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Leptospermum

Tea Tree
Myrtaceae
Evergreen, Shrubs, Trees

Native to Australia and New Zealand. Called tea tree because Captain Cook brewed a tea from the leaves and gave it to his crew as a scurvy preventive. Substantial and useful plants year-round; soft and casual looking (never rigid or formal). Most make a display of five-petaled single flowers (somewhat like tiny wild roses) along stems among the small leaves. Petals surround a hard central cone or cup that matures to a woody seed capsule that hangs on for a long time after the petals drop. Flowers are typically white, pink, or red.

Leptospermum laevigatum

Large shrub or small tree to 10–30 ft. high and wide, with oval or teardrop-shaped, dull green to gray-green leaves to 1 in. long. Blooms in spring, bearing white flowers to 1/2 in. across. Solitary plants allowed to grow to full size develop picturesque character, with shaggy, gray-brown, muscular-looking trunks that twist and curve gracefully amd reach 2 ft. across at the base. Handsome branches range out from the trunk and carry canopies of finely textured foliage; some weeping branches hang down from the foliage canopies. To make a windbreak, screen, or clipped hedge, set the plants 3–6 ft. apart, depending on the ultimate size of the selection.

Leptospermum rotundifolium ‘Manning's Choice’ (photo courtesy of Saxon Holt/PhotoBotanic)
Leptospermum rotundifolium ‘Manning's Choice’ (photo courtesy of Saxon Holt/PhotoBotanic)

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Leptospermum rotundifolium ‘Manning's Choice’

Grows to 6 ft. tall and slightly wider, with spreading, arching branches. Tiny roundish leaves. Spring flowers to 1 in. across arel avender-pink. Extremely showy in bloom but has a shorter flowering period than L. scoparium.

Leptospermum scoparium ‘Ruby Glow’
Leptospermum scoparium ‘Ruby Glow’

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Leptospermum scoparium

The basic species is rarely seen, but its many varieties are valuable garden plants, most growing from 2–10 ft. tall and wide. Not as bold in form or as serviceable in hedges and screens as L. laevigatum, but its half-inch flowers are showier: single or double, in white, pink, or red, profuse in spring and summer. Branches are densely set with needlelike green leaves, 1/4–1/2 in. long. Good in containers.

‘Apple Blossom’: Upright growth to 8 ft. tall and wide. Pale pink double flowers age to white. Leaves tinge pink in cold weather.

‘Gaiety Girl’: Slow growing to 5 ft. tall and 4 ft. wide. Double flowers are pink with lilac tint. Reddish foliage.

‘Helene Strybing’: Grows to 6–10 ft. tall and wide with an open, picturesque habit. Rich, deep pink, single flowers are a bit larger than those of other varieties.

‘Horizontalis’: Fast growing to 3–4 ft. tall and 12 ft. wide, with horizontal branches and drooping branchlets. Single white flowers. Good bank cover.

‘Ruby Glow’: Compact, upright growth to 6–8 ft. tall and 4–5 ft. wide. Dark foliage and 3/4-in. double blooms in oxblood red; entire shrub looks red.

‘Snow White’: Spreading, compact growth to 2–4 ft. tall and 4–5 ft. wide. Double white flowers with green centers.

 

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