February 26 2024 0Comment
Grow Callistemon In New Zealand

Should I Grow Callistemon In New Zealand?

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on growing Callistemon, or the bottlebrush plant, in New Zealand. This article is designed for experienced home gardeners, landscape architects, council decision-makers, and professional landscape experts looking to diversify their plant selection. We will delve into the unique characteristics of the Callistemon genus, and discuss its suitability for different New Zealand climates.

About Callistemon

Origin and Distribution

Callistemon, originating from Australia, is a genus that’s part of the Myrtaceae family. Known for their vibrant, brush-like flowers, they’ve earned the common name ‘bottlebrush’. The reason behind this is quite simple – their cylindrical, brushy flowers resemble a traditional bottle brush.

Characteristics of Callistemon

Callistemon species are evergreen shrubs that offer a unique aesthetic appeal. They’re recognised by their fluffy, vibrant flowers which bloom in various shades of red, pink, and yellow. These plants typically have lance-shaped leaves that are stiff and leathery, with a bright to dark green colour and pleasant aroma. Depending on the species, Callistemon can range from small shrubs to large trees, with heights varying from 1 to 7 meters.

Callistemon in New Zealand

Suitability of New Zealand’s Climates

New Zealand’s diverse climate makes it a suitable environment for many Callistemon varieties. These plants thrive in full sun and can tolerate a range of soil types, aligning well with New Zealand’s varied landscapes. There are varieties that particularly flourish in coastal areas, due to their high tolerance to wind and salt, and others that are well-adapted for areas with consistent wet feet.

Benefits of Growing Callistemon in New Zealand

Aesthetic Appeal

Callistemon is a fantastic addition to any garden or landscape due to its vibrant flowers and lush foliage. They add a splash of colour throughout the year, especially during spring and summer when they are in full bloom. Native generalist pollinators love these plants.

Being perfect for hedging, Callistemon’s iconic bottlebrush flowers, and resilience against many pests, diseases, and environmental conditions make them a low-maintenance but high-impact choice for your garden.

Ecological Benefits

Beyond aesthetics, Callistemon serves several ecological benefits. Their brightly coloured flowers are an excellent source of nectar, attracting a variety of birds and beneficial insects, while their dense growth habit and spiky leaves provide protection and habitat for a variety of fauna.

Potential Challenges and Solutions

Common Problems when Growing Callistemon

While Callistemon is generally hardy, gardeners may face challenges such as susceptibility to certain pests or diseases prevalent in New Zealand. These can include scale insects and sooty mould. Integrated pest management strategies can help address these issues.

Expert Tips for Successful Growth in NZ

For successful growth in New Zealand, plant Callistemon in a sunny location with well-drained soil. Regular watering during dry periods will promote healthy growth, and while they don’t require heavy pruning, removing spent flowers can encourage a denser growth habit.

The Perfect Callistemons for New Zealand Gardens: An In-depth Look

With a range of varieties available in New Zealand, four cultivars in particular stand out for their suitability in New Zealand due to their extensive testing for tolerance to both wet feet and drought, as well as their considerable ornamental impact. Let’s delve into each one’s growth habit, size, benefits in the landscape, and why they’re perfect to grow in New Zealand.

Better John™ Callistemon Viminalis ‘LJ1’ PVR

Better John

Better John™ Callistemon is a variety bred from the Little John cultivar.

Growth Habit

This variety is easier to grow and quicker to establish than its predecessor, Little John. It has beautiful blue-green foliage, which provides a stunning contrast to its small red flowers.


Better John™ Callistemon typically grows between 60cm and 1.2m high and 60-90cm wide. The size may vary based on the conditions, with roadside plants tending to be smaller than those in well-maintained gardens with quality soil.

Benefits in the Landscape

Its vibrant foliage and flowers make it a great choice for specimen and contrast planting. Its low height does not impact visibility for sites that require a clear line of sight.

Why It’s Perfect for New Zealand

Better John™ Callistemon suits sandy to well-drained soils and is tolerant of drought, flooding and cold. This makes it versatile for different garden conditions across New Zealand.

  1. Read more about Better John Callistemon here: http://ozbreed.co.nz/plant-ranges/shrubs-and-ground-covers/better-john-callistemon/

Green John™ Callistemon Viminalis ‘AU01’ PBR

Green John™ Callistemon is another popular Callistemon variety, also bred from Little John.

Growth Habit

Green John™ Callistemon has a more compact and rounded growth habit compared to other Callistemons. It’s characterised by its dense, green foliage and bright red flowers. It contrasts fabulously with the bluer tones of Better John Callistemon.


This variety grows to a height of approximately 1m and spreads to around 1m wide.

Benefits in the Landscape

Green John™ Callistemon is perfect for mass plantings, borders or as a low hedge. It’s also an excellent choice for adding year-round colour to your garden.

Why It’s Perfect for NZ

Green John™ Callistemon is another hardy plant that can handle tough conditions. It’s highly frost-tolerant, drought-tolerant and flood-tolerant once established, making it a good choice for New Zealand’s varied climates.

Macarthur™ Callistemon Viminalis ‘LC01’ PVR

Grow Callistemon In NZ

Macarthur™ Callistemon is a variety that is the “baby bear” of bottlebrushes. It’s not too big, and not too small, for spaces that require screening but where you don’t want the plant to grow too tall.

Growth Habit

This Callistemon Callistemon develops a more compact growth habit compared to Captain Cook and presents better flower presentation than Little John. It establishes faster and has commendable frost and drought tolerance.


Macarthur™ Callistemon typically grows to a height of 1.8m and spreads to around 1.5m wide.

Benefits in the Landscape

With masses of red flowers appearing in spring and sporadically in autumn, Macarthur™ Callistemon serves as a medium-sized shrub that can add vibrant colour to any garden.

Why It’s Perfect for NZ

Owing to its frost and drought tolerance, Macarthur™ Callistemon is suitable for climates like Christchurch. It can thrive in full sun to part shade and tolerates most soil conditions.

Slim™ Callistemon Viminalis ‘CV01’ PVR

Slim™ Callistemon has a distinctively narrow growth habit. It’s perfect for fencelines, smaller gardens, and a quick-growing tree the doesn’t get too wide.

Growth Habit

Slim™ Callistemon displays an exceptionally narrow growth habit, which makes it perfect for tight planting areas. It produces masses of flower buds in spring, which open to reveal the classic bottlebrush flower throughout spring, summer, and autumn.


Typically, Slim™ Callistemon grows to a height of about 3m and spreads to around 1.3m wide.

Benefits in the Landscape

With its narrow growth habit, Slim™ Callistemon is excellent as a screen or hedge, especially in tight planting areas. Its vibrant flowers add a splash of colour throughout the year, making it an attractive feature in any garden.

Why It’s Perfect for New Zealand

Slim™ Callistemon adapts well to full sun to part shade and suits most soil types. It is drought and frost-tolerant, which makes it suitable for varying climates across New Zealand. Moreover, it has been tested down to -6 degrees Celsius with no leaf burn, demonstrating its hardiness.


In conclusion, Callistemon, with its vibrant aesthetic appeal and ecological benefits, is a worthy contender for inclusion in New Zealand gardens. Despite potential challenges, with the right care and attention, this unique plant can thrive in various New Zealand climates. We hope this guide has provided valuable insights into the world of Callistemon and inspires you to consider this remarkable plant for your garden.