Diseases That Affect a Bottlebrush And Measures to Control Them

Bottlebrush trees are considerably small tress which bear deep red, and sometimes pink flowers. As is the case with every living creature, these beautiful trees too, are susceptible to a few harmful diseases and fungal infections that can kill it, or at least severely affect its life and growth. Read the following article to find out more about these diseases.

Bottlebrushes, which go by the botanical name Callistemon, can inspire artists looking for inspiration from nature. Such is their beauty. As far as trees go, they are not really big, with most varieties of bottlebrushes growing to a modest height of around 14 – 16 feet. There is a particularly adorable variety of bottlebrush that grows only up to 3 feet, and is normally used as a flowering shrub! The flowers of this tree are blood red, and when in full bloom the beauty of this tree can steal your breath. The four main species/ varieties that are commonly used, are – Dwarf Bottlebrush, Weeping Bottlebrush, Red Cluster Bottlebrush and Upright Bottlebrush. These trees flower mainly during summer and spring, but they do have some flowers throughout the year, and are not totally barren. It is necessary to care for these lovely trees to prevent them from contracting any diseases, since they are susceptible to a few.

Bottlebrush trees need just the right amount of moisture, in the soil in which they grow. Too little means that they will not grow well, whereas too much means that the soil becomes the perfect breeding ground for various fungi that attack it. This tree is more susceptible to attacks by fungi than by any other pathogens. So care has to be taken to keep the soil adequately moist as per the requirements of this tree, so that it remains disease free and lives out its life completely. The diseases that affect this evergreen tree are given below, along with some information about the preventive measures to be adopted to keep these diseases at bay.

Root Rot


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Bottlebrushes grow well in moist but well drained soil. When the soil is kept too moist, or the tree is over watered, then the conditions become conducive for the fungus that causes root rot, to breed in the soil. This is a rapidly growing fungus and attacks its roots, as well as the surrounding plants. This fungus can cause dieback, and if the attack is severe, it may even kill the tree.


Discoloration of trunk, dieback of branches, brittle reddish brown roots, leaves turning yellow, and premature defoliation.

Prevention/ Control

Applying fungicides may help, but this disease is very difficult to treat once the fungus has attacked the tree. So to prevent this disease, ensure that the soil is kept adequately moist, not wet and soggy all the time.

Leaf Blotch/ Leaf Spot

This is a fungal disease that spreads due to the water being too soggy. It affects the beauty and appearance of the tree, and although it does not kill it, the tree looks infected and ill.

Premature defoliation is a good indication that the bottlebrush may be suffering from leaf spot, but since this symptom can also be confused with root rot disease, the other, more telling symptom to look out for, is spots on its leaves. These spots are small when they begin to show, but they increase rapidly in size. They are brown in the center, with a yellowish border around it.

When the leaves fall off, there is still fungus on them, so instead of letting them stay where they fall, it is advisable to rake them and burn them off. This will help prevent the fungus from re-attacking the tree. Spray the tree with liquid copper fungicide. Keep the soil slightly moist instead of wet, and do not over water the tree.

Verticillium Wilt

All bottlebrush buckeye trees can be hit by this fungal disease. The fungus that is responsible for this disease, breeds in the soil and attacks the wood. This disease is notorious for killing other plants if the attack is severe, but strangely, the bottlebrush is spared this fate. At the most, this disease succeeds in killing a few branches of this tree.

Yellowing or discoloration of the leaves, along with early defoliation.

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This fungus is very resilient towards fungicides, so even after the soil has been properly and thoroughly sprayed with the fungicide, this fungus will still stay alive. The affected branches should be cut off, and sterilized or sprayed with fungicides. Even this is no guarantee that the tree is safe from this fungus, since it is still present in the soil. So the safest bet, is to uproot the tree and move it to another place, where the soil is healthy.

Twig Gall

Sphaeropsis tumefaciens is the pathogen that causes this fungal disease. It loves attacking the bottlebrush, since this tree is ‘woody’. Warm and moist conditions aid the breeding of this fungus, hence, soggy soil around this tree will cause an attack of twig gall.

