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Leptospermum

Tea Tree
Myrtaceae
Evergreen, Shrubs, Trees

Native to Australia, 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 typically white, pink, or red.

Leptospermum laevigatum

Large shrub or small tree 10 to 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, reach 2 ft. across at base. Handsome branches range out from 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 to 6 ft. apart, depending on ultimate size of selection.

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

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Leptospermum scoparium

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

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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'Manning's Choice'

Grows 6 ft.tall and slightly wider, withspreading, arching branches.Tiny roundish leaves. Springflowers to 1 in. across arelavender-pink. Extremely showy in bloom but has a shorter flowering period than L. scoparium.

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