What is a Bottlebrush Plant?

Here's an in-depth look at the bottlebrush plants where you can learn about their varieties, reproduction, growing conditions, and uses. We've also added some tips on how to grow and propagate these scarlet blossoms.

beautiful bottlebrush shrub growing in a planter next to a cafe with red flowers in bloom

Genus Callistemon

Callistemon plants, or bottlebrush plants (sometimes considered as a small tree, “bottle brush tree”) are a genus of large shrubs that are part of the myrtle family (myrtaceae). These are called bottlebrush plants due to their strange and peculiar flowers that look exactly like a cylindrical bottle brush!

This attractive shrub grows at a moderate rate, but once they are established, they completely thrive off of neglect and are nearly impossible to let perish. They are a super popular desert perennial because they are affordable, super low maintenance, drought-resistant (thank you, Australian climate), and very colorful.

If you are a person who arrived here because you live in a place with a hot climate and low humidity and you’re looking for a funky plant to add to your garden, you have come to the right place! But if you are not that person, never fear! We have a huge list of flowering plants from all over the world where you will find that perfect plant match.

Table of Contents

Related: Red Flowers | Types of Flowers | Types of Flowers by Color | Types of Flowers by Alphabet | Get Well Soon Flowers

What are some Bottlebrush Varieties?

Scarlet Bottlebrush – (Callistemon Citrinus)

Scarlet bottlebrush plants also go by the names of the crimson bottlebrush plant or the lemon bottlebrush plant. This is because it produces flowers that are a dark and sensuous scarlet color, as well as beautiful foliage that carries a lemony scent.

Amazing bright pin bottlebrush flowers growing amongst some dull green large leaves on a bottlebrush shrub

White Bottlebrush – (Callistemon Salignus)

White bottlebrush plants are known by this name because they produces flowers that are a lovely creamy white color. They are a much smaller variety that stands very upright.

Cluster of white bottlebrush flowers growing on the end of a branch with a blurry background

Weeping Bottlebrush – (Callistemon Viminalis)

The weeping bottlebrush plant is known by this name because of the way its drooping branches form to make the shrub resemble a weeping willow tree.

Huge weeping bottlebrush tree in bloom growing in a park against a bright blue sky

Lemon Bottlebrush – (Callistemon Pallidus)

The lemon bottlebrush is known as such because of the pleasant lemon fragrance that its foliage emits. The main difference between callistemon pallidus and callistemon citrinus is that this flower is a white color, where as the flower of the later is scarlet colored.

Beautiful cluster of lemon bottlebrush flowers growing amongst dark green leaves

Tina Turner Bottlebrush – (Callistemon Subulatus)

Yes, you did read that correctly. This is the Tina Turner bottlebrush. This is a variety of the scarlet bottlebrush that basically “went off” as the kids say these days.

There was once extremely vibrant and remarkable specimen of the scarlet variety, and so it was taken and cloned to create propagations that could be as equally stunning. If you have to ask what Tina Turner has to do with all of this, you don’t know enough about Tina Turner.

The striking and wonderful tina turner bottlebrush flower growing in clusters

What do Bottlebrush Plants Look Like?

Flowers

This plant is most easily identified by its flowers. A bottlebrush flower does not have petals, but instead each flower is comprised of either white or red stems that meet in a yellow tip.

These stems, or dense spikes, grow in a wheel spoke pattern around the stem and can grow to be up to 4 inches long. Each flower spike is covered in a soft fuzz, and at the top of the flower lies a tuft of leaves.

Close up shot of a bright red bottlebrush flower growing on a stem with red spikes and small leaves growing at the tip

Leaves

Another noticeable aspect of the bottlebrush shrub is its leaves. A leaf is a dark green color and is very long and narrow in shape. Leaves will meet at a pointed tip and tend to grow in an upward motion.

This leaf type is very similar to the dense foliage of a willow tree – being very long and narrow – and the weeping bottlebrush variety has leaves that grow downwards, making the shrub really resemble the willow tree.

Closer look at bottlebrush leaves growing on a stem shining in the sun

Growth Pattern

Bottlebrush plants have an upright growth habit that is comprised of angular woody stems. Depending on the variety, these shrubs can grow to be as large as 4 meters tall, or they can be trained and shaped into a dwarf shrub, better known as the “Little John” bottlebrush plant.

How do Bottlebrush Plants Reproduce?

Bottlebrush red flower spikes are dusted with tons of pollen which attracts many different species of insect pollinators and bird pollinators, like honey bees and hummingbirds.

However, a bottlebrush flower is actually able to self pollinate, and does not require pollinators in order to become fertilized. Though cross pollination does often occur.

Image of a dense bottlebrush plant in full bloom with a single bee approaching one of the flowers

Where do Bottlebrush Plants Grow?

The bottlebrush is a native plant to Australia, as it prefers the high heat and low humidity climate. Since their origination, they have been naturalized and cultivated in many other locations.

They can survive in any area that has low humidity, and does not receive too much frost within the year. These types of regions usually occur in USDA growing zones 8 through 11.

What are the Growing Conditions of Bottlebrush Plants?

If you’ve made it this far into the article, you must be super interested in incorporating a bottle brush plant into your garden. You have made a good choice!

You’ll learn in this section that bottlebrushes are not only easy to care for, but that they completely thrive off of neglect. So keep these tips in mind when planting your new garden companion, and you’ll have those strange looking blossoms blooming in no time!

Soil

The bottle brush shrub can handle a great variety of soil types, though they perform best in loamy soil that is well-drained. Their preference is to have soil acidity ranging between 5.6 and 7.5 on the pH scale. If they are an inside plant, potting soil will do just fine.

Sun Exposure

Since these trees are originally native to Australia, it’s not surprising to learn that they are a sun loving plant. They perform best in full sun conditions. Though they can survive in partial shade, the likelihood of flowers blooming diminishes.

Silhouette of a bottlebrush plant and flowers against a sunset sky

Water Level

These plants are very drought tolerant, and actually thrive off of neglect. Once a plant is fully established in the soil, it can be watered whenever the thought occurs to you.

Be warned! These plants are very susceptible to root rot, and overwatering can cause several different types of damage.

Temperature

This plant performs best in mean annual temperatures occurring between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. They do not perform well with frost, so it is best to move your plant inside for the winter if you live in a region with a colder climate.

Fertilizer

Though a fertilizer isn’t totally required, it wouldn’t hurt to introduce a very low phosphorous fertilizer in the early spring. This helps the plant during its growing season in the spring, and help with a healthy late spring bloom!

It is best to introduce the fertilizer right after it has been pruned to help encourage new growth.

Beautiful pathway in a dense lush forest with a large bottlebrush shrub growing in the foreground

Pruning

To help keep a trimmed and manicured bottlebrush plant, don’t be afraid to prune! This plant responds super well to occasional trimming. Not only does pruning help to keep a neat shape, but it helps encourage the next seasons bloom.

You can prune gently any time in the year, but make sure to reserve the heavier pruning for either later in the winter, or once the plant has shed its summer blossoms.

Intolerances

This plant has a couple of specific requirements, purely because it grew up in Australia, and there are not many other plants in the world that experience that extreme of a climate.

Ensure that your bottlebrush plant is planted in an area that receives full sun. If it doesn’t, there is a chance that it won’t produce any flowers.

Additionally, remember to never over water these plants. They may be drought tolerant, but they are flooding intolerant.

Over watering your plant can lead to issues like root rot and powdery mildew, which is a fungal disease that goes hand in hand with excessive moisture in the soil or in the air.

How are Bottlebrush Plants Used?

Ornamental

Bottlebrush plants are a super popular cultivation plant. This is because they are affordable, very easy to care for (so much so that they’re difficult to get ride of) and because they are exceptionally beautiful.

These plants are often used as a low shrub as either a border shrub, or underneath windowsills. They’re a common plant to have growing in public parks and landscapes, as they don’t require regularly tending to.

Massive bottlebrush plants growing next to a roadway in full bloom

Wildlife

Bottlebrush plants are also beneficial to different animal and insect species, as their nectar attracts many different pollinators like hummingbirds, bees, wasps, and moths.

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