Callistemon viminalis ‘Little John’ may very well be the hottest plant you have never heard about. Those of you at the subtropics could be acquainted with bottlebrushes as gaudy trees and massive shrubs, but this dwarf variety is little enough for anybody to use in containers. Those in zones 9 to 11 may take advantage of its small size — 2 to 3 ft tall and broad — by utilizing it to get ground covers and foundation plantings. It’s heat tolerant, drought tolerant and nearly maintenance free. There is no requirement for pruning, because dwarf bottlebrush has blue-green leaves and crimson-stamened flowers packed snugly on short branches.
Botanical name: Callistemon viminalis ‘Little John’
Common names: Dwarf bottlebrush, Little John bottlebrush
Where it will grow: Hardy to 15 degrees with protection (USDA zones 9 to 11; locate your zone); grow in containers everywhere
Water requirement: Low once established
Light requirement: Entire sun but tolerates some shade
Mature size: 2-3 feet tall and broad
Benefits and tolerances: Drought tolerant; provides shelter for wildlife; brings pollinators; tolerates urban conditions
Seasonal interest: Evergreen; sporadic blooms year-round with a summit in spring
When to plant: Plant from nursery baskets in autumn
The best way to use it. Use dwarf bottlebrush to draw hummingbirds and other pollinators, to include interest to blossoms alongside the muted colors of lavender and rosemary, or even as an edging to lineup garden beds and paths. The gently textured leaves have been shown off to best effect when multiple plants have been grown together, however because this plant’s price ($20 to $30 per) may be prohibitive, think about popping them into flowerbeds one at some time as cash permits. Just consider yourself warned; should you plant just one, you’re likely to fall in love and plant more before long.
The soft, cool colors of rainbow bottlebrush’s leaves make waiting for the flowers a great deal easier, and it’s a worthwhile addition to the backyard on virtue of its foliage alone. Its velvety texture beckons all passersby into absentmindedly brush as you would a family pet, so make sure to plant it within arm’s reach.
In Circle 9 to 11, dwarf bottlebrush retains its leaves and may be put to use in the landscape as a permanent fixture, because its slow expansion and compact custom make it small enough to use as a ground cover or below windows in foundation plantings. In the event of especially difficult freezes, the small size of dwarf bottlebrush makes it easy to cover up with blankets or frost fabric.
If you live where it gets colder than 15 degrees Fahrenheit, you can still expand Callistemon ‘Little John’ in containers. Its small size will allow you to keep it potted for years with no outgrowing the space, and it adheres easily to spending the winter as a houseplant.
This plant is drought tolerant once established, but I recommend repotting nursery-grown plants into larger pots and allowing them to put out roots that are deeper first. Plant them singly in pots or use them in a group by combining them together with large-leaved plants to supply some comparison. A group of three large ceramic urns implanted with dwarf bottlebrushes would make an excellent low-maintenance display and bring the blooms and velvety leaves closer to eye level.
Planting notes. Callistemon ‘Little John’ is quite resilient, handling anything from temporarily soggy dirt to drought. It requires little to no irrigation once established, making it suitable for xeriscaping alongside natives and perhaps even commercial web sites such as parking lots or medians. It probably benefits from fertilizer but does not seem to complain either way, and happily continues booming through utter neglect.
Be advised that while this plant is drought tolerant after being at the ground for a month or two, it will require irrigation after planting to assist the roots set. It may be planted anytime of year, however, planting a container-grown plant in autumn will allow it to set more easily — this means it’ll be ready to produce loads of flowers in spring. This photo shows how the plants tend to bloom a bit during the year, which means that you may still expect to see some blooms every now and then.