Bottlebrush plants are charming evergreens that can grow as large shrubs or small trees. Bottlebrush plants are best known for their characteristic bright red and spiky flower groupings that resemble the type of brush you would use to clean a bottle with — hence the name bottlebrush. This group of plants belongs to the Myrtaceae (myrtle) family, and is, as such, related to bay rum trees as well as eucalyptus and allspice trees. The genus bottlebrush plants are in, Melaleuca, counts almost 300 different members, which are often referred to as paperbarks or honey myrtles.
Most bottlebrush trees are native to Australia, which means that they will thrive in dry conditions with plenty of sunlight. Melaleuca species are typically grown as shrubs, espaliers, or small trees, and can also perform beautifully as informal hedges. The unusual flowers ensure that these plants make for a colorful and interesting addition to any garden. In the right environments, bottlebrush shrubs or trees are easy to take care of, as well as especially fast growers.
About Bottlebrush Shrubs and Trees
- Bottle brush plants are remarkable multi-trunked evergreen shrubs or trees with beautiful wispy leaves. This makes them a popular choice for people in search of plants that can function as hedges.
- While a surprising number of bottlebrush species exist, as well as numerous cultivars, two of the most popular bottlebrush plants are Melaleuca viminalis and Melaleuca citrina. Melaleuca viminalis is also known as the creek bottlebrush, weeping bottlebrush. The name red cascade has got to be the best, though, because it reflects the lovely hanging branches, which make it reminiscent of a willow tree, and its red flowers. Melaleuca citrina is the smaller of the two, and is also called the lemon bottlebrush or crimson bottlebrush. This bottlebrush plant has a beautiful fresh lemon scent. Both species of bottlebrush plant thrive in similar conditions and can, in the United States, be grown in hardiness zones nine through 11.
- Let’s get one thing out of the way before you get confused — bottlebrush trees used to belong to the genus Callistemon. They were merged into the Melaleuca genus after a scientific consensus was reached around the idea that this group of plants was not distinctive enough to merit its own genus. However, many people continue to refer to the old names, respectively Callistemon viminalis and Callistemon citrinus. This includes some scientists.
- Most people who choose to include bottlebrush plants in their gardens do so because they love the unusual dense, bushy and spiky, flowers these trees and shrubs produce. These wispy flowers grow in large cylindrical clusters that converge on a spike. While this gives the individual “bottle brushes” the appearance of a single flower, each cluster can in fact contain an impressive 80 separate flowers!
- The flowers of the bottlebrush plant generally emerge in spring and summer. They can make an appearance during the fall period as well.
- Because bottlebrush shrubs and trees are famous for attracting bees and other insects, including butterflies, these gorgeous plants are a perfect choice for people looking to create pollinator gardens. Once the flowers stop blooming, bottlebrush plants woody capsule fruits that are attractive to small scavengers like squirrels.
- Bottlebrush plants prefer warm, dry, weather, but can cope with humid climates as well. Because these shrubs and trees are very sensitive to frost, they should not be planted outdoors in cooler regions.
- As long as you plant a bottlebrush plant in the right climate conditions, these amazing plants are surprisingly easy to care for. They will thrive with just a little love. They are resistant to most pests and diseases, and keeping these plants healthy is not difficult.
- Melaleuca viminalis and Melaleuca citrina are not toxic to dogs, cats, or horses and are therefore a good choice for animal lovers.
- Weeping bottlebrush thrives so easily that they are considered invasive in certain areas, like some regions of Florida.
- Australian Aboriginals have traditionally used bottlebrush trees in diverse applications, from crafting boats to making bandages out of the trees’ paper-like and gentle bark, which can peel off the trunk easily.
Bottlebrush Plant Features: An Overview
- Melaleuca viminalis and Melaleuca citrina are bushy evergreen shrubs or trees with elongated leaves of about four inches long and a nice olive green color. They can also be trained to function as espaliers, and even do well in container gardens. People who love the look of the bottlebrush plant but live in frosty land climates can choose to grow them in container gardens that may be moved to a greenhouse during the winter.
- The lemon bottlebrush (Melaleuca citrina) can reach a height of 15 feet (over four meters), while the weeping bottlebrush (Melaleuca viminalis) can become even taller — up to 20 feet (six meters)! They are fast-growing plants, and you can expect them to grow as wide as they are tall.
- The weeping bottlebrush is known for its cascading, willow-like branches, because of which most people prefer to grow it as a tree.
- These plants cope well with droughts and even with salty soil, although they prefer slightly alkaline soil. Bottlebrush trees and shrubs love loamy, sandy, soil that remains moist but drains well.
- Bottlebrush plants have dense root systems that makes them an excellent choice for gardeners who are looking for shrubs to help with erosion control.
- The bottlebrush plant typically flowers in spring and summer, although it can flower during the fall as well. The distinctive bottlebrush-shaped flowers are famous for attracting bees, but its bark keeps deer away successfully.
- The little woody fruits bottlebrush plants produce can actually stick around on the bark for years, offering a charming look.
- Although the lemon bottlebrush, Melaleuca citrina, has that name because of its pleasant lemony scent, weeping bottlebrush plants do not have a fragrant scent.
Growing Bottlebrush Plants
The bottlebrush plant species Melaleuca viminalis and Melaleuca citrina thrive in similar conditions. These beautiful plants do not only require around six daily hours bright sunlight, but they do best with full sun exposure and do not tolerate shady conditions very well. Your bottlebrush plants will likely survive if they experience a lot of shade, but they will not be able to reward you with their stunning brush-like flowers in that case — and be honest; those flowers are the main reason you are interested in a bottlebrush plant, right?
