Garden Tips

How to plant and care for your
Bottle Brush trees or Callistemons

 Bottle brush plant

Callistemon or Bottle brush flower

Please note that :

Callistemons have been listed as invasive species in South Africa.
Callistemon citrinus (Curtis) Skeels (= Melaleuca citrina (Curtis) Dum.Cours.) Lemon bottlebrush is listed as a Category 3 plant

Callistemon rigidus R.Br.Stiff-leaved bottlebrush is listed as a Category 1b in Eastern Cape and Western Cape and category 3 in Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North-West and Northern Cape.

Callistemon viminalis (Sol. ex Gaertn.) G.Don Weeping bottlebrush is listed as a Category 1b in Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga and Category 3 in Free State, Gauteng, North-West, Northern Cape and Western Cape.

Sterile cultivars or hybrids are not listed.

Explanation of categories
Category 1b (PROHIBITED / Exempted if in Possession or Under control) : Listed Invasive Species

Category 3 (PROHIBITED): Listed Invasive Species

For more info Click here

Callistemon or Bottle brush flower

Callistemons or Bottle brush plants as they are known here in South Africa are native to Australia.

Over the years they have been exported to countries around the world and are now common to many countries including South Africa. They are called bottle brushes as their flowers look like the round tubular brush used for baby's bottles.

The flowers come in white, pink or red and when in flower the trees look stunning. What makes a bottle brush nice to plant is that it is quite hardy, can handle cold and hot weather without too much fuss and grow in a variety of climatic zones from tropical to cool temperate regions.

If you are bird lover and want to attract humming birds or butterflies to your garden then you should plant some of these trees in your garden.

There is one problem however with the bottle brush plant and that is that the bottle brush tree is not a plant friendly plant. It is a natural herbicide and will try and kill plants growing beneath its branches.


Callistemons with flowers and other plants growing round the roots

I have had a number of these trees in my garden and have not noticed the herbicide effect. The good point of the herbicide is that it also keeps weeds at bay, something that most gardeners want.

How to a plant a Myrtaceae Callistemon.( Bottle brush)

A bottle brush tree is easy to plant. You can either plant the seeds that it produces or you can cut slips and propagate them.



Callistemon with maturing seed pods still on the tree

I am not sure whether you can buy the seeds in nurseries but if you have a tree in your garden you need to pick the unopened seed pods or fruits from your tree and place them in a dry paper packet in a warm place until the fine seeds are ready to be released.

To plant the seeds prepare a garden bed that is made up part growing-mix and part sand, sprinkle the seeds over the soil and cover them with a fine layer of soil.

Water the bed so that it is moist, not too wet or too dry and keep it moist. The seeds germinate in two to three weeks.

Planting slips:

Select a semi mature branch and cut a slip 10 to 15cm from the branch. Take this slip and protecting the lower portion of the slip push it about half way of its length into moist soil and prop it up so it won't move and damage the new roots that form.

Second procedure:

If you want to grow a number of slips an easy way to do this is to establish yourself a rooting patch.

Prepare a 50cm square ( The size depends on how many slips you want to plant ) by using bricks or wood placed on top of the existing soil and fill this square with clean course white sand or swimming pool filter sand to a depth of about 10 cm. Cut your slips as above and dip the bottom (growing point) in some hormone powder and then push gently into the sand. Keep the patch moist at all times and prepare to be amazed how successful you will be growing plants from slips.

I have recently used this procedure for rose cuttings of which about 90% of the cuttings I placed in the sand grew. Many other species of cuttings also grew using this procedure. It's fun to test your skills and what will grow from slips.

Leave the cuttings in the ground for a number of weeks until you see some foliage developing. The cuttings can then be carefully lifted using a small spade to reach underneath the plant to lift them out. Place the plant in a pot or growing bag filled with potting soils and fill in and around the plant. Water so that the soil compacts around the new roots and thereafter keep the soil moist.

Callistemons or bottlebrush plants are low maintenance and do not necessarily need pruning. Their natural shape is difficult to improve upon. You can however prune the tree if it gets too big. Only prune after the plant has flowered.

Happy gardening.

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Bottle Brush / Callistemons

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