In this disease, an abnormally large number of shoots spring from the tree, and the branches of the bottlebrush seem to bloat and become bulky. Over time, these symptoms exaggerate and severely harm the tree.

This disease can be prevented, by not allowing the soil in which the tree is growing, to be soggy and water logged. Cut off the swollen branches of the bottlebrush immediately after the symptoms become visible, to stop the fungus from spreading to other parts or plants that it comes in contact with. After cutting off the swollen and unhealthy branches, make sure to sterilize them, in order to destroy the fungus present on them. Fertilize the tree as and when required, to prevent re-occurrence.

Powdery Mildew

Incorrect watering practice causes this disease. When the tree is watered from above, it causes the water to collect on the leaves. The fungus that causes this disease breeds in such collected water. Even rainwater collecting on the leaves after a shower, will cause this fungus to breed. This disease does not kill the tree, but it does affect the blooming of the tree, making it look dull and unattractive.

Powdered mildew has the appearance of a fine whitish powder, in keeping with its name. This powder appears on the leaves of the tree. Early defoliation, withered buds, discolored or yellowed leaves, are symptoms of this disease.

Let your tree remain as dry as possible. Plant it where it receives plenty of sunlight, and where it is not cluttered or closely surrounded by other plants. Spray it with fungicide, and allow the tree to breathe. Mainly, do not water the tree from the top.


Fungus is the cause of this disease too, since this tree is extremely susceptible to fungal infections. Once again, the cause is extremely wet and soggy soil, and improper fertilization. This disease spreads very rapidly, gravely affecting the growth of the tree. Bottlebrushes affected by this disease suffer stunted growth, and look dead and lifeless. If the infection is grave, the tree will eventually die.

The tree becomes disfigured, and the branches become uneven, with pits and swollen areas. This is visible on the branches, and more so on the trunk of the bottlebrush.

Regular and timely fertilization, and proper spraying of the tree with fungicides, should help prevent this disease from affecting the tree. As mentioned earlier, make sure the soil is not too wet. As soon as the symptoms start showing, cut off the affected areas, and spray them with fungicides and sterilize them.

From all the above prevention techniques, it must be pretty clear by now, that the bottlebrush tree cannot tolerate extremely wet and soggy soil. If taken care of properly, this tree can add a lot of beauty to any garden or backyard. Maintaining this tree is actually not a herculean task. It requires fertilization approximately 4 times a year. This tree is often short lived because of its susceptibility to fungal diseases and infections, but proper maintenance will let you enjoy its blooms all year round.

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Bottlebrushes get their common name from their flowers which look like old fashioned bottle cleaners. Their botanical name is Callistemon and they belong to the Myrtaceae family (like eucalypts and lilly pillies).

Bottlebrushes are extremely hardy and long living plants which put on a brilliant floral display. Flowering is usually heaviest in Spring but many continue producing flowers through into Autumn. Originally flowers only came in red but are now available in cream, white, green, pink and mauve.

An added benefit is the flowers are nectar rich and attract pollinating insects (like bees) and nectar feeding birds such as honeyeaters and parrots.

Bottlebrushes are available in various sizes from small shrubs right up to trees. They are ideal for many uses such as feature plantings, screening, windbreaks, street trees and coastal plantings due to their salt tolerance.

How to Grow Bottlebrushes
Bottlebrushes are low maintenance plants and depending on the variety or species can cope with full sun, part shade, dry conditions, damp spots and light frost. They’ll also grow in sandy soils right through to heavy clay soils. Pretty versatile hey? Just select a plant which suits the spot you’re going to plant it in (as specified on the label).

Whilst they can handle damp soils not all are happy with really wet feet. If you’re planting into heavy clay first improve the drainage by applying eco-flo gypsum and then raise the soil level by mounding up the garden bed.

Keep in mind that plants growing in shadier spots will usually produce fewer flowers.

