
- providing feedback.
Some plants or portions of plants are toxic and you should consult you local advice center (such as the Queensland Poisons Information Centre) or other relevant agencies in your region for further information. The information contained in the Waterwise Plant Selector is from a number of sources, including members of the public. Accordingly, the Institute makes no representations or warranties in relation to the Waterwise Plant Selector or any information accessible through the Waterwise Plant Selector (including without limitation the material’s accuracy, adequacy, reliability, completeness, currency or fitness for a particular purpose) and does not undertake to ensure that the material is updated. The information does not necessarily constitute the views of the Institute. Any decisions made by you based on the Waterwise Plant Selector are solely your responsibility.
Many plants have aromatic leaves or stems, which release fragrance when touched. These plants can be located close to paths so that the aroma is released when walking through. Where a plant is aromatic, this is indicated on the plant details page.
Many plants provide food, in the form of nectar, fruit, berries or seed, for birds. Selecting these plants should attract birds to your garden. Where known, it is indicated which part of the plant is attractive to birds.
Bore water tolerance
Many western Queensland gardens rely on bore water. Bore water quality varies considerably, but in some regions it is highly mineralised (salty or alkaline). Salts can build up in the soil over time and become quite toxic to certain plants. To avoid build-up you should alternate bore water with another water source. Where known, bore water tolerance is identified in the plant selector.
Butterflies are attracted to plants that provide food for caterpillars (host plants) and/or nectar for the adult butterflies (nectar plants). Each butterfly species generally feeds on a specific food plant. Where possible, it is indicated whether the plant attracts butterflies as a host plant or as a nectar plant.
A range of vegetables and fruit-producing plants are included. Most food plants require regular watering and are not considered waterwise. The water use ratings will allow you to choose the better waterwise options. Note: the plant selector does include some plants which are classed as toxic. If you are unsure whether a plant is edible, be cautious about eating any plant part. Even some well-known food plants, such as rhubarb and potatoes can be poisonous if eaten raw. If children can access your garden, take extra care with plant selection. Please refer to the your relevant regional Health Department or government website for more information.
- Queensland Health
- New South Wales
- South Australia
- Western Australia
- Australian Capital Territory
- Northern Territory
- Australian Native Poisonous Plants
Plants produce flowers in a wide range of colours. Common flower colours are shown for each plant species. Where flowers are inconspicuous or absent, the term ‘insignificant’ is used in place of the colour.
There is a great diversity of leaf colour, particularly in warmer climates. As well as different shades of green, many plants have highly coloured leaves—allowing gardeners to produce colourful gardens without relying on flowers.
Plants may vary in leaf retention through the year. The following categories are used in the plant selector:
- Evergreen—retain their leaves throughout the year. While density may fall slightly during dry or cool weather, this is generally not noticeable.
- Deciduous—drop all their leaves during the cooler parts of the year as a protection from cold damage. This is triggered during autumn by declining day length. It is often associated with spectacular shows of leaf colour. Truly deciduous plants are a feature of temperate zones and very few deciduous plants will grow in warmer zones.
- Semi-deciduous—drop most or all of their leaves as a response to drought, or to conserve water over the dryer months. Semi-deciduous plants are less predictable in leaf drop and this may vary with season, climate and soil moisture levels. Semi-deciduous plants are a feature of subtropical and tropical zones.
Frosts occur in parts of southern and western Queensland and can damage some plants. If you live in a frost prone area try to select frost-tolerant species. Frost tolerance can be variable, as a number of factors affect the susceptibility of plants to damage. These include plant nutrition, plant health and soil moisture levels. Many plants are frost sensitive at an early age but more tolerant once established. Other plants may simply need to be planted close to shelter, such as buildings, retaining walls or even other plants. It would be prudent to seek sound local horticultural advice on the most suitable plants if you live in a frost prone area. Frost tolerance is shown where known as:
Greywater is used household water from bathrooms or laundry, but not from toilets or kitchens. Many gardeners use greywater during dry periods, or year-round, to maintain their gardens. Greywater quality depends on what goes into it, so if you plan to use greywater on your garden choose low toxicity cleaners and detergents. Avoid products with high sodium and phosphorus levels. Salts and residues can build up in the soil unless flushed by rain, so alternate the use of greywater with another water source. For more information on gardening with greywater refer to the various local government sites on their website.
- New South Wales
- Western Australia
- South Australia
- Australian Capital Territory
- Northern Territory
Some plants grow naturally in full sun, others only thrive in shade. In this plant selector, the following light levels are used:
- sun—at least six hours of full sun
- semi-shade—light of 50–70 per cent intensity—such as under a palm, a light canopied tree or in a bush house
- shade—deeper shade of 70–95 per cent intensity—such as cast by trees or structures.
While a no-maintenance garden is rare, some plants have lower maintenance needs than others. Generally, slower growing plants require less pruning and produce less leaf litter. Some plants are also more susceptible to pest and disease damage and may require regular inspections and treatments. In the plant selector, plants are categorised, as an indication only, as needing either low, medium or high levels of maintenance.
Garden plants come from many different countries. This plant selector includes both native and non-native plant species. Some imported (non-native/exotic) species can be just as water efficient as Australian natives species.
Flower perfume can add impact to a garden. Where a flower is perfumed, this is indicated on the plant details page.
All plants have a scientific name which consists of the genus and species and most have a common name. The scientific name may be difficult to remember or pronounce, but this name allows botanists to correctly identify each plant. Common names may be unreliable—a plant may have several common names, or many plants may have the same common name. In developing this database, the current scientific name, previous scientific names and popular common names have been included wherever possible.
Knowledge of the future size of a plant allows for its appropriate placement. The expected plant height and width shown are based on optimum cultivation. The final size, however, will vary based on a variety of factors, such as water availability, soil type, nutrition and damage from pests and diseases. As a guide, the size ranges for trees are as follows:
- small tree—from 4 to 10 metres in height
- medium tree—approximately10 to 15 metres in height
- large tree—can exceed 15 metres in height.
A number of plant growth forms and types are used in this selector. These are defined below:
- annual—a short lived plant which flowers and dies within a year or a season
- aquatic—a plant that grows in or under water
- bamboo—a large grass producing multiple cylindrical stems from an underground rhizome
- bromeliad—a plant in the family Bromeliaceae
- bulb—plants that have underground, fleshy storage structures.
- climber —a plant that climbs upwards by means of twining stems, leaves or clinging roots
- edible—a plant which produces some edible portion/s.
- fern—seedless vascular plants having roots, stems, and fronds and reproducing by spores
- fruit—a fruit is generally from the ripened ovary together with its seeds, of a flowering plant
- grass– a plant in the family Poaceae
- groundcover—a low spreading plant
- large tree —a plant with woody growth, can exceed 15 metres in height
- medium tree —a plant with woody growth, around 10 to 15 metres in height
- orchid—a plant in the family Orchidaceae
- palm—a plant in the family Arecaceae
- perennial—long lived plants, non-woody, with recurrent growth
- shrub—a plant with woody growth, up to four metres in height
- small tree—a plant with woody growth, from four to 10 metres in height
- succulent—a plant which stores water in leaves or stems
- tree—a perennial woody plant having a main trunk and usually a distinct crown
- turf—a dense thick even cover of grass and roots in the top layer of soil
- vegetable—the name for many food plants, most of them annuals, and for their edible parts.
Soils vary considerably and this impacts on plant growth. The plant selector shows whether the plants are best adapted for growth in sand, loam or clay soils.
- sand—Sandy soils have coarse particles. They have low water and nutrient holding capacity and frequently become non-wetting. Sandy soils are easy to cultivate, are well aerated and have excellent drainage.
- loam—The term loam covers all the soils between sandy and clay soils. Loamy soils have medium-sized particles. They have good water and nutrient holding capacity and normally don’t become non-wetting. Loams are said to be the best soils for growing plants.
- clay—Clay soils have very fine particles. They have good water and nutrient holding capacity, but are prone to compaction and waterlogging. They can also be difficult to cultivate, typically becoming sticky when wet and tough when dry.
Some plants (classified as epiphytic) do not rely on soil as a growth medium. Epiphytic plants can grow on a range of media including other plants, and derive nutrients and moisture from the air, rain, debris or other organic sources. These plants can be grown using open compost mixes (commercially available) and/or mounted on trees or other plants if required. More information on soil types is available here.
Water ratings are indicated by a number of water drops, from one to five. These correspond to the following approximate annual water requirements:
- ½ drop: up to 100mm—extremely water wise
- 1 drop: 100–300 mm
- 1 ½ drops: 300–600 mm
- 2 drops: 600–900 mm
- 2 ½ drops: 900–1400 mm
- 3 drops: 1400–2000 mm
- 3 ½ drops: 2000–2500 mm
- 4 drops: 2500 mm or more
- 4 ½ drops: constantly moist—on the edge of a permanent water body
- 5 drops: aquatic environment
Not all plants included in the selector have low water needs. You should look at the water ratings for each plant and make your choices carefully. Some simple tips to minimise water needs and cope with future water shortages or restrictions include:
- Group plants with higher water needs together in one location, and use any available rainwater or greywater to keep these plants alive during dry periods.
- Recognise that some plants may die during dry weather, and replace these when wet weather returns.
- Consider the water needs for different locations in the garden. For example, water needs for plants in full hot sun will differ from those of plants in shaded areas.
- Be aware of other waterwise gardening tips, such as using mulch, understanding your soil type and planning a water-efficient garden. More information is available here.
You can undertake a basic search by entering your postcode and optionally selecting:
- water needs
- plant type
- light requirements.
In addition to searching on the basic search criteria, you can also search on additional optional criteria, including:
- flower colour
- foliage retention
- bird attracting
- perfumed flowers
- aromatic foliage
- edible plants
- borewater tolerance
- greywater tolerance
- frost tolerance.
All plants have a scientific name which consists of the genus and species. Most plants also have common names. You may search using either the common or scientific name.
Waterwise Plant Selector
The Waterwise Plant Selector is an online tool that helps you find water efficient plants suited to your location and climate conditions. Use your postcode to search and select from more than 4000 plants.
Water efficient gardening guides
The Waterwise efficient gardening guides contain simple tips for incorporating water-saving principles into your gardening. You can use them to develop and manage a water-efficient garden. These PDFs are courtesy from the Queensland Government.
- Planning a Water Efficient Garden (PDF, 263K)*
- Watering Your Garden (PDF, 135K)*
- Mulch and Your Garden (PDF, 129K)*
- Maintaining Your Lawn (PDF, 91K)*
- Composting (PDF, 265K)*
- Growing Fruit, Vegetables and Herbs (PDF, 366K)*
- Growing Plants in Pots or Containers (PDF, 94K)*
- Rainwater Tanks (PDF, 222K)*
- Understand Your Garden Soil (PDF, 288K)*
- Water Saving Tips for the Garden (PDF, 569K)*
Gardening with greywater
Greywater provides an alternative water source to keep your garden and lawn green, especially in times of drought and water restrictions. The Waterwise Gardening with Greywater booklet provides a wealth of advice and helpful tips on using greywater safely in the garden.
- Gardening with Greywater booklet (PDF, 647K)*
Alternatively you can download each topic from the Waterwise Gardening with Greywater booklet separately.
- Plants and Turf Suited to Greywater (PDF, 172K)*
- Improving Greywater and Soil Quality (PDF, 201K)*
- Domestic Greywater Use in Queensland (PDF, 189K)*
* Requires Adobe Reader