Kunzea baxteri

Crimson Kunzea / Baxter’s Kunzea

Family: Myrtaceae

An erect shrub to 3 metres tall, spreading to potentially 4 metres.

It is endemic to the south-west of Western Australia, growing close to the west and south coastlines, from as far north as Gingin-Bindoon area (north of Perth), then south and around the corner to the east to Cape Arid National Park and further north. 

It is found sandy soils and granite outcrops, typically in coastal heathland and shrublands as well as mallee woodlands and dry sclerophyll woodlands. 

Kunzea spp. have simple and alternate or opposite to clustered leaves, often aromatic. In this species, they are alternate to clustered and spiral around the stem, narrow-elliptic to oblong-linear, to 20 mm long and to 3.5 mm wide, blue-green to dark-mid green in colour.

Kunzea spp. have conspicuously staminate flowers, like many of their myrtle-relatives, with 5 sepals and petals, in a range of colours, white, red, purple, pink or yellow (depending on species). Each flower has numerous stamens surrounding one carpel. Flowers are usually produced in high numbers in terminal or sub-terminal clusters or heads; rarely as solitary flowers or in clusters of 2s or 3s. In this species, In this species, the flowers are produced in very bottlebrush-like clusters, about 30 mm in diameter overall, with up to 30 crimson/red flowers per ‘spike’ (or botryum) at the terminals, with leafy growth then persisting beyond the inflorescence; with petals to 5 mm long, occurring most times of the year but primarily in late winter and early spring. 

The fruit of Kunzea is a capsule. In this species, it is about 10 mm long and 3 mm wide, which will release many small seeds (up to 50).

In the garden

This is one of the most popular kunzeas in cultivation. Plants can be spectacular when pruned and shaped into a bun, producing copious large ‘spikes’ of crimson red flowers, resembling a bottlebrush. It is popular with native gardeners and can be a ‘wow’ factor when on full flowering display.

It is best grown on a well-drained soil in full sun. Allow it some room to spread out. It is reported that plants grown from seed may take over 5 years to flower. 

Will attract birds, especially parrots when in full flower. This species has been successfully grafted on Kunzea ambigua. These grafted plants flower more quickly. 

Prune after flowering to encourage a denser and tidier plant with more flowers. 

Kunzeas are trouble free and are a most desirable genus of attractive plants to grow in any garden. The floral beauty of infinite variation attracts beneficial insects and nectar loving birds

Slow release native plant fertiliser can be advantageous to growth and health of plants.

(This Editor is currently growing 2 shrubs in southern Sydney on a sandy soil. They are growing well after 2 years and have almost reached 2 metres tall with some pruning. They have not flowered as yet).


Kunzea spp. can generally be propagated by seed or cuttings.

If grown from seed, flowering may take 6 years. However, cuttings taken from semi-hardwood tip cuttings, taken in late spring through to early autumn could produce flowers in one year or two at the latest. 

Better still, grafting onto a suitable rootstock such as Kunzea ambigua can produce flowers within a very short period of time. Grafting creates strong long-lived plants.

Other information

A note of ecological caution: this species has naturalised in Victoria, in coastal environments. So, plant with caution if growing near bushland. It has even gone ‘weedy’ in parts of Western Australia where it did not belong originally. 

Kunzea is a genus of about 60 species, found in Australia and New Zealand. Australia has about 50 species – all endemic. Some species are used for essential oil. NSW currently has 15 species. The genus is diverse and is still undergoing taxonomic study due to hybrids and many subspecies. 

Kunzea spp. will generally profusely sucker from root zones after fire, as well as regenerate from seed.

Kunzea – named after Gustav Kunze (1793-1851) – a German professor of zoology and an entomologist and botanist. Kunze was eventual Director of the Botanic Gardens of Leipzig. The genus was named after him by botanist Ludwig Reichenbach.  

baxteri named after William Baxter (1787-1836?) who was one of the first privately-funded people to collect plants and seeds in Australia for nursery-folk back home in England. He collected seeds of this species in the 1820s in Australia and introduced this plant to Europe.  

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

Western Australian Herbarium: Florabase – The Western Australian Flora – Kunzea baxteri profile page: https://florabase.dpaw.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/5831 

Gardening with Angus – Kunzea baxteri profile page: https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/kunzea-baxteri-crimson-kunzea/  

Australian Native Plants Society Australia – Kunzea baxteri profile page: https://anpsa.org.au/plant_profiles/kunzea-baxteri/ 

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

Australian Native Plants Society Australia – Kunzea genus article (October 2004) http://anpsa.org.au/APOL2006/aug06-s3.html

By Dan Clarke and Jeff Howes