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Callistemon citrinus (photo courtesy of Thomas J. Story)
Callistemon citrinus (photo courtesy of Thomas J. Story)

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Zone
Zones 8, 9, 12-31, H1, H2
Full Sun
Full
Regular Water
Moderate

Callistemon citrinus

Lemon Bottlebrush
Myrtaceae
Evergreen, Shrubs, Trees

CALLISTEMON

Fast growing, with colorful flowers carried in dense spikes or round clusters consisting mainly of long, bristle-like stamens—hence the common name “bottlebrush.” Attractive to hummingbirds. Flowers are followed by woody capsules that can last for years and may resemble rows of beads pressed into bark.

Some bottlebrushes are naturally dense and compact (making good informal hedges); others are sparse and open (can be pruned up to become small trees). Those with pliant branches can be grown as informal espaliers. Very little routine pruning is needed—just remove any weak or dead branches after bloom or before spring growth flush. Don’t cut into bare wood beyond leaves—the plant may not send out new growth. Generally found in moist ground in their native Australia, they withstand waterlogged soil. Normally tolerant of saline or alkaline soils, they sometimes suffer from chlorosis. Often severely damaged at 20°F/–7°C.

Callistemon citrinus

From Australia. The most commonly grown bottlebrush; most tolerant of heat, cold, and poor soils. Massive shrub to 10–15 ft. tall and wide, but with staking and pruning in youth is easily trained into a narrowish, round-headed, 20–25-ft. tree. Nurseries offer it as shrub, espalier, or tree. Narrow, 3-in.-long leaves are coppery when new, maturing to vivid green. Bruised leaves smell lemony. Bright red, 6-in.-long brushes appear in waves throughout the year. There are also reddish purple forms that fade to lavender, and a pink variety.

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