By: Justin Butts
The bottlebrush is an evergreen shrub native to Australia. For centuries, native Australians used the bottlebrush to make tea and medicine, or to flavor food – but the real gift of this Aussie import is its beauty in our Coastal Bend landscape.
The scarlet blooms of bottlebrush look as if each hairlike flower is flecked in gold. Hummingbirds and butterflies love them, because these flecks are drops of golden pollen at the tips of the flowers.
There are many varieties to suit the unique needs of each landscape. Bottlebrush plants are ideal for a short or tall hedgerow, as a windbreak, or to train into specimen trees.
“Lemon” or Crimson Bottlebrush: Called “lemon” because of the fragrance of the leaves when the wind blows, the leaves give off a wonderful lemony aroma. The leaves are gray-green and the flower color is crimson.
Weeping Bottlebrush: Grows up to 15 feet. The branches hang down like weeping willow branches with many gorgeous blossoms. This variety creates a stunning effect as a specimen tree if trained into an umbrella shape from a single stem.
“Rigid” or Upright: The tallest bottlebrush varieties; up to 20 feet. This plant grows upright with branches angling upward rather than weeping. This variety is great for dense hedge walls (space at 4’ for overlapping branches and prune lightly).
Prune bottlebrush in late winter. Prune carefully; take less rather than more. Decide if you want a single stem trunk shape, multiple stems that flare into a canopy, or a bush shape (which requires no pruning). Check out some YouTube videos to familiarize yourself with the technique.
Shaping your bottlebrush plants into specimen trees is easy and fun, and can help you create a piece of living art in your landscape.
A Need to Know Basis:
Upright bottlebrush grows up to 20’ in height and 12’ to 15’ in width. Dwarf bottlebrush grows up to 3’ in height; space at 2’ for hedge effect or 5’ for specimen. Full sun, minimal or no shade. Requires excellent drainage. Any soil. Compost heavily when planting, then add several cups compost each spring (no fertilizer). Water until established. Highly drought tolerant. Mulch 4” to 6” year-round with native leaf mulch. No pests.
Bottlebrush makes a stunning hedge wall or wind break. Plant upright bottlebrush at 4’ spacing and let grow naturally to create an impenetrable green hedge with hundreds of magnificent red blooms. Butterflies and hummingbirds will swarm the flowers for a glorious display of color and activity. Bottlebrush keep their grayish-green leaves year-round and bloom profusely from summer through fall.
Bottlebrush is such a striking, exotic plant that will always catch your eye. Though often seen in the ground, they can add character and color to a patio or terrace when planted in a ceramic pot along with other tropical varieties. Potted plants can easily transform a space, especially with the crimson bottlebrush flowers peeking out behind all the green. It’s a perfect addition to liven up any outdoor space this summer. – Alexa Alley, Of The Season @oftheseasontx
The bottlebrush has been used in folk medicine by Native Australians for centuries. Modern scientific studies have validated these medicinal uses for bottlebrush. The leaves can be made into a tea that helps alleviate digestive issues. Native Australians made an “energy drink” tea from the flowers. The bark can be ground into a powder with anti-bacterial properties. An extract from the leaves can help protect against E. Coli and other bacterial infections.