Callistemon 'Little John'

Family: Myrtaceae

Callistemon ‘Little John’ is an attractive dwarf, rounded shrub that reaches a height of 1 metre generally (larger results, to 3 metres, have been reported); by 1 metre wide.

Callistemon ‘Little John’ may have been selected from a batch of Callistemon viminalis seedlings.

Callistemon spp. have simple and alternate to spiral leaves. In this cultivar, the lanceolate leaves are about 5 cm long by 1 cm wide.

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 Melaleuca). The pedicels of the flowers are very short. In this cultivar, flower spikes are dark red and about 5 centimetres long by the same width. Flowering is prolific in spring with flowering also possible in autumn and winter.

In the garden

This is a popular cultivar due to its usual compact habit and form. It can be grown as a hedge to good effect. Flowering can be sporadic but this is helped through pruning and fertilising.

Honeyeaters visit the flowers. Growth habit, foliage and flowers are attractive features.

To keep plants bushy and blooming bounteously, remove the spent inflorescences. Grow in full sun for best results and give some water in very hot and dry times. It is hardy generally.


All cultivars must be propagated by cuttings to maintain true-to-type forms.

Other information

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

Note: Some herbaria are calling all Callistemon species, Melaleuca species based on a reclassification by the Late Lynley Craven (1945-2014) where all species of Callistemon were re-classified as Melaleuca spp. The National Herbarium of NSW currently still retains the former classification.

Callistemon is a genus of about 30 species, occurring in Australia and New Caledonia. Australia has about 26 species endemic, occurring in all states. NSW currently has 24 species. Some new ones have been formally described in the last 20 years.

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.

‘Little John’ – named for the comparitively small size of the cultivar. This cultivar was raised by Ken Dunstan in northern NSW and was “shrub of the year” in 1986.

Gardening with Angus – Callistemon ‘Little John’ profile page https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/callistemon-little-john-bottlebrush/

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 Warren and Gloria Sheather. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.