Callistemon citrinus: Bottle Brush Plant

This plants needs no special description for it is found in every botanical garden and in many a florist’s window.

Like all the other 11 species (15 according to some authorities) of this genus, Callistemon citrinus (syn. C. lanceolatus) is native to south-eastern Australia. In the wild it is a tree reaching a height of 5 m (16 ft), but in cultivation it is much smaller — barely half that height. Besides, it can be readily shaped by pruning so there is no need to fear that it will get out of bounds. The rigid, lanceolate, unusually dark leaves are very decorative, but the shrubs do not attain their full glory until spring or early summer, when clusters of flowers with prominent bright-red stamens appear at the tips of the branches.

Although growers are accustomed to presuming that Australian plants are drought-resistant (in this case further evidence being the rigid, narrow leaves) if we look up the habitat of this genus we will find that most species, on the contrary, grow either be-side rivers or in moist, sandy places, in other words in places where they have ample water.

This fact must be taken into account when growing these plants at home and they must be given plenty of water and nourishment. Callistemon teretifolius, which, however, is rarely found in cultivation, is perhaps the only species that grows on dry stony banks in eastern Australia.

In winter they require really cold conditions; in an absolutely dry spot they will tolerate temperatures near freezing point, but best of all is a temperature between 8 and 10°C (47 and 50°F).

Propagation is not difficult – either by cuttings obtained from early-spring prunings, which should be rooted by the usual method in a warm propa-gator, or by means of the tiny seeds, which should be sown on moist, sterile peat with sand. If properly cared for the cuttings will develop into flower-bearing specimens within 1-1/2 years. The soil should be acid, best of all a mixture of one part leaf mould, loam and sand and one part peat.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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