Correas are Australian native plants which belong to the rue family (Rutaceae). They are evergreen shrubs and grow in temperate regions. The name ‘Correa’ was given to the species by Sir Joseph Banks in honour of his friend, Jose Francesco Correia da Serra, a Portuguese botanist.
Correas often have ‘felting’ of short, tufted hairs on the undersides of the leaves, on young stems and sometimes on the petals. Flowering is mainly from winter to spring. Recently, hybrid cultivars have been bred. The leaves have smooth edges and the flowers have four petals, fused partway to form a tube. The stamens protrude from the tube.
Correa alba is also known as White Correa and is a vigorous, spreading, dense shrub with oval green leaves and, sometimes, rusty new growth. Starry white or sometimes pink flowers with recurved petals appear mainly from November to May. It is a hardy plant and tolerates moist to dry, well-drained soils and can be planted in exposed coastal situations. It prefers full or partial sun and is frost-tolerant.
Correa decumbens is endemic to South Australia. It is a low, spreading shrub with narrow, tubular flowers about 2.5cm long. The flowers are red with green tips and usually erect in habit. It is best suited to moist yet well-drained soils. It responds well to pruning and is not affected by frost.
Correa baeuerlenii has green tubular flowers. The flower has a flattened calyx giving it a shape similar to a chef’s cap and leading to the common name of Chef’s Cap Correa. It is a native of New South Wales. It is a compact bushy shrub with aromatic, dark green leaves. It is an excellent choice for a shaded situation and is also attractive to birds.
Another correa which is rich in nectar and attracts native birds (particularly honey-eaters) is Correa glabra (Rock Correa). This variable species has dense, aromatic foliage and may grow to 3 metres. The flowers may be bell- or trumpet-shaped and grow to 3cm long and are usually pale green but there are red to pink forms. It responds well to regular light pruning.
The cultivars are generally compact and heavy bloomers. Popular cultivars include:
* Correa ‘Dusky Bells’ – a showy plant with bright green leaves and deep dusky pink to soft red, bell-shaped flowers. It is suited to a wide range of garden situations.
* Correa ‘Mannii’ is also widely grown. It has dark green, oval leaves. It has long tubular flowers to 4cm. The flowers are a striking red with pale pink interior. It is useful in semi-shaded positions and responds well to pruning. Both these cultivars are bird-attracting.
* Correa ‘Fat Fred’ has inflated red flowers with greenish, yellow tips.
Most correas are suitable for domestic gardens. Some may sometimes succumb to hot, humid summer conditions. They like friable, fertile soil in a well-drained position and, providing care is given to choosing a variety to suit your conditions, correas will give you much pleasure.