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Callistemon

Citrinus Little John, Bottlebrush, Hot Pink, Endeavour

A beginner gardener who cannot decide which flowering shrub to buy, won’t regret choosing one of the Callistemon (Bottlebrush) hybrids. Success is almost guaranteed because they are hardy and grow quickly, especially in moderate climates. They seldom fall prey to any pests and diseases, they do not require a lot of water, they flower well, and once a shrub is filled with pretty blooms, flocks of birds arrive to feast on the sweet nectar.

Modern Callistemon hybrids are available in a variety of shapes and flower colours. The common characteristics are leathery, lance-shaped leaves, and flowers that look like bottlebrushes. They are evergreen and not fussy when it comes to soil type.

Callistemon Citrinus ‘Endeavour’

This is a large, upright-growing bottlebrush that reaches a height of about 4 m and has dull green, broad leaves and large blood-red flowers.

Callistemon Citrinus ‘Little John’

The ‘Little John’ bottlebrush is a grey-green dwarf shrub that grows about 90 cm high and 80 cm wide. The short bottlebrush flowers are dark red with characteristic yellow filaments. It is an ideal plant for warm rockeries and inclines.

Callistemon Citrinus ‘Hot Pink’

‘Hot Pink’is a hybrid with large, shocking-pink bottlebrushes. The growth pattern is upright and compact, with the shrub growing to about 2m in height.

Callistemon Subulatus ‘Brogo Overflow’

This varietygrows into a large shrub, about 3 m high and 1,5 m wide, with a compact growth pattern and slender leaves on floppy branches. It bears bright red bottlebrush flowers during summer.

When do Callistemon bloom?

Callistemons flower flamboyantly in spring and then sporadically in summer. The flowers vary in length depending on the hybrid, with the longest being about 12 cm, and appear at the tips of the branches. They later become woody strings of seeds that can remain on the plant for some time.

Most suitable climate for Callistemon

Callistemons grow in summer and winter rainfall regions, in coastal gardens, in subtropical areas, and in moderate to cold climates. They hardly complain about heat but are sensitive to heavy frost.

What Callistemon need

Location: full sun;

Soil: any soil type, as long as the drainage is good. For the best results, add a generous spadeful of compost when planting the shrub, and give it a mulch of compost to renew the soil later;

Water: established plants have medium to low water requirements, although specimens growing in mixed shrubberies that are watered regularly grow luxuriantly and flower abundantly;

Fertilizing: slow-release 3:1:5 fertilizer in spring and again in summer ensures an abundance of blooms the next time the plant flowers.

Prune correctly

With callistemons, the growth of new foliage after the flowering stage is a delightful extra – it can be a lovely bronze, rusty red, or dusty to silvery pink colour. To encourage the growth of this new foliage, prune the plants immediately after flowering by removing the old flowering stems down to the two fat axils. (If you ignore them, they will remain on the plant for years.) Without some pruning to encourage healthy new growth, the branches can be stunted and the general appearance of the plant suffers.

Good to know

The upright-growing callistemon hybrids can be used to create pretty flowering hedges or screens. They grow quickly and start blooming from an early age. To plant a hedge, choose a type that is known to be upright-growing and place the specimens about 1 to 2 m apart in a trench that has been well prepared with compost and bone meal. Water them on a regular basis to get them off to a good start.

In a nutshell

  • Useful to create a garden framework;
  • Very pretty spring flowers that attract birds
  • Low maintenance and reliable;
  • Excellent plant for a flowering hedge