Fertilising Bottlebrushes
Bottlebrushes aren’t particularly hungry plants and unlike some natives they’re also not phosphorus sensitive. This means you don’t have to be too worried about what you feed them. Organic fertilisers like manures, composts and pelletised products (check they are Certified Organic) are all good. Plants will be happy with a feed after the Spring flowering finishes and perhaps again in Autumn.

For young plants which you want to push along increase the fertilising to every 2-3 months (in accordance with the product label) plus give them a liquid feed of eco-aminogro every 2-4 weeks. This will really get the plant pumping! If you want to be extra good add some eco-seaweed into the mix to stimulate plant activity and help it cope with various stress factors.

Pruning Bottlebrushes
If left unpruned many bottlebrushes can end up looking a bit open and leggy. To avoid this give them a light prune in Spring after the main flowering flush finishes. Trim just behind the spent flower heads. This will encourage some dense new growth and of course more flowers.

Pest & Disease Problems
Bottlebrushes are not really troubled by many pests or diseases provided they are growing in conditions which suit that variety.

Sometimes sooty mould develops. Several sprays of eco-oil will get things back on track.

The Callistemon sawfly larvae can also attack and skeletonise leaves. Prune off any damaged parts and infestations.

Our Best Bottlebrushes
There are so many to choose from but here are some tried and true favourites :

  • Callistemon ‘Little John’ – grows 1m high x 1m wide with dark red flowers for most of the year
  • Callistemon ‘Captain Cook’ – grows 1.2-2m high x 1.2-2m wide with red flowers for most of the year
  • Callistemon ‘Hot Pink’ – grows 1.5-2m high x 1.5-2m wide with very bright pink flowers
  • Callistemon ‘White Anzac’ – grows 1.5m high x 1.5m wide with white/cream flowers
  • Callistemon ‘Purple Cloud’ – grows 2m high x 2m wide with dark red flowers for most of the year
  • Callistemon ‘Endeavour’ – grows 2-3m high x 3m wide with brilliant bright red flowers
  • Callistemon ’Hanna Ray’ – grows 4-5m high x 2-3m wide with red flowers

Star of the Season: Bottlebrush

Brilliant scarlet is not the only shade that cloaks the bottlebrush.

They also dress up in pink, mauve, yellow and white so offer the ultimate in easy-going dazzle – in whatever colour you need.

Brilliant scarlet isn’t the only shade of bottlebrush. Photo – Elle 1 /


In the botanical world there is a move to merge the genusCallistemonwith its close relativeMelaleuca. The argument is that the differences between the two groups are insufficient for them to be separated. For our purposes, let’s just agree to call them bottlebrushes and celebrate their beauty and adaptability.

Here are plants that put on a brilliant show in spring and spot flower throughout the year, providing food for bees and nectar-feeding birds as well as shelter for shy small birds. They work as a stand-alone trees, street trees, boundary plants, windbreaks, screening plants, hedges or border features, and can be pruned to any height. Bottlebrushes are also useful plants for erosion control and will absorb water in boggy areas.

Try bottlebrushes with a carpet of Myoporum or liriope,or match them up with grevillea, banksia and lillypillies for year-round interest and privacy. Combine red, pink and mauve varieties for the ultimate colour pop.

Marvelous mauve. Photo – Linda Ross


These plants naturally occur along river banks so will tolerate wet feet, yet are also adapted to drought. They will seek out water so take care not to plant them near pipes or between houses. The best flower show is achieved in full sun, but they grow well in part shade. There’s a good reason these are go-to plants for difficult sites as they’ll cope with drought, flood, pollution, light frost, salt, lime and any soil, from sand to heavy clay.

A hit with the birds and the bees. Photo – somyot pattana /


Prune immediately after flowering, just above the first set of leaves, behind the spent flower head. This will maintain a compact shape and encourage more flowers. Fertilise with blood and boneor native plant fertiliser in spring. Neglected plants will tolerate a hard prune to refresh them and bring them back to vigour.

Some favourites:

‘Better John’ – a quick-growing compact shrub with blue-green foliage and red flowers in spring. New growth has a felty silvery look. Moderately frost-tolerant. 60cm x 60cm.

