Correa or native fuchsia are one of those plants that are often misunderstood and could be used much more than they are.

With dark green leaves and sitting happily in deep shade to full sun in fairly dry conditions they are easily forgotten. That is until winter or when the autumnal chills set in and they respond with masses of bird attracting tubular bells that seem to defy frost and anything else winter might dish up.

Most species flower from autumn to spring while some flower very much just in winter. Correa reflexa has many different forms that all have leaves that ‘reflex back’. In other words, it looks like they have been folded back against the stem. Correa reflexa ‘prostrate’ is a ground cover and plenty can be seen just south of the Riverland in the sandy soils south of Pinnaroo and Lameroo. The flowers themselves are usually red tones with a distinctive green fringe around the top of the flower which is closest to the ground as the flowers hang down. Correa reflexa nummularia is a ground cover form that has bright light creamy yellow flowers that brighten up areas under trees and stand out on the dullest of days.

Correa pulchella has many forms with most having similar traits to C. reflexa but the leaves look softer and the flowers one colour, usually reds or pinks. Light pink forms really stand out well in dark spots. Keep in mind that a cold dark south facing spot will suit all species of Correa well.

Correa alba I will recommend in those seemingly impossible spots; full shade in winter and a horrible blast of midday sun in summer such as between buildings. I remember cutting a plant back, only to discover a C. alba had been growing very well completely covered but its neighbour. The point of difference with C. alba is that it has white flowers that open to resemble stars and usually flowers late summer and autumn. This plant has been crossed with C. reflexa forms to come up with some delightful flower types and colours.

Correa glabra would have to be about the toughest, happily growing under mallee without watering. It too has a two tone flower and always looks good with glossy leaves.

I have used different Correa species as hedges either left alone or clipped regularly for a formal effect. They will all look and flower better with a light prune after flowering.

I have seen many fail as a plant when they have had frequent and shallow watering withdrawn suddenly (that is at the onset of watering restrictions). Correas that have had infrequent deep watering (say, monthly) have faired well. Plants that have been planted with deeper watering on a dripper from the start have performed well. If you are prepared to water monthly all Correa will do well.

So for a plant that needs only minimal watering, lush green foliage, brightens dark spots and flowers it heart out all winter to bring the birds in, why not give Correas a go?

This article first published in the Riverland Weekly © August 12, 2010.