Callistemon subulatus


Family: Myrtaceae

A shrub growing to about 1 to 2 m high. It occurs in and between the Heathcote and Mittagong districts in New South Wales, and East Gippsland in Victoria.

It grows in creek beds and on the banks of streams in forests, mainly in the coastal subdivisions but also into the eastern tablelands.
Leaves densely arranged, linear, subulate or terete, to 4 cm long, and 3 mm wide, with a short mucro.

Inflorescences are spikes to 8 cm long, and 4 cm diam., mostly leafy. Filaments dark crimson.

Fruit are capsules to 5 mm diam.

Callistemon subulatus grows along the banks of watercourses of coastal and tableland districts, south from Sydney to Victoria. In its natural habitat, they grow from one to sometimes 3 metres high.

In the garden

Flowers attract birds and bees.

C. subulata is commonly cultivated because of it abundant and attractive flowers in spring and summer. It is hardy but benefits from the application of low-phosphorus fertiliser.

Author not aware of any pests.

A low-phosphorous fertiliser should be applied in spring and autumn and light vegetative mulch will help retain soil moisture and reduce weed growth.

Tip pruning can be undertaken almost anytime that the flowers are not developing and this helps the plant to produce new shoots. The best type of pruning is to cut off 2/3s of the new flowers as soon as the flower is spent. This forces many new shoots that will produce next seasons flowers.

I planted some of these plants about 12 years ago in a garden, in the northern Sydney suburb of Westleigh and they have all grown to about 1.2 metres high. They are still growing well, even though the soil is now much drier and they only receive dappled morning light and some full late afternoon sun.


From seed or cuttings. Can regenerate from seedbank after fire. Many bottlebrushes also exhibit reshooting from branches and basal parts of stems/trunks after fire or pruning.

Other information

Callistemon – from the combination of 2 Greek words of ‘kallis’ meaning beauty and ‘stemon’ meaning stamen, referring to the conspicuous staminate flowers of the plant.
subulatus is Latin for sublate shape – a long tapering triangular shape.

Not know to be at risk in the wild.

(This species is regarded as a synonym of Melaleuca subulata. Note that there is ongoing controversy about whether all Callistemon species should be absorbed into the Melaleuca genus).


Callistemons are closely related to Melaleucas, which also have ‘bottlebrush’ shaped flower spikes. Botanists, especially those at the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra are currently closely studying these plants to determine how they are best classified. It appears that Callistemons could be renamed as Melaleucas sometime soon.


By Jeff Howes