Callistemons (or bottlebrush) are some of the most beautiful and versatile native plants in Australian home gardens. This group of floriferous trees and shrubs are unrivalled in their ability to bring colour and attract native birds to the garden.
An icon of the Australian garden, all species of Callistemons are true show-stoppers when in bloom and if you happen to stand in close proximity to one, no doubt it will be simply buzzing with the activity of bees!
Depending on the cultivar and your location, Callistemons can be in flower from mid-winter right through until mid-summer. They range in size from tall shrubs to ground covers. They make attractive screening plants in their own right and some even as feature trees. Callistemons tolerate a range of soils from moist clay to sand and can be an excellent option where the soil is too clayey for other natives like grevilleas, banksias or waratahs. Callistemons are fully adaptable to drought conditions once fully established. For best flowering results, plant in full sun, but they can also perform well in part shade. They enjoy any climate from cool temperate to tropical as well as second-line coastal conditions and medium level frosts. They are extremely hardy and given the right growing conditions can delight you with flowers for up to 40 years. When digging a hole for planting, mix in some Searles Native Specialty Mix.
Honey bees in particular enjoy continuously foraging in amongst the fine bristles of the flowers and can often be witnessed doing so from first light until late dusk. Having one of the larger specimens such as ‘Dawson River Weeper’ grown as a central feature to the garden will encourage bees to forage through many species of fruit trees around the perimeter of your garden.
To encourage flowering, use only a low phosphorus fertiliser that is specifically designed for Australian natives such as Searles Native Plant Food. Callistemons do not require a lot of fertiliser. Apply an application in spring and another in autumn.
Keep callistemons well-pruned after spring flowering and most will flower well the following autumn. Each time callistemons are pruned or the spent flowers are trimmed off, it encourages even better flowering next season, whether in spring or autumn. So the moral is, prune! Most callistemons will flower from spring to summer but with regular pruning can flower at any other time throughout the year.
Best varieties of the bottlebrush – Callistemons
C. Green John 1m x 60cm – red
C. Lavender Shower 2-3 x 2-3m – hot pink
C. white Anzac 1m x 3m – white
C. Wilderness White 2m – white
C. Tangerine Dream 2m – Tangerine
C. Slim 3m x 1.3m – red, narrow spaces
C. Purple Splendour 2-3 x 2m – mauve/purple
C. Mauve Mist 2m x 2m – mauve
C. pachyphyllus 1m – green
C. Hot Pink 2m x 2m – hot pink
All colours and heights vary slightly due to soil and growing conditions.