Callistemon citrinus

Crimson Bottlebrush

Family: Myrtaceae

A shrub, growing to about 3 metres tall.

It is found naturally in New South Wales, Victoria and southern Queensland.

It is usually found in wet or swampy conditions as well as rocky outcrops, mainly on the coast of NSW, extending into the tablelands in a few regions.

Callistemon spp. have simple and alternate to spiral leaves.

In this species, leaves are oblanceolate to narrow-elliptic, to 7 cm long, and about 1 cm wide, apex usually short-acuminate and pungent, with a lemon odour when crushed.

In Callistemon species, flowers are usually arranged in spikes (the “bottlebrush”) which are produced at the terminals but which the stem then grows past, into a leafy shoot. Flowers have five small circular sepals and five circular petals which persist on the flowers.
Like many other Myrtaceae genera, the flowers are conspicuously staminate with each flower having many stamens surrounding one carpel. The stamens are typically free although may be fused at the basal parts (a generally useful identifying feature for the genus to distinguish it from Callistemon). The pedicels of the flowers are very short. In this species, spikes are to 10 cm long, to 7 cm diameter; filaments bright red, to 35 mm long; sometimes purplish red or lilac with anthers dark. Flowers are produced in late spring, summer and autumn with two flowerings very year if some moisture is provided.

Produces woody capsules after flowering which are bound together along the branches remaining as a spike-like structure. Individual capsules are brown and rounded to 7 mm diameter.

In the garden

An attractive bottlebrush to grow and there are several cultivars available. Tolerant of all soil types even badly drained sites, frost hardy.

Birds and bees are attracted to the flowers.

To encourage more flowers next season, prune the top two-thirds from the finished flower. This will also prevent the plant becoming ‘leggy’ due to all the capsules that form after flowering. Can be pruned back hard, even into old wood and will shoot readily. Responds to fertilising.

Needs full sun to maximise flowering. Give some room to spread out.

In some years, the leaves are badly blemished by a tiny scale which causes a blistered appearance and some twisting, as well as some attendant smut. To control this, a spray of white oil and a systemic insecticide can be applied.


Easily propagated from seed or cuttings.

Other information

There are many hybrids produced using this plant as a parent. A popular cultivar is Callistemon ‘Endeavour’ which can have bright metallic red/pink inflorescences.

The genus Callistemon has been subject to recent taxonomic revision with early and recent botanists including Ferdinand von Mueller and Lyndley Craven (deceased in 2014) proposing to ‘lump’ the genus into Melaleuca and others. Craven et al. (2014) published new species combinations which included the renaming of all Callistemon species to Melaleuca, based on evolutionary relationships and DNA evidence and other features.

Currently, the NSW Herbarium advises that the Callistemon genus can still be used. There are currently about 30 species of Callistemon, which are found in all states of Australia as well as New Caledonia. About 28 are endemic to Australia. NSW currently recognises 24 species. New species have been described in the last 20 years.

Regenerates after fire from epicormic and basal shoots as well as from the seedbank.

Callistemon – From the Ancient Greek – Callos (κάλλος) – meaning “beautiful” (which is changed to κάλλη to describe a noun) and and stêma (στῆμα) meaning “stamen”, referring to the very showy staminate flowers of the bottle-brush inflorescences.

citrinus – Latin meaning “lemon”, referring to the scent of the leaves.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Callistemon citrinus profile page             http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Callistemon~citrinus

Australia National Herbarium – Callistemon citrinus profile page https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/gnp2/callistemon-citrinus.html

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke