Growing smaller plants in the Clare Valley of South Australia

Created 2007/05/29, last edited 2023/03/18
Contact: About me, David K. Clarke – ©

Growing cuttings and seedlings in 125mm square tubes
Young plants in square tubes
This is how most of the many thousands of my plants started off. This setup was at our place, Elysium, there was an automatic watering system that would cover these boxes with a fine spray periodically. I had a similar setup at Crystal Brook.

Most of this particular batch were destined to be planted at Gleeson Wetlands in Clare.

Creeping postman
Kennedia prostrata growing over a stone retaining wall, 2007


On this page I intend to list all those shrubs and ground-covers that I have found to be useful and to grow on my property in the Clare Valley in the Mid North region of the state of South Australia.

This page was created so that shrubs and ground covers could be added to the trees already covered by my page, Growing Trees in the Clare Valley. Also see Growing plants at Crystal Brook.

BoM rainfall statistics, Clare PO
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAug SepOctNovDecYear
Av. Rain252425 47738082 80735737 29632
Med. Rain161518 38657876 78644930 23625


Sturt's desert rose
Sturt's desert rose growing on a retaining wall, 2007

Sturt's desert rose, Gossipium sturtii

This shrub grows to about a metre tall and has very pretty mauve flowers almost all year around.

It is fast growing, but tends to become straggly after a few years and lives only for five to ten years. It is easily propagated from seed.

It is a native of the dry inland of Australia.

Yacca, Grass tree, Blackboy: Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata

Flowering yacca
Flowering yacca
The photo shows the first of the yaccas of those planted at Elysium to flower, photographed May, 2002.

I grew fifty or so yaccas from seed. Of perhaps twenty that were planted at Elysium about 1995-98 around five were still alive in 2002.

They are slow growing and they seem to need to be watered periodically through summer if they are to establish in the Elysium soil. This one is among other garden plants and was watered every week or two during its first few summers. Once established they need no water other than natural rainfall.

It seems useful to plant yaccas in an elevated bed, such as can be made by placing a couple of car tyres on top of each other and filling with earth.

Vines and creepers

Kiwi fruit
Photographed on 2005/11/02

Kiwi fruit

(I have not found the botanical name of this one yet.) Two vines were planted in the winter of 2003. They are doing well, as can be seen on the photo. They do need quite a bit of water if they are not to loose a few leaves on hot days.

These plants continued to do well, although they lost a number of leaves to burning in the hottest days each year; however, they didn't produced any fruit and were cut out in January 2010.

Black coral pea
This Coral Pea is supported by a wire-netting tree guard which has long since ceased to be visible. Photographed 2005/03/10.

Black Coral Pea, 2007

Kennedya nigricans This climber has done remarkably well. Unfortunately they seem to live only five years or so.


Creeping Boobialla
Creeping boobialla growing in my garden, 2007

Creeping Boobialla

This hardy plant (Myoporum parvifolium) grows well on my land. While some extra water is useful when getting it started, it does well on only the natural rainfall once established. It can be propagated by burying the bottom two-thirds of cuttings; if the cuttings have some roots, so much the better. Creeping boobialla will readily produce roots when either in contact with the ground or if you throw some dirt over a part of it and leave it for a couple of months.

It should be protected from grazing animals. It handles some foot traffic.

Creeping boobialla will creep a metre or so and climb to some extent.

Creeping Boobialla 2
Creeping boobialla growing over a dam wall, 2007



Basil, 2007
This basil plant has done very well.

The soil it is in has been built up using lots of sawdust mulch and more recently cow manure over a period of four years or so.


Flat leafed parsley, 2007
Flat leafed parsley

The soil it is in has been built up using lots of sawdust mulch and more recently cow manure over a period of four years or so.


Climbing peas

Tried these in 2009, but they suffered from a virus or some other disease and produced very little.


Pumpkins, 2007
These are a good summer crop. They will do far better if you can build the soil up with copious amounts of organic matter.

Pumpkins will cover a lot of ground in a few months in the summer. They do need some watering, but are very tolerant of heat.

On a hot day the plants will wilt. This seems to be a mechanism to limit exposure to the overhead sun. They recover thoroughly from wilting at night unless desperately short of water.

If you wanted to grow survival food in the Clare Valley you would have a hard time finding anything better than pumpkins and sweet potatoes.


Tree onions
Tree onions, 2007
Tree onions grow well at Elysium. This variety grows small onions on the tops as well as larger onions below-ground. The small onions can be used to seed the following year's crop.


Late May, 2007
Like the other garden vegetables I have had success with, rhubarb does much better if the soil is built up with lots of organic matter.

The plant in the photo is getting ready to die-back for winter.

In 2008 they died-back earlier, due probably to the record heat-wave and the drought.

In 2009 this plant did not die back over winter at all. This presumably was due to the lack of severe frosts; my wife and I noticed that many of the feral briars in the area also retained their leaves right through winter.

Sweet potato

Sweet potato tops
Sweet potato tops, 2007
Sweet potato roots
Sweet potato roots, 2007
This tropical or sub-tropical plant is a new garden vegetable to me.

I first planted some cuttings in mid-summer 2007; it would have been much better to have planted them in spring (after the risk of frosts has finished), but a neighbour gave me some in summer.

I am very impressed at how easy they are to grow; exceptionally easy to plant from cuttings and easy to keep growing. They seem to need little water in summer and do not suffer much from insects. There was some damage from slugs or snails, but the plants grew so quickly that they seemed to out-grow the predators.

The size of the roots in the photo (the larger one is 800g) is surprising considering the shortness of the growing season these plants had. The first frosts of winter killed off the above ground parts. The two roots in the photo came from just one plant.


2008 notes

Sweet potatoes can be planted by cuttings or by planting a sweet potato that you have bought at a shop. They seem always to shoot eventually, if they don't rot first.

Sweet potato
From one plant, 2008/04/28
All the tubers in the photo at right came from one plant grown in late 2007 and early 2008. The biggest one was 3.5kg (the biggest I've grown so far), the total weight for the five was 7kg (also my record at that time). First I've dug for the season at Elysium.

I need to learn to grow smaller ones; these tend to go slimy before they can be eaten.

Probably the simplest way to grow smaller ones will be by keeping plants from getting too big. They could either be planted more closely together, or more plants forced by dumping a spade-full of dirt on the runners to encourage rooting, and then chopping the runners.

Another way of growing them smaller would, in theory, be to harvest them after they have grown for a shorter period; perhaps a couple of months. In practice this is not easy; it is difficult to pick the right time to dig them without greatly disturbing the roots.

The dog is for scale.

2009 notes

Wikipedia's article on sweet potato, under 'Cultivation', states that annual rainfalls of 750-1000mm, with a minimum of 500mm in the growing season, are best suited for sweet potatoes. Clare has an average annual rainfall of around 600mm with no reliable rainfall in the sweet potato growing season (generally there are one or two significant summer rains, but they can't be relied on, see Rainfall statistics, Clare). I have found that they grow well using a very limited amount of irrigation by dripper.

My record sweet potato is now 7kg (although I'd rather not grow them so big), and I've had 14kg of tubers on one plant.