Bottlebrush Tree: Tea, Medicinal Uses & Growing Guide

Bottlebrush Tree_ Tea, Medicinal Uses & Growing Guide
Bottlebrush trees get their name from the flower spikes which resemble brushes used to wash out bottles. Bottlebrush trees can be a gorgeous evergreen shrub for borders and gardens. They have edible and medicinal uses as well. One of the most common uses includes making tea with its leaves and blossoms.

These plants do well in warm, temperate climates with full sun and well-draining soil. Depending on the variety and pruning methods, they can grow 3-30 feet in height.

Bottlebrush trees can be a gorgeous evergreen shrub for borders and gardens. They make a beautiful flowering shade tree for yards and landscapes.

Bottlebrush plant profile

Bottlebrush trees belong to the genus Callistemon and contain more than 40 species.

Callistemon has two Greek words. “Kellis” means beautiful, and “stemon” means stamen. The reddish-purple color they contain does indeed make them “beautiful stamen.”

Other common names include:

  • Lemon bottlebrush
  • Red bottlebrush
  • Crimson bottlebrush

Two of the most well-known varieties of bottlebrush trees are:

  • Callistemon citrinus, or red bottlebrush
  • Callistemon viminalis, or weeping bottlebrush

Bottlebrush Vs. Melaleuca

Bottlebrush trees can be easily confused with Melaleuca plants, a relative belonging to the same family, Myrtaceae. They have similar leaves, blossoms, and seeds.

The difference is bottlebrush blossoms are free, meaning the stamen are each on their stem.

Melaleuca blossoms are united, meaning many stamens are on a single stem.

Melaleuca subtrigona
Melaleuca subtrigona

What does Red bottlebrush look like?

  • Red bottlebrush has tapering, oval-shaped leaves in a lackluster green color. They grow three inches long and give off a lemony scent when rubbed.
  • The bark is light brown and slightly rough to the touch.
  • Bright red flowers grow 2-4 inches long, blooming from summer into the fall.
  • Red bottlebrush can grow 3-25 feet tall.
Callistemon citrinus, red bottlebrush
Callistemon citrinus, red bottlebrush

What does Weeping bottlebrush look like?

  • Weeping bottlebrush also contains lackluster green leaves, which grow to three inches in length but are thinner and more pointy. They give off more of an earthy, medicinal scent.
  • The bark is a grey-green, and the branches are droopy like a weeping willow.
  • The red flowers grow to six inches long and bloom from early spring through summer.
  • Weeping bottlebrush can grow 20-30 feet tall.
Callistemon viminalis, weeping bottlebrush
Callistemon viminalis, weeping bottlebrush

Where do Bottlebrush trees grow?

Bottlebrush trees are native to Australia. They grow wild in the east and south-east portions of the continent where the climate ranges from temperate to tropical. Bottlebrush trees have been cultivated worldwide but do best in mild climates.

In the United States, they grow well in USDA hardiness zones 8b-11.

These plants like full sun and do well in most types of soil as long as it is well draining. They are drought resistant and have a high salt tolerance.

What are the benefits of bottlebrush tree?

Bottlebrush trees have several benefits:

  • The bright red flowers and sweet nectar attract pollinators such as butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
  • Dwarf varieties make excellent borders around gardens and flower beds. They are also deer resistant.
  • Bottlebrush shrubs can be used as a border along pools and parking areas—plant as a hedge along your yard for a naturally beautiful privacy fence.
  • Tall varieties such as the weeping bottlebrush make excellent shade trees.
  • The crushed leaves of bottlebrush plants can help repel insects.
  • The fresh springs of bottlebrush leaves can be put near bedding, clothing, or other areas to keep bugs away.
  • The stamens can be used to make dye for fabrics.
  • Bottlebrush trees contain minerals and flavonoids used for medicinal purposes.
  • They are edible and can be made into a tea or used in other dishes.

Is bottlebrush edible?

Yes, most bottlebrush trees are edible. Both the red bottlebrush and weeping bottlebrush are safe to consume and are not toxic to humans or pets.

Bottlebrush flowers and leaves can be made into a tincture, infusion, or extract.

Bottlebrush trees are known to contain:

  • Silicon
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Aluminum
  • Manganese
  • 15 types of bioflavonoids

Any poisonous lookalikes?

The North American bottlebrush buckeye is similar in appearance and is toxic to humans and pets.

Aesculus parviflora
Aesculus parviflora, bottlebrush buckeye

What about medicinal uses?

These small trees have been found to have medicinal value and uses such as:

  • Anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties
  • Functions as a cough suppressant
  • Diuretic for help with urinary tract issues, incontinence, and bed-wetting
  • The silicon helps in the formation of bone and cartilage, benefiting those with osteoporosis
  • Jamaicans use it as a tea for treating gastrointestinal issues and skin infections
  • Native Australians use it as an energy drink
  • Beneficial for kidney infections, arthritis, ulcers, hemorrhoids, and tuberculosis
  • Bottlebrush essential oil is used to promote tranquility, peace, and healing
  • Leaves and flowers are infused to make tea, jam, or syrups
  • Leaves and flowers can be used as an herb for sauces, stews, soups, and roasted meats

Be sure to check with a health care provider if you are pregnant or nursing, have an autoimmune diagnosis or are taking other medications.

How to make tea with bottlebrush

Red bottlebrush and weeping bottlebrush can be made into tea. Both the leaves and blossoms can be used.

  • Cut leaves and blossoms, and gently wash to remove any insects or dirt
  • Boil water, adding leaves and blossoms
  • Let seep for 15 minutes
  • Strain out leaves and blossoms
  • Add honey if needed (adding fresh blossoms will also increase sweetness)

How to make dye with bottlebrush

Bottlebrush tree stamens can be used to make a reddish-purple dye by following these simple steps:

  • Remove red stamens and wash in de-ionized water
  • Crush stamens and place in boiling water for two hours
  • Use dye to color fabrics such as cotton or wool

How much water you need depends on how vibrant you want the color to be. Start with a small amount of water, and add more if you want to dilute.

Can you cultivate bottlebrush?

Yes, bottlebrush trees can be cultivated. In temperate climates, they can be planted year-round. Bottlebrush trees are drought tolerant and low-maintenance.

If you live in a cooler climate, you will have to wait 2-3 weeks past the last frost date to plant or start indoors.

Also, your bottlebrush plant will need to be wintered over indoors if not in USDA hardiness zones 8b-11.

You may want to consider a red bottlebrush or dwarf variety which can be kept to a smaller size.

Growing bottlebrush trees from seed

Bottlebrush seeds can be purchased from a nursery or collected from an existing plant.

The seeds can be planted immediately if you live in a warm, temperate climate. Otherwise, store the seeds in an envelope or jar in a cool, dry place until spring.

To collect from an existing plant, look for the small, woody fruit clusters growing along the flower stem. These tiny fruits hold hundreds of seeds.

Place the fruits inside a paper bag in a dry, warm area. In a few days, they will crack open, revealing the seeds inside.

When you are ready to plant, follow these steps:

  • Sow seeds directly into the soil or in a starter pot if beginning indoors.
  • Place seeds on top of soil and press down, covering lightly.
  • Water and put it in a sunny location. Keep soil moist. Germination should occur within two weeks.

Growing bottlebrush tree from a cutting

  • Choose a healthy plant, and take a 6-inch stem cutting.
  • Remove all the leaves except the pair at the top. Score the cut end with a sharp knife.
  • Dip into rooting powder, brushing off excess by tapping against the pot’s side.
  • Place cut end a few inches deep into the potting soil mix, pack soil around to firm base, and water.
  • Cover the top of the pot with a plastic bag and seal with a rubber band. Be careful the bag doesn’t touch the plant.
  • Place in a warm location with full sun. Roots will be established in 5-10 weeks.
  • Remove the bag and let it acclimate for one week.
  • When you are ready to transplant your bottlebrush seedling or cutting, remember to plant at least 3-4 feet apart and away from houses or other obstructions.
  • Transplant outside or move to a larger pot if not in a temperate zone.

How to care for your bottlebrush tree

  • Keep in a location with full sun.
  • Once your plant is established, gradually reduce watering as they are drought resistant and can be prone to fungus if overwatered.
  • Add a two-inch layer of mulch to prevent weeds from sprouting and help retain moisture.
  • Deadhead blossoms once done blooming.
  • Prune if needed. Watch inner branches for dead stems and trim off to keep full sunlight on your plant.
  • Fertilize with compost on your plant’s second spring. Reapply from spring until fall each year after.
  • Bottlebrush trees grow with several trunks. Don’t prune back the trunks if you want your plant to be a bottlebrush shrub. If you want to grow it as a bottlebrush tree, prune it to a single trunk.


Rachel Schmeltzer is a writer, mom, teacher, and dreamer. She enjoys reading, traveling, history, spending time with her boys and her cats, and foraging in the woods of Minnesota.

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