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Melaleuca thymifolia, photo courtesy of Gerry Whitmont/Garden Picture Library/Photolibrary
Melaleuca thymifolia, photo courtesy of Gerry Whitmont/Garden Picture Library/Photolibrary

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Zones 8, 9, 12-24
Full Sun
Regular Water

Melaleuca thymifolia

Thymeleaf Melaleuca
Evergreen, Shrubs, Flowers


Australia is home to 140 or more species of melaleucas, and many of these show up in Western gardens. All have narrow, sometimes needlelike leaves and bear clustered flowers with prominent stamens; the blossoms attract birds. Since each flower cluster resembles a bottlebrush, some melalecas are called bottlebrushes, though that name is more generally applied to members of the genus Callistemon.

Tight clusters of woody seed capsules are attached directly to branches; these hang on for several years, forming odd, decorative cylinders around twigs and branches. Many melaleucas have interestingly contorted branches and bark that peels off in thick, papery layers. All melaleucas are easy to grow. Most withstand heat, wind, seacoast conditions, poor soil, limited moisture. Most are vigorous and fast growing; for a natural appearance, control by cutting back selected branches to a well-placed side branch. Almost all melaleucas make good screens; some of the larger ones are useful as flowering or shade trees.

Melaleuca thymifolia

Low, spreading bush2–4 ft. tall, 4–8 ft. wide. Barkis corky, flaking, grayish brown.Narrow blue-green leaves arefragrant when crushed. Bloomsspring through early summer,with 2–3-in.-wide flower clusters resembling bundles of tiny ostrich feathers in white, pink, deep mauve, or dusky purple. Prefers acid soil but tolerates soils that lack fertility, are somewhat alkaline, or havesluggish drainage. Prune afterflowering to keep compact.Takes occasional drought; bestwith regular water.

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