‘All Aglow’ – a lovely upright shrub with pink new growth and red flowers in spring. Tolerant of light frosts. 2m high x 1.5m wide.

‘Mauve Mist’ – a large dense shrub with silky green new foliage and mauve flowers in spring. 3m x 3m.

‘Purple Splendour’ – a spreading shrub with brilliant purple flowers in spring, repeating in autumn. 2m x 1.5m.

‘Pink Alma’ – an open shrub with bright pink flowers during winter, spring and autumn, it does particularly well in Sydney. 2m high x 1m wide.

‘Candle Glow’ –bright yellow perfumed flowers are set against silvery grey foliage almost year-round. Frost tolerant. 1m high x 2.5m wide.

‘Wilderness White’ – a dense weeping shrub with white flowers during summer. 2.5m high x 2m wide.

My Bottlebrush Won’t Bloom: Tips For Getting Bottlebrush To Flower

Sometimes, the common names of plants are spot on, and bottlebrush plants are a great example. These native Australian shrubs produce bright red flowers that look just like the brushes you use to clean bottles. If your plant isn’t producing any of these cool, vibrant flowers, you’re missing out. How to get blooms on bottlebrush? For tips on getting bottlebrush to flower, read on.

Bottlebrush Plant Problems

When your bottlebrush plant (Callistemon) won’t bloom, your entire garden looks less joyful. Several different bottlebrush plant problems can result in a situation where bottlebrush won’t bloom. What are the most common reasons for bottlebrush not flowering? If your bottlebrush won’t bloom, it’s probably something you are doing wrong in caring for it.


Reasons for a bottlebrush not flowering usually begin with a lack of sunshine. The first thing to consider if you notice that your bottlebrush won’t bloom is where it is planted in your garden and does it get enough sunshine.

Bottlebrush plants need sunshine to grow and thrive. Experts advise you to plant these shrubs in a site that gets full sun, at least six hours a day. You can expect to see your bottlebrush not flowering if you position the plant in shade, or if plant neighbors grow enough to block sun from the shrub.

What to do? You can cut back nearby plants and shrubs to allow sunlight to get to the bottlebrush. Alternatively, dig up the plant and move it to a sunny site. Getting sun on bottlebrush leaves is the first step to getting bottlebrush to flower.


If you want to know how to gets blooms on bottlebrush, don’t shovel on the nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrogen causes foliage to grow, and sometimes it grows at the expense of flower and/or fruits.
Read and follow label instructions on the fertilizer carefully. If you are going to make a mistake, err on the side of giving it less, not more.

There’s no harm in trimming the tips of your bottlebrush plant to keep the shrub shapely. But if you prune at the wrong time, you may find your bottlebrush won’t bloom. If you prune a plant while it is laden with buds, you are sure to minimize the amount of flowers it produces, or eliminate blossoms altogether. One key point in getting bottlebrush to flower is not snipping off the flower buds.

Generally, it’s best to prune a bottlebrush just after flowering is done. But, as gardeners know, this is a shrub that blooms intermittently all year. The most prolific flowering, however, occurs in late spring and summer. It is just after this round of flowers that you want to get out the trimmers to shape your bottlebrush.

Bottlebrush Callistemon citrinus

Three years ago, I bought a bottlebrush plant cutting at an open garden visit. I put it in a pot and placed it in a sunny position, and in winter I wrap it up in an unheated greenhouse. For some reason it has never flowered and now looks straggly.
Callistemons are the ultimate weird and wonderful Aussie plant, the horticultural equivalent of the platypus. Because of their provenance, many think they thrive in dry conditions, when in fact they prefer moister soils. I suspect you may be letting it get a bit dry, as is the tendency in pots – repot it into a larger container, and increase watering. Don’t start feeding it now – you’ll be wasting your time for this year – but next summer feed regularly. Without knowing what bottlebrush you’ve got exactly, it is hard to know how hardy it is, but that said your provision of extra winter protection is spot on. Bottlebrushes do toughen up as they get older, and you may get away with leaving yours outside and just wrapping it in fleece this winter. Prune the moment after flowers fade – when you eventually get some.

