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Managing your garden

Trees and shrubs enhance our local environment by providing shade, privacy and amenity.

If your home has a garden, you are responsible for its basic maintenance. We also encourage you to add to your own garden. This fact sheet will help guide your selection of trees and shrubs to improve your garden, as well as minimise ongoing maintenance costs.

You should avoid some species as their root systems can damage building foundations, paths and sewer pipes or their trunks and limbs can damage roofs and other structures. As well as the costs of repairs to a damaged property, these trees and shrubs may be unsafe for residents and visitors. Failure to comply may result in tenant damage charges.

Gardens in common areas are for the enjoyment of all residents and are maintained by FACS. Tenants aren’t permitted to plant or remove trees or shrubs in the common areas, except in common areas approved for community gardens. See community greening for more information on community gardens in social housing.

What am I responsible for maintaining in my garden?

It’s your responsibility to look after the lawn and garden of your home which includes:

  • mowing lawns, watering, weeding and mulching garden beds
  • regularly trimming trees and shrubs that are less than 3 metres high to allow light into windows and let air circulate around buildings
  • providing a tray/saucer for pot plants on balconies, verandas and paved areas to protect the surface from water damage
  • clearing leaves from gutters in single story homes that are less than 3 metres high.

What can I plant in my garden and where can I plant it?

  • you can plant trees that will grow up to 3 metres high, but if you don’t know how tall a tree will grow it would be best not to plant it in your garden
  • trees or shrubs must be planted at least 3 metres from any buildings, paths, or fences
  • you can also plant vegetables, herbs and citrus or fruit trees - prune them regularly to keep them under 3 metres in height
  • if you build a garden bed or lay lawn, make sure it is more than one metre away from any buildings
  • raised garden beds must not be placed directly against structures such as buildings and fences as they can cause damage and prevent access for maintenance
  • you can install a worm farm or compost bin
  • don’t plant any tree or climber that has invasive roots or stems, is a noxious weed or has toxic leaves or sap.

See our list of suggested shrubs and climbers for different climate regions in NSW that are suitable to plant in your garden, as well as the trees and climbers that you are not permitted to plant.

When do I need permission from FACS?

If you wish to plant a tree or shrub in your garden for shade or privacy that will grow to a mature height of more than 3 metres, you must apply to FACS under the Alterations to a Home Policy. We will assess the type of tree and look at where you want to plant it to make sure it doesn’t cause maintenance issues in the future.

What will FACS maintain?

We will trim trees that are greater than 3 metres in height, if they pose a risk to existing structures or services and will maintain lawns and gardens in the common areas of unit and townhouse complexes.

Suggested shrubs and climbers

Shrubs

Climactic region Botanical name Common name Soil suitability Growth characteristics Other features
North, Central and South Coast Leptospermum polygalifoliumLemon Scented Tea-treePrefers well-drained sandy soil and full-sun to part-shade. Tolerates frost conditions. Drought tolerant once established.Grows to 3m tall and 2.5m wide. Responds well to pruning after flowering.Native shrub with white flowers in late spring and summer.
North, Central and South Coast, Highlands Banksia spinulosaHairpin BanksiaPrefers well drained soils and full-sun.Grows to 3m tall and 2m wide. Pruning generally not required.Large yellow/orange flower spikes growing to 18cm high. Attracts nectar feeding birds and provides cut flowers.
North, Central and South Coast, Highlands & Western Slopes Westringia fruiticosa 'Jervis Gem'Native or Coastal RosemaryPrefers well-drained soil and full-sun to part-shade. Tolerates frost, dry and coastal conditions.Grows to 1.2m tall by 1m wide. Light prune annually to keep compact.Native, hardy, long lived shrub with grey-green foliage and white to pale blue flowers in later Spring to early Autumn.
North, Central and South Coast, Highlands & Western Slopes Philotheca myoporoides (Eriostemon) myoporoidesLong leaf waxflowerPrefers part-shade to shady. Frost tolerant and drought tolerant once established.Grows to 1.5m tall. Tip prune after flowering to maintain shape and size.Native, hardy shrub with small
North, Central and South Coast, Highlands & Western Slopes Grevillea speciosaRed Spider-flowerPrefers an open sunny position with well-drained and low phosphorous soil. Drought tolerant once established.Grows to 3m tall. Responds well to pruning after flowering.Red or pink flowers from late Winter to late Spring.
North, Central and South Coast, Highlands & Western SlopesCorrea reflexaNative FuchsiaPrefers well-drained soil and full-sun or shade.Grows to 1.2m tall. Responds well to pruning after flowering.Tubular to bell shaped red flowers with yellow tips from late Autumn to Spring.
North, Central and South Coast, Highlands, Western Slopes & Far Western PlainsEremophila maculataSpotted Emu BushPrefers well-drained sandy soils and full-sun.Grows to 2.5m tall.Red to purple, pink or white flowers from Winter to early Summer.
Western Slopes & Far Western Plains Grevillea floribundaRusty Spider-flower, Seven Dwarfs GrevilleaPrefers well-drained soil and full-sun or shade.Grows to 2m tall.Orange-brown flowers in early Spring and late Winter.
Western Slopes & Far Western PlainsAcacia wilhelmianaDwarf NealieGrows in sandy soils in mallee regions of NSW.Grows to 3m tall.Golden-yellow flowers in Spring.
Western Slopes & Far Western PlainsGossypium sturtianumSturts Desert RosePrefers gravelly or sandy soils and full-sun. Drought tolerant.Grows to 2m tall. Low maintenance.Large papery lilac flowers.

Creepers

Climactic region Botanical name Common name Soil suitability Growth characteristics Other features
North, Central and South Coast & HighlandsClematis aristataNative Clematis, Traveller’s Joy, Old Man’s BeardPrefers part shade and cool soil.Evergreen climber for fences or pergolas. Prune to make way for new growth.Cream star like flowers in Spring and Summer followed by small decorative fruit.
North, Central and South Coast, Highlands & Western SlopesHardenbergia violaceaPurple Coral Pea, False SarsaparillaPrefers fun sun or part shade and well drained soil. Drought tolerant once established.Hardy evergreen climber that grows to 1m tall. Prune after flowering.Violet pea shaped flowers appear in Winter and Spring.

Plants not permitted

What trees should not be planted?

You are not permitted to plant the following trees species as they have invasive tree root systems, toxicity and/or their mature height is too tall.

Botanical nameCommon name
Alnus acuminataEvergreen alder
Araucaria sp.Norfolk Island & Bunya Pines
Brachychiton AcerifoliusIllawarra Flame Tree
Bambusa sp.Bamboos
Celtis sp.Nettle-tree and Hackberry
Casuarina sp.Casuarinas or She-oaks (River Oak, Swamp Oak)
Chamaecyparis/Cupressus sp.Cedar and Cypress
Cinnamomum CamphoraCamphor laurel
Erythrina sp.Coral Tree
Ficus sp.Figs (Moreton Bay, Hills Weeping, Rubber Tree)
Fraxinus sp.Ashes
Grevillea robustaSilky Oak
Jacaranda MimosifoliaJacaranda
Ligustrum sp.Privets
Liquidambar StyracifluaLiquidambar
Lophostemon ConfertusBrush Box
Melia azedarachAustralian White Cedar
Nerium OleanderOleander
Phoenix CanariensisCanary Island Date Palm
Pinus sp.Pine Trees
Platanus sp.Plane Trees
Populus sp.Poplars
Quercus sp.Oaks
Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’Golden robinia, Black Locust, False Acacia
Salix sp.Willows
Sapium SebiferumChinese Tallow Tree
Schefflera ActinophyllaUmbrella Tree
Schinus MollePepper Tree
Syagrus romanzoffianumCocos palm
Toxicodendron sp.Rhus Tree
Tipuana tipuRosewood, Pride of Bolivia
Ulmus sp.Elms (large)

What climbers should not be planted?

You are not permitted to plant the following species of climbers due to their invasive root systems, toxicity and/or invasive stems of mature species.

Botanical nameCommon name
Bougainvillea sp.Bougainvilleas
Ficus pumillaCreeping Fig
Hedera helixEnglish Ivy
Jasminum polyanthumChinese Jasmine
Lonicera japonicaJapanese Honeysuckle
Rubus fruticsusBlackberry
Wisteria sp.Wisterias

Trees with invasive roots

The following tree species have invasive root systems that can damage sewer pipes. We will only grant approval to plant them if they are six metres or more away from a sewer, water or stormwater pipe.

Botanical nameCommon name
Acer sp.Maples
Callistemon sp.Bottlebrushes
Eucalyptus sp.Gum trees
Lagerstroemia sp.Crepe Myrtle
Magnolia sp.Magnolias
Melaleuca sp.Paperbarks
Metrosideros ExcelsusNew Zealand Christmas Tree
Morus sp.Mulberry (especially Black Mulberry)
Murraya PaniculateOrange Jasmine
Syzygium sp.Lillypilly
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Last updated: 27 Mar 2019
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