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The rosy rice flower

Pimelea ferruginea.
Pimelea ferruginea. / SUR
  • The rice flower is a small shrub with dark green, glossy leaves and masses of pink or white flowers in the spring

Pimelea ferruginea, or the rosy rice flower, is native to Australia and New Zealand. Pimelea is a genus with around 80 species in the Thymelaeaceae family; a group that includes the heavily scented shrub Daphne. Unfortunately the Pimelea is hardly scented at all, with only P. suaveolus (scented banjine) described as having a faint, sweet fragrance.

However, what Pimelea ferruginea lacks in fragrance it makes up in flower power. From spring onwards, the compact, bushy shrub is smothered in dark pink ‘pompoms’ or clusters of flowers which attract lots of pollinating insects. The blooms form right on the ends of the branches and are usually shades of pink, although there are some white varieties.

Whether for a cottage garden border, ground cover or specimen plant, there is a species of Pimelea that will fit the bill. They form a mound of dense foliage and need free-draining, slightly acidic soil. They all love hot, dry climates, will tolerate being near the sea and usually will withstand light frosts, however they are not drought tolerant and do not like high humidity.

A pale pink form.

A pale pink form. / SUR

Although they do best in full sun, they will also survive partial shade although they may become a bit leggy.

After flowering, a light trim should promote a second flush of blooms. Pimelea doesn’t need much maintenance; an occasional trim should keep it compact and a good shape. Avoid cutting back into old wood as this may cause die-back.

Cuttings taken from the new season’s growth usually root easily. Use a rooting medium that has lots of sharp sand mixed in to help drainage. Unfortunately the seeds are rarely viable.

Pimelea ferruginea is used in topiary because of its dense growth and the flowers are popular for use in flower arranging.

The genus name comes from the Greek word ‘pimele’ meaning ‘fat’ and probably refers to the oily seeds. All parts of the plant are poisonous to horses, sheep and cattle.