Since moving house, our compost takes an age to rot down. It has a good mix of veg peelings, paper and cardboard, but after a year the bottom is still unrotted. Our old composter was full of worms, but I haven’t seen one worm in our new garden. Is this the problem?
Composting isn’t dependent on worms, although they do help things motor along. Make sure the heap is moist enough, turn it and apply an activator: urine is the cheapest, and most readily available. The dearth of worms will be down to a lack of organic matter in the soil. That is their food and sustenance, and without it they die, or slope off elsewhere. Apply it liberally and sooner or later they will appear. You will probably need to buy some well-rotted farmyard manure or mushroom compost for the first year, as you get your compost situation sorted, but after that an annual application of garden compost should keep them happy and present.

A Guide to Pruning And Taking Care of Bottlebrush Bushes

The bottle brush is a spectacular bush that can change the look of your garden. Find information about caring for them in the following article.

The bottle brush bush is one of the most popular garden plants in the United States. There are many species of this plant. It is a member of the Myrtaceae family and the Callistemon genus. Caring for these bushes is very easy as they are hardy and comparatively drought resistant plants. They are medium-sized bushes and produce flowers that look like a bottle brush, hence the name. The flowers are generally red in color, but some can also be seen in colors like white, yellow, orange, green, as well as cream. They are hardy to USDA zones 9 through 11. Pruning these bushes is important as some species can grow up to 15 feet in height.

These plants are native to Australia and can tolerate both drought as well as damp conditions. They are generally used for landscaping. The colorful, spiked flowers and leaves in some species makes them great for ornamental use. If you are thinking of planting them in your garden, all you need to take, is a little bit of care.

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You need to plant a tree in an area that receives partial to full sun. This will help ensure full blooms and good growth. The soil should be well-drained and the sapling should be planted in spring or summer. Tree cuttings are also useful in propagation of this plant. Make sure you do not plant any other plant within 5 feet of the bottle brush. This is because it tends to grow a lot and expands easily.

Add a low-phosphorus 10-5-10 fertilizer in spring or fall. This will help the plant absorb nutrients for better growth. It is always a good idea to carry out mulching at the plant’s base. This helps retain moisture, avoid weeds, and keep away diseases. Apart from regular rainfall, it does not require a lot of watering. However, in hot and dry conditions, make sure you water the plant regularly.


Pruning the plant not only helps control the height of the plant, but also ensures new blooms. The flowers tend to bloom on the new growth of the plant. Pruning is best undertaken in spring. It is a good idea to cut back about 2 to 3 inches into the branches. If you see a strong bud, prune the branch slightly above it. You can even prune the tips of the bush. This will help you shape your plant and also encourage branching. You can cut the older branches in spring as they have fewer flower growths. Removing these will also help new growth in the plant. You can cut back the older branches, outward facing shoots, etc. Lower branches too should be pruned.

Dwarf Bottle Brush

This plant is called Callistemon citrinus or Little John. It has bright red blossoms covering the plant. The leaves are bluish-green in color and its size makes it a perfect choice for many small gardens. You need to water the plant regularly during the first growing season. This will help in establishing a deep root system.

This is a low-maintenance bush that requires moderate care. After pruning, make sure you rub some alcohol on the cut tips. This will avoid the spread of diseases and infections. You will surely love the red blossoms spreading vibrancy and attracting butterflies and birds to your garden.

