Bottlebrush shrubs provide year-round interest in the