Bottlebrush plants perform best in warmer, dryer, geographical regions. These shrubs or trees can cope with more humid conditions fairly well, however.. Bottle brush plants can do well in temperatures ranging from 50 to 90 °Fahrenheit — which is 10 to 32 °Celsius. However, this pretty plant is happiest in temperatures of around 80 °F (26 °C).
These beautiful plants absolutely don’t like frost, which is a well-known fact. Those living in climates with warm summers but cold winters can still grow bottlebrush plants in container gardens, if they are able to move their bottlebrush plants into a greenhouse during the winter. Given their Australian orgins, few people are aware that there is such a thing as too hot for bottlebrush plants, too — gardeners growing them in Texas have reported that their bottlebrush trees suffer greatly during especially warm seasons.
- BLOOM TIME: Mid Summer
- HARDINESS ZONE: 8 - 11
- PLANT HEIGHT: 15 Feet . . . PLANT SPACING: 8 - 10 Feet
- LIGHT REQUIREMENTS: Sun . . . SOIL / WATER: Average - Dry
- Red with evergreen leaves. This Australian native attracts bees, birds, and butterflies. It gets its name from the fuzzy red flowers that look like a bottle brush.
- Dwarf Version of Weeping Bottlebrush
- Can be grown as a border screen
- Registered CA. Seed Seller
- Hardy for zones 8-11. Can be grown in containers in cooler zones. Grows to about 10 feet (3 m)
- This versatile plant is perfect for small gardens as well as potted deck plantings and tropical specimen plants.
Last update on 2024-01-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The bottlebrush plant needs slightly acidic to neutral soil conditions to flourish and remain healthy. When planted in alkaline soil, bottlebrush plants can develop chlorosis, which will cause the leaves to yellow. These striking plants love sandy and loamy soil that drains well and supports the proliferation of the root system.
As far as fertilizer goes, you will not strictly need to fertilize to feed your bottlebrush plant fertilizer to keep it strong and healthy, as these plants do fine, whether as shrubs or trees, so long as they are rooted in the right type of soil. Having said that, people who would like to encourage their bottlebrush plants to produce lovely and bright red flowers may want to fertilize these plants.
Using a a low-phosphorous fertilizer just before the plant is about to bloom — in spring, but also potentially during the fall, if you’re lucky — is the right approach. Although bottlebrush plants are already fast-growing, offering them fertilizer can encourage them to grow even more quickly.
If you feel that your bottlebrush shrub or tree is becoming a little unruly — which they’ll tend to do, because they develop quite the spread, and can look somewhat messy — you can prune your bottlebrush plant. Be careful, though, because the gorgeous flowers develop at the very end of the new shoots. As such, pruning your bottlebrush at the wrong time could easily cause you to miss out on the festive red blooms. To avoid this, stick to pruning your bottlebrush tree right after the flowering season is over.
Watering Bottlebrush Plants
Although bottlebrush shrubs and trees absolutely do tolerate periods of drought very well, that fact does not mean that these plants actively prefer extremely dry conditions. Your bottlebrush plant will thrive, rewarding you by growing faster and looking healthier, if you keep its soil moist by watering it regularly. Test the soil, and offer your growing bottlebrush plant extra water whenever the top few inches of the soil have become dry.
Propagating Bottlebrush Plants
When it comes to propagating bottlebrush plants there are two methods — you can propagate bottlebrush plant species, such as Melaleuca viminalis and Melaleuca citrina from cuttings and from seeds. Both methods will take some time and patience, but can be successful if you follow the right steps.
To propagate bottlebrush plants using cuttings, you’ll want to make sure to take a cutting from the stems during the summer time. The steps you need to follow to propagate a bottlebrush plant from cuttings are:
- Select an appropriate container that can drain well for your cutting, and prepare it with a nice potting soil.
- Next, you simply need to select and cut a six inch stem off a healthy and mature bottlebrush plant, using sharp garden shears.
- To make sure your cutting has the best possible chance of succeeding, cut off a stem that has more than two sets of leaves.
- Once you are done taking your cutting, you need to remove all sets of leaves other than the ones at the very top, and gently remove any buds the cutting may have, too.
- Place your bottlebrush cutting in the pot you prepared for it — it should be watered, so that the soil is nice and moist.
- Finally, cover your brand new bottlebrush cutting with a plastic bag and seal it around the edges of the pot to keep the moisture from escaping.
- Now, the wait for your new bottlebrush plant to grow is on! Because these cuttings are very sensitive, it is important to check on their soil regularly, and to offer them more water whenever the soil is getting dry.
The small wood-like capsule fruits that the botttlebrush plants grow can also be used to propagate new bottlebrush plants from seed, in which case they may differ significantly from the parent plant. These fruits can be used for propagation at any time of the year and are found below the bottlebrush’s branches.
You can choose any of the fruits that aren’t open yet but it’s best to pick aged capsules that are at least one year old, which will likely still be on the tree. Take your fruits and place them in a paper bag, and place in a dry and warm location. You should notice the fruit open up, revealing small seeds inside! For the best results, sow the seeds as soon as you can and put them in moist soil — the bottlebrush’s seeds do not need to be soaked. Again, place a plastic bag over the pot.
If you live in a warm, dry, climate that doesn’t get very cold, and you have space in your garden, it would be a shame not to grow your very own bottlebrush plant, as a shrub or as a tree. Besides the popular species Melaleuca viminalis and Melaleuca citrina, numerous other species exist, and some cultivars even grow white, rather than red, flowers.
These amazing plants have amazing flowers that you’ll never get tired of admiring. Once you understand their needs, Melaleuca viminalis and Melaleuca citrina are also easy to care for.