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Bottlebrush Tree Names and Types of Callistemon Species

Bottlebrush (Callistemon) Cultivars;

  • ‘Bob Bailey’ – Seedling of Callistemon viminalis
  • ‘Burgundy’ – Seedling of Callistemon ‘Reeves Pink’
  • ‘Candle Glow’ – Seedling of Callistemon pallidus, also known as ‘Austraflora Candle Glow’
  • ‘Cane’s Hybrid’
  • ‘Captain Cook’
  • ‘Cinderella’ – Garden origin
  • ‘Country Sprite’ – Seedling of ‘Glasshouse Country’
  • ‘Dawson River Weeper’ – Form of Callistemon viminalis from Dawson River area, Queensland, Australia.
  • ‘Demesne Rowena’ – Cross of two Callistemon citrinus cultivars ‘Splendens’ and ‘White Anzac’
  • ‘Endeavour’ see ‘Splendens’
  • ‘Eureka’
  • ‘Firebrand’ – Originally registered as ‘Austraflora Firebrand’, seedling of unknown origin first planted in 1973
  • ‘Glasshouse Country’ – Cross between Callistemon recurvus (Synonym: Tinaroo) and Callistemon salignus
  • ‘Glasshouse Gem’ – Cross between Callistemon recurvus (Synonym: Tinaroo) and Callistemon salignus, originated mid 1960s
  • ‘Hannah Ray’
  • ‘Hannah’s Child’ – Cross between ‘Hannah Ray’ and ‘Kings Park Special’ selected in 1987
  • ‘Harkness’ – Also known as ‘Gawler’ or ‘Gawler Hybrid’. Seedling of Callistemon citrinus obtained in 1937
  • ‘Jeffersii’
  • ‘Kempsey’ – Seedling of ‘Maffra Pastel Pink’
  • ‘Kings Park Special’ – Seedling of unknown origin raised in Kings Park, Perth, Australia
  • ‘Lilacinus’
  • ‘Little John’ Dwarf shrub selected by Ken Dunstan of Alstonville, New South Wales Australia
  • ‘Mary MacKillop’ ‘Hannah Ray’ x ‘Splendens’. Released by Austraflora in 2001
  • ‘Matthew Flinders’
  • ‘Mauve Mist’ – Seedling of ‘Reeves Pink’
  • ‘Moonbeam’ see ‘White Anzac’
  • ‘Ngungun Red’ – Also known as ‘Ngun Ngun’, seedling of Callistemon recurvus x Callistemon salignus first planted in 1981
  • ‘Packers Selection’- Seedling from Callistemon subulatus
  • ‘Perth Pink’ – Seedling selection of Callistemon salignus
  • ‘Pink Sensation’ – Seedling of ‘Glasshouse Gem’
  • ‘Prolific’ – Form of Callistemon viminalis from Dalby, Queensland, Australia
  • ‘Red Reika’ – Seedling selection from ‘Harkness’
  • ‘Reeves Pink’ – Seedling of unknown parentage from Cheltenham, Victoria, Australia. It does however share characteristics with Callistemon citrinus
  • ‘Rose Opal’ – Selected form of Callistemon viminalis from Wappa Falls on the Maroochy River, Queensland, Australia
  • ‘Sallyann’ – Selected pink flowered form of Callistemon paludosus
  • ‘Smoke Salmon’ – Selected pink flowering form of Callistemon pachyphyllus from Runaway Bay, Queensland, Australia, first cultivated in 1976
  • ‘Splendens’ – A form of Callistemon citrinus of unknown origin, promoted in 1970 under the name ‘Endeavour’ by the Australian nursery industry
  • ‘Tin-Sal Glow’ – Thought to be a hybrid of ‘Glasshouse Country’ and Callistemon recurvus (Synonym: Tinaroo).
  • ‘Western Glory’ – Seedling of Callistemon citrinus selected in Wanneroo, Western Australia
  • ‘White Anzac’ – White flowering form selected from a naturally occurring population in New South Wales, Australia. The cultivar ‘Moonbeam’ registered in 1964 is regarded as a synonym.
  • ‘Wilderness White’ – White flowering naturally occurring form from Copper Load Falls Dam, north Queensland, Australia.
  • ‘Wollumbin’ – Salmon flowering form of Callistemon viminalis raised in Wollumbin, New South Wales, Australia.
  • ‘Woolomin Sparkler’ – Hybrid of a pink flowering form of Callistemon salignus and ‘Harkness’ or Callistemon citrinus selected in 1987.

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