The Callistemon is the botanical name given to the Bottlebrush. The Bottlebrush got this strange name pretty simply, it looks like the good old fashioned bottle cleaners.
Callistemons are a extremely hardy and long lived plant which always love to put on a magnificent floral display for us all to enjoy. Flowering is usually heaviest in the Spring time but may also sneak in a few more flowers into Autumn. Back in the day the beautiful flowers only came in red, but nowadays we are lucky enough to get a variety of colours such as cream, white, green, mauve and pink.
An added bonus to the fantastic floral display is that the flowers are very nectar rich which will attracts lots of pollinating insects. You'll be able to attract insects such as bees and nectar feeding birds such as the honeyeater and parrots.
We are very lucky that Callistemons are readily available in a variety of sizes, from small shrubs up to large established trees. The Callistemon has a variety of uses in the landscape such as a feature tree, or simply used as screening plants or windbreaks.
How to Grow Callistemons
Callistemons are a pretty low maintenance plant and depending on the variety or species will tolerate and cope well with a variety of conditions. Be it planted in full sun or part shade, or in planted in a dry spot to a soggy position,the Callistemon will adapt and survive. They will also grow in pretty rough conditions such as a really sandy soil all the way to that dreaded heavy clay soil. So all in all a pretty versatile plant. All you need to do is just select the correct species or variety for the spot you want to plant.
While Callistemons can tolerate a damp soil, not all are too pleased to being planted in wet soil. If you have a heavy clay soil then add some organic gypsum to it to help break down clay particles and then think about having raised planters to help with water drainage.
Callistemons aren't particularly hungry plants and unlike a huge amount of Australian native plants, they aren't sensitive to phosphorous. In simple terms this means you don't have to worry too much about what you feed them. Manure, compost or slow release fertilisers are all good to go with Callistemons, but just make sure they are organic. The plants will be happy if you feed them at least once per year around spring time, just after flowering has occurred. If you're feeling generous, give them another wee feed around Autumn time.
For the little guys (young plants just in case you didn't get it), you may want to give them a little loving push in the right direction by feeding them every 2-3 months. Also give them a liquid feed every 2-4 weeks. this will really get the little guys pumped. To go above and beyond adding an application of seaweed into the mix will help stimulate the plants activity and help it cope in times of stress.
If left unpruned Callistemons are sometimes known to get a bit open and leggy. To try and avoid this just simply give them a light prune just after they have flowered in Spring. Prune just below the spent flower spikes and this will encourage new growth which will make the plant denser and produce more wonderful flower spikes, and lets be honest, we all love Callistemon flowers.
Pest & Disease
Callistemons are pretty good with pests and diseases as long as you've planted them in the conditions which suit the specific variety. On the rare occasion however, they may get sooty mould. This will be due to the presence of scale pests. Luckily scale is pretty easy to eradicate with several sprays of eco-oil then your Callistemon will be as healthy as ever.
The Callistemon sawfly larvae can be a pain which will skeletonise the leaves. For small outbreaks just simply prune off the effected and infested areas. For larger outbreaks treat as you would for caterpillars and apply neem oil.
Hope this helps a little with any questions and queries you may have with growing Callistemons in your garden. Come back next time for some more handy tips on growing natives successfully.