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Star of the Season: Bottlebrush

Brilliant scarlet is not the only shade that cloaks the bottlebrush.

They also dress up in pink, mauve, yellow and white so offer the ultimate in easy-going dazzle - in whatever colour you need.


Brilliant scarlet isn't the only shade of bottlebrush. Photo - Elle 1 / Shutterstock



In the botanical world there is a move to merge the genusCallistemonwith its close relativeMelaleuca. The argument is that the differences between the two groups are insufficient for them to be separated. For our purposes, let’s just agree to call them bottlebrushes and celebrate their beauty and adaptability.

Here are plants that put on a brilliant show in spring and spot flower throughout the year, providing food for bees and nectar-feeding birds as well as shelter for shy small birds. They work as a stand-alone trees, street trees, boundary plants, windbreaks, screening plants, hedges or border features, and can be pruned to any height. Bottlebrushes are also useful plants for erosion control and will absorb water in boggy areas.

Try bottlebrushes with a carpet of Myoporum or liriope,or match them up with grevillea, banksia and lillypillies for year-round interest and privacy. Combine red, pink and mauve varieties for the ultimate colour pop.


Marvelous mauve. Photo - Linda Ross



These plants naturally occur along river banks so will tolerate wet feet, yet are also adapted to drought. They will seek out water so take care not to plant them near pipes or between houses. The best flower show is achieved in full sun, but they grow well in part shade. There’s a good reason these are go-to plants for difficult sites as they’ll cope with drought, flood, pollution, light frost, salt, lime and any soil, from sand to heavy clay.


A hit with the birds and the bees. Photo - somyot pattana / shutterstock



Prune immediately after flowering, just above the first set of leaves, behind the spent flower head. This will maintain a compact shape and encourage more flowers. Fertilise with blood and boneor native plant fertiliser in spring. Neglected plants will tolerate a hard prune to refresh them and bring them back to vigour.


Some favourites:

‘Better John’ – a quick-growing compact shrub with blue-green foliage and red flowers in spring. New growth has a felty silvery look. Moderately frost-tolerant. 60cm x 60cm.

‘All Aglow’ – a lovely upright shrub with pink new growth and red flowers in spring. Tolerant of light frosts. 2m high x 1.5m wide.

‘Mauve Mist’ – a large dense shrub with silky green new foliage and mauve flowers in spring. 3m x 3m.

‘Purple Splendour’ – a spreading shrub with brilliant purple flowers in spring, repeating in autumn. 2m x 1.5m.

‘Pink Alma’ – an open shrub with bright pink flowers during winter, spring and autumn, it does particularly well in Sydney. 2m high x 1m wide.

‘Candle Glow’ –bright yellow perfumed flowers are set against silvery grey foliage almost year-round. Frost tolerant. 1m high x 2.5m wide.

‘Wilderness White’ – a dense weeping shrub with white flowers during summer. 2.5m high x 2m wide.

About this article

Author: Mez Woodward & Linda Ross