Top 5 Native Plants of New Zealand

30 November, 2015

Native plants in New Zealand evolved almost in isolation for a million of years. In fact, 80% of these plants are endemic. 15% of the total land area is covered with these native plants, from ferns to alpines to scrub and tussocks, which can only be found in New Zealand.

The country is host to many of the exotic plants used for revegetation projects. Among the top native plants in New Zealand include the kōwhai , cabbage tree, kauri, manuka and the harakeke/flax. These are the top five exotic plants used for landscaping and revegetation services.


Kōwhai is one of the best-known native plants in New Zealand. At times considered as the unofficial national flower of the country. Its bright yellow flowers and imagery are used in popular art works. The maori, one of its genus, is durable and has many medicinal properties.  It’s also an important source of seasonal nectar, benefitting a host of native birds.

Cabbage tree

The cabbage tree is the most distinct tree in the New Zealand landscape. They grow all over the country, usually on wet, open areas like swamps. Cabbage trees are pleasing to the eye because of their bluish-white, scented flowers that bloom during summer, and provide food for insects and birds. It has a thick bark and a huge fleshy taproot, which makes them hardy and strong.


Among the world’s mightiest trees, the Kauri can grow up to 50 m tall.  In the old days, the tree was used by the Maori tribe for boat building, building houses, or carving. Kauri’s gum was used as fire starter and for chewing. Over the years, there is an extensive drive to protect it from extinction.


Manuka is also known as a “tea tree”, along with the Kanuka. These native plants range from being flat creeping forms to small shrubs. It is one of the most popular native plants in New Zealand because of its inherent characteristics, its pink-flushed flowers and its sooty mould. Contrary to other native plants, manuka is not eaten by foraging animals, which makes it suitable for restoration projects.


Flax is one of New Zealand’s oldest native plant species. It has two distinct species: common flax (harakeke) and mountain flax (wharariki). This plant is sorecognizable because of its tall, green, sword-like leaves growing all throughout the islands. They thrive in wet areas, either on high altitudes or along coastlines.

Colorful exotic plants such as the Kōwhai, because of its small leaflets and juvenile branches, are perfect for urban areas since these plants add texture to a structural setting such as in a city.  The manuka is also suitable for urban areas for of its distinctive features.  Kaui is more suitable for rural areas since they consume more space. The same is true with cabbage trees which makes these plants ideal for rural landscaping.

There is a host of other native plants for urban and rural landscaping, but identifying these top five native plants for your property is crucial so you can plan and assess your landscaping project with the appropriate plants. Identifying these top native plants also will help you determine which plants to use to develop your land.

Better yet; seek the help of a professional. At Rural Design, we can provide you with the right native plants suitable for your property. We understand that developing your land is not a walk in the park. Careful planning and having the appropriate design for your landscaping project is required to maximize the potential of both your native plants and your property.

Rural Design will be there to assist you, from your planning to riparian planting to site preparation and even helping you find the right native plants from our native plant nursery. We offer:

● Competitive pricing on native plants
● Eco-source plants for your property
● A list of wholesale native plants for your landscaping and revegetation projects

For more of these native plants and your landscaping needs, you check our website,, or visit us at 300 Kaiwaka-Mangawhai Road, Kaiwaka, Northland

Recent Posts