Thursday, 8 January 2015

Plant Profile - Calistemon

Many a tree is found in the wood,
And every tree for its use is good;
Some for the strength of the gnarled root,
Some for the sweetness of flower or fruit.
~Henry van Dyke, Salute to the Trees

Newly planted callistemon aka bottlebrush

Last month I planted three callistemon that I bought from a nearby nursery. So in order to give them the best start possible, and the best ongoing care, I have prepared a plant profile. The three I bought were Reeves pink. Reeves pink has beautiful, bright pink flower spikes with golden anthers in spring and summer.  I look forward to the time when mine are flowering! The Callistemon is a hardy, quick growing, many branched shrub. It grows to between two and four metres with a spread of between two to four metres.  Some varieties have two flowering seasons a year.

 As well as being decorative, callistemons can also be used as a low screen or hedge plant.  It is a forage plant for nectar eating birds and it attracts bees.

It's hard to see from this photo but the stake  in the foreground is where I planted another callistemon

The natural habitat of callistemons is moist, sunny areas. However they will grow in most soils and climatic conditions, though they can be slow to establish.  They will tolerate poor soils and can be grown in full sun to part shade. Callistemon spp cope with light frost but need protection from strong winds. Mulching will keep the plants happy. The plant will tolerate short periods of dryness as well as short periods of wet soils.

Another of our bottlebrushes
Regular feeding with a native plant food should see the plant receives the nutrients it requires. However I have dug some good compost through the back fill soil at planting, so I am hoping they will have the nutrients they need for now.

Tip borers and caterpillars can attack callistemon plants, but apparently they very rarely need any intervention to help them recover. If I do have a problem with webbing caterpillars, I will prune the affected area and bin it.

To maintain a nice shape they can be pruned after flowering. They are apparently easy to propagate from seeds or cuttings, but I have never tried. Reportedly they cross-breed easily, and there are many varieties available from nurseries. It would probably be easy enough for me to establish a large collection if I ever wanted to in the future.

Tim Marshall, The New Organic Gardener

Tom Wyatt, All your gardening questions answered.


  1. they are a beautiful beneficial tree! have a few bottlebrushes growing here too. my one big tree is a little bigger than 4mtrs, its very tall with red flowers, it was here when i moved here, i get beautiful humming birds on it in some years, the rest are all caged to protect them from the big bucks
    lovely post & good luck with them
    have a great day!

    1. Thanks Selina, I hope you have a great day too. Is it rainy there too? I just put some washing on the line about 15 minutes ago and it is now raining - again. Better the rain than the fires interstate. I would love to see some humming birds foraging in my trees, they are such beautiful creatures. I am hoping that some mistletoe will establish itself somewhere on the property so I can have the mistletoe bird visit. They are one of my favourite species.

    2. you probably do have them, they move awfully fast, they also get into the hibiscus flowers too, they aren't very big either & yes it's raining here on & off too

  2. We don't have any bottlebrushes here unfortunately as hubby isn't keen on natives but they are growing around us which is nice. No rain for us for a couple of days but we might get more if that cyclone develops up north.

    1. Hi Chel, sorry for taking so long to publish your comment. It has been one of those busy weekends, with visitors both expected and unexpected and lots of phone calls. There was a time when I wasn't keen on native plants too, I really preferred cottage garden plants. I keep wondering if we are not in for more rain here, because the ants are building really tall nests and a lot of ants are trying to move to higher ground (like up to the top of the rotary clothes line) and are taking their eggs with them.