10 Major Types of Bottlebrush (Callistemon) Trees

Bottlebrush trees, or more accurately, bottlebrush shrubs or small trees, are part of the Callistemon genus, which is part of the Myrtle family which includes other popular plants like eucalyptus and tea trees. The genus name Callistemon comes from the Greek words kalli meaning “beautiful” and stemon meaning “stamen” in reference to the showy stamens present on most species in this genus. The trees are native to Australia, with around 50 species found there, mostly in the more temperate regions along the eastern part, particularly in Queensland, New South Wales, and Western Australia.

They are referred to as bottlebrush because of their flowers which resemble the traditional bottle brushes. They are long, cylindrical in structure. The flowers are most commonly red, but they can also be yellow, green, orange, or white. The flowers are attractive to nectar-feeding birds and insect. The leaves are narrow, lance-shaped, and leathery, and some species have a citrusy aroma.

These plants come in two species: upright form and weeping form. Bottlebrush trees can be grown as shrubs or small trees reaching heights of up to 25 feet. They can be pruned to maintain a desired shape, and they can also be espaliered. Espaliering is a technique that involves training a plant to grow on a flat surface. Most varieties bloom throughout summer, with flowers tapering off as the growing season draws to a close.

These Trees are drought and salt tolerant. They thrive in a variety of climates, from tropical to temperate, and are particularly well-suited to regions with dry summers and wet winters.

When planting your bottlebrush shrubs, look for an area with full sun. Ideally, they need between six and eight hours of sunlight a day. The plants will adapt to a variety of soils, but they should have good drainage. If you are planting more than one bottlebrush plant, space them out at least 3 feet to accommodate the plants’ spread as they grow.

Varieties of Bottlebrush Trees

  1. Needle Bottlebrush (Melaleuca orophila)
  2. Lemon Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus)
  3. Alpine Bottlebrush (Melaleuca pityoides)
  4. Crimson Bottlebrush (Melaleuca citrina )
  5. Weeping Bottlebrush (Melaleuca viminalis)
  6. Stiff Bottlebrush (Callistemon rigidus)
  7. Albany Bottlebrush (Melaleuca glauca)
  8. Cliff Bottlebrush (Melaleuca comboynensis)
  9. Wallum Bottlebrush (Melaleuca pachyphylla)
  10.  Willow Bottlebrush (Melaleuca salicina)

Description And Pictures

Needle Bottlebrush (Melaleuca orophila)

The Needle Bottlebrush, also known as the Flinders Ranges Bottlebrush is found in eastern South Australia, mainly in the Flinders Ranges region. This tree was formerly classified under the Callistemon genus as Callistemon teretifolius. As the name suggests, this tree has sharp-pointed, narrow leaves that resemble needles. The flowers are bright red or orange and produced in bottlebrush spikes. Flowering is in spring between October and December.

Lemon Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus)

Callistemon citrinus, commonly called scarlet bottlebrush, lemon bottlebrush or red bottlebrush grows into a large upright bushy shrub up to 25 feet tall in its native habitat. The leaves are narrow, lance-shaped, and emit a lemony scent when crushed, hence the name “Lemon Bottlebrush.”

It is commonly grown as a specimen or hedge in frost-free climates. In containers in colder climates, it more commonly is grown as a tall shrub or trained as a small standard. Flowers bloom intermittently throughout the year in frost-free areas, but more in summer in colder climates. The flowers are usually crimson red, although there are cultivars with pink, white, or yellow flowers.

Popular cultivars

  • ‘Burgundy’: Has purple-red flowers.
  • ‘Endeavour’: Feature bright red flowers.
  • ‘Mauve Mist’: Produces mauve-colored flowers.
  • ‘Reeves Pink’: Has pink flowers
  • ‘White Anzac’: Produces white flowers.

Alpine Bottlebrush (Melaleuca pityoides)

he Alpine Bottlebrush (Callistemon pityoides), as this common name suggests, grows naturally at altitudes from above 2000 m down to around 900 m. It is found commonly in and around sphagnum bogs and swamps and along watercourses in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. 

The flowers are pale yellow to creamy white, arranged in cylindrical spikes. This shrub usually grow to about 1-2 meters 3-6 feet in height. Its well-adapted to cool, temperate climates, particularly those with cold winters and moderate to cool summers.

Weeping Bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis)

The weeping bottlebrush (Melaleuca viminalis), also commonly called the creek bottlebrush is endemic to New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia. It can grow to be 20-30 feet tall. Its narrow, light green leaves that tend to grow only at the ends of the long, hanging branches, creating the weeping effect.

The flowers are red, bottlebrush-shaped clusters that can reach up to 6 inches in length. They bloom in late spring and early summer, with sporadic blooms throughout the year. Moderately cold tolerant, down to around 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-4 degrees Celsius).

Popular cultivars

  • Callistemon viminalis ‘Captain Cook’
  • Callistemon viminalis ‘Red Cascade’
  • Callistemon viminalis ‘Splendens’
  • Callistemon viminalis ‘Pink Champagne’
  • Callistemon viminalis ‘White Anzac’
  • Callistemon viminalis ‘Brogo Overflow’
  • Callistemon viminalis ‘Lemonade’
  • Callistemon viminalis ‘Hannah Ray’
  • Callistemon viminalis ‘Dawson River Weeper’
  • Callistemon viminalis ‘Prolific’

Stiff Bottlebrush (Callistemon rigidus)

The Stiff Bottlebrush is a member of the Myrtaceae family, which includes other popular plants like eucalyptus and tea trees. It gets its species name “rigidus” from the Latin word for “stiff” or “rigid,” which refers to its upright, stiff growth habit. This tree has cylindrical spikes of bright red flowers which bloom intermittently throughout the year in frost-free areas. The leaves are narrow and slightly aromatic when bruised.

It is commonly used as a specimen plant or hedge in frost-free regions, and can grow up to 10-15 feet tall in its native habitat. The Stiff Bottlebrush is hardy in USDA Zones 9-10, and in colder regions, it can be grown in containers and brought indoors during the winter months.

Albany Bottlebrush (Melaleuca glauca)

Melaleuca glauca was first formally described in 1830 by the English botanist Robert Sweet, who gave it the name Callistemon glaucus and published the description in his book Hortus Britannicus. In 2013, Lyndley Craven changed the name to Melaleuca glauca and published the name change in Melaleucas: their botany, essential oils and uses.

Melaleuca glauca grow to 10 feet tall with hard, fibrous bark with glaucous leaves. The flowers are bright red and arranged in spikes on the ends of branches which continue to grow after flowering.

Melaleuca glauca occurs in the south and south-western coastal districts of Western Australia between Perth and Albany in the Jarrah Forest, Swan Coastal Plain, and Warren biogeographic regions, where it grows in swampy ground in sandy or clayey soils.

Cliff Bottlebrush (Melaleuca comboynensis)

This plant is characterized by its hard leaves, spikes of red flowers, and clusters of cup-shaped fruits. It’s similar to Melaleuca citrina but has wider leaves and prefers rocky habitats rather than watercourses. Cliff Bottlebrush can grow up to 5 meters tall. It was first described by Edwin Cheel in 1943 and is sometimes also referred to as Callistemon comboynensis. Flowering occurs from March to December and is followed by fruit that are woody capsules.

This melaleuca occurs in the high country in and between the Border Ranges in southern Queensland and the Gibraltar Range in northern New South Wales. It mostly grows on rocky hilltops and crevices above 500 meters (2,000 ft).

It can be used as a feature plant, hedge, or screen, and is especially suitable for rock gardens or areas with rocky terrain.

Wallum Bottlebrush (Melaleuca pachyphylla)

The Wallum Bottlebrush (Melaleuca pachyphylla), also sometimes referred to as Callistemon pachyphyllus is particularly notable for its flowers, which are arranged in spikes at the ends of branches. These spikes can be quite large, measuring between 45 and 65 mm in diameter, and contain between 30 to 90 individual flowers.

This shrub thrives in moist ground in wallum, a type of sandy, coastal heath habitat. It is well adapted to the conditions of this environment, which are typically wet in the wet season and dry in the dry season. It is usually used in cottage gardens, coastal gardens, and other settings where its hardy nature and attractive flowers are appreciated.

Willow Bottlebrush (Melaleuca salicina)

Willow Bottlebrush commonly known by other names such as White Bottlebrush or Melaleuca lophantha. This plant is a shrub or small tree that can grow up to 50 feet tall. This plant can be useful for hedges, screens, borders and foundation plantings. It can also work well for butterfly, pollinator or bird gardens.

The foliage is evergreen, with slender, soft leaves that resemble willow tree leaves. New growth usually has a pinkish hue. Flowers bloom in spring and summer, appearing in long, fluffy spikes that resemble a bottle brush (the namesake of the genus). The flowers are typically white or creamy white, but pink and red forms can also be found in cultivation.

Willow Bottlebrush is an evergreen large shrub to small tree with pendulous branches and usually white flowers. It is widespread and native to NSW and Qld. It is naturalised in Victoria and maybe South Africa, Chile and India. It is a paperbark and there is argument about whether it should be Callistemon or Melaleuca.

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