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How to Grow and Care for Bottle Brush Tree?

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A plant that changes your garden’s appeal as soon as it starts to bloom, bringing a bottle brush tree to your home is like putting on a black leather jacket. 

You and your backyard will instantly look a lot cooler.

And like a leather jacket, the bottlebrush needs no special care to help it thrive and last. But their needs are totally different.

For those who’ve never been close to a Callistemon, it may feel like a mystery. But like every leather jacket, that’s only a façade. The plant is nothing to worry about.

Here, we’ll tell you everything about how to make it work in a garden oasis. Check below and learn!

What is a Bottle Brush Tree?

a Bottle Brush Tree

Known as the Callistemon, this is the bottle brush of plants. 

The species grows like a small tree, capable of reaching up to 15 feet tall, but the most common height is between 3 and 8 feet. 

It is not a rapidly-growing tree, and it prefers relatively dry environments. Having Australia as its primary origin, this species has narrow and short leaves, often boasting a slightly dark green. 

As the name says, it boasts some of the most thought-provoking flowers in nature. It consists of a pricky stick with long hairs that make it an almost perfect tool to clean your kitchen glasses.

Because the flowers are often colorful (red, white, or orange), they attract many pollinators. Depending on the exact sub-species you pick, the color and shape of the flowers can change. 

Regardless of the sub-species, it is an exciting addition to any garden, as it is cool-looking, effortless to grow, and thrives in various environments. 

Types of Bottle Brush to Consider

While the regular Callistemon you’ll see out there is like a typical tree with these bottle-brush flowers, not all of them are like that. In fact, you’ll find over 50 sub-species of this genus. 

Below, we want to explain the most popular varieties out there, plus a bit more about how they look and how to grow them. Here’s more about them: 

Callistemon citrinus

Callistemon citrinus

One of the smallest varieties is also one of the most attractive. Also known as the Crimson bottlebrush, it grows no more than 5-7 feet in most cases. It also grows like a shrub, sometimes reaching up to 10 feet wide. 

The crimson name comes from the intense red of the flowers and a vibrant pink in the stems. 

When crushed, the leaves produce a lemony aroma, which is also why you may also find it as the lemon bottlebrush.

Callistemon salignus

Callistemon salignus

One of the tallest sub-species, the Callistemon salignus, known as the white bottlebrush, can grow to 50 feet and reach over 15 feet in width.

As you may guess, this species’ flowers are often white or yellowish, making it a unique option to pick. 

In contrast with other bottle brush trees, this one has willow-like leaves that make it look dense. 

Callistemon phoeniceus

Callistemon phoeniceus

Reaching anywhere from 15 to 25 feet, the phoeniceus species from the Callistemon genus is another willow-like alternative. The leaves like to drop down after they get large enough, giving a mysterious appearance.

Their flowers are red and pinkish, even though they can sometimes grow a bit purplish as well. The leaves are blue-green, though, with a bit more intense tone than other subspecies.

Callistemon viminalis

Callistemon viminalis

If you love a weeping willow, then you’ll adore the weeping bottlebrush. It gets the name from the drooping branches, making it a gorgeous addition to any classical garden. 

The plant grows between 15 to 20 and reaches no less than 7 feet in width. When grown properly, it can go over 15 feet wide and 30 feet tall.

This is a favorite of many gardeners due to its sturdiness and beauty. And with the intense red flowers, any backyard looks better when the plant blooms. 

What Does the Bottle Brush Tree Need?

Given it is a sturdy plant that mainly thrives in desertic environments, it is not the pickiest. But that doesn’t mean it is not a bit demanding. Here are some things you need to ensure:

Space & Pots

It grows practically anywhere as long as there’s enough place for the roots.

This means you can start growing it in pots for the first few months. But once it starts overgrowing the pots, you’ll have to transplant it.

That’s why it’s generally better to take it to the garden. Wherever there are more than 3 square feet available, that’s an excellent place for a typical bottlebrush. 

Soil & Fertilizer

This is a plant that thrives in sandy environments. For that reason, it prefers loamy grounds that drain well and have slight alkalinity. A pH level between 5.5 and 7 and nutritious soils are the perfect combination for the plant to thrive.

It doesn’t require any fertilization as it is not a heavy feeder and grows slowly. But it still does well when fertilized a bit, preferably with a slow-release version. 

Water & Humidity 

The bottle brush tree root system is a bit fragile, as it doesn’t withstand heavy humidity. Diseases like root rot are pretty common, especially in soils that don’t drain too well. 

This happens because the bottlebrush tree is a drought-tolerant plant. It thrives when it’s watered anywhere from once to twice a week. As a plant that loves desertic environments, it may even withstand over a month without humidity.

Light & Air

A substantial need for the bottle brush is sunlight. As a desertic species, it thrives with full-sun exposure daily. When it receives less sunlight than 6 hours a day, it may not bloom well when the season comes.

It doesn’t require any wind or air to grow well. You can keep that out of your mind. 

Temperature & Environment

Because it thrives in slightly desertic areas, it is a plant for relatively hot environments. This means temperatures from 45 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. 

It is not resistant to frost in the slightest and may even die in cold winter conditions with below-freezing temps. 

As for the environment, it prefers outdoors with a ton of sun, obviously. Growing it indoors can be more complex and makes it less likely to bloom. 

How to Grow Bottle Brush Tree

Grow Bottle Brush Tree

Growing a Callistemon is a piece of cake. But it still requires a thing or two that you may not be aware of. Do them incorrectly, and you’ll end up wasting a lot of time and effort. 

To prevent that, follow our steps:

Pick the Growing Method

Before starting, decide whether you want to start from cuttings or from seeds. 

The difference is that cuttings are faster and easier to grow. But growing from seeds give you the most pleasure, as you’ll be germinating the seed from the beginning. Seeing it sprout is a feeling impossible to describe.

Find the Perfect Area

The Callistemon is a relatively large tree that can cover a lot of space. You’ll want to find a place that works.

We recommend gardens with at least 3 square feet of space around. If it is a pot, make sure it is no smaller than 6 inches in diameter.

For instances where you’re planting several of these trees together, leave more than 2 feet between each plant. 

Prepare the Soil

Before planting, make sure you have suitable soil. This is especially true for pots.

You’ll want soil that drains well, preferably sandy. But it should be soft, as it would allow the roots to spread more quickly. 

Before you pour the soil on a pot or in the patio, loosen it up. Try to water it slightly to make it humid (but not soaked). 

Then you can proceed to plant it…

Dig a Hole & Plant

Once you’ve prepared the soil, you’ll have to dig a hole that works with the ideal method.

For a cutting, you’ll have to open a hole no less than one and a half times deeper than the cutting itself. As soon as the roots start to grow, they’ll need a lot of space.

For seedings, you’ll need a hole of about 2 inches deep. 

Proceed to plant the cutting or seedling as needed. Compact the soil around as softly as you can. Then leave it be.

Let the Plant Grow

As the cutting starts to root underground, you’ll have to water it once or twice a week. In case you’re living in a windy area, try to cover it with a plastic bag for the night. It should take up to 10 weeks to start growing

As for seeds, you’ll have to water them once a week or less. Just leave the plant to grow as needed. Generally, it starts sprouting after 4 to 8 weeks. 

After a year, you’ll have a small tree ready to start flowering. 

How to Take Care of Bottle Brush Tree

How to Take Care of Bottle Brush Tree

Regardless of the method you chose for planting, the bottlebrush will need a bit of care once it matures. Luckily, it is nothing out of the extraordinary. 

Pruning Consistently

First, you’ll have to learn how to prune a bottlebrush tree. Why? Because bottle brush tree pruning helps shed the old and nutrient-consuming parts. 

These parts take away some of the nutrients that could go to the blossoming portions. When it’s time to flower, the blooms will look a lot better.

Second, because the plant gets weak after winter, you’ll cut it off to make it grow stronger. This reduces the amount of energy it has to use. It will also increase the number of blooms when the season comes. 

Watering Properly

If you want to prevent a Callistemon from struggling to grow or even dying, water only once a week. 

More importantly, make sure the soil doesn’t get too soggy. When it does, the roots are likely to rot and produce diseases that could be fatal.

As a solution, water once a week and let the soil stay a bit more humid by adding a layer of mulch, hay, pine straw, or leaves. 

Keep it Under the Sun

Few things will help the plant grow healthy than direct sun exposure for at least 6 hours. If you can’t ensure this, it will likely struggle or not grow at all.

We advise you to find the place with the highest amount of sun exposure and plant it there. Otherwise, try to eliminate any sun blockade you can so the plant can thrive. 

Conclusion

Feel ready to plant a bottle brush tree at home now? We hope so!

It’s nothing to be scared of. The opposite: it’s something to be excited about!

Once you experience the first gorgeous blooms and see how magnificent it looks on any garden, you’d be happy to put in the work.

And what’s even better, it is not much job at all. As long as you ensure the proper conditions, it pretty much grows alone.

So, what are you waiting for? Get that Callistemon growing in your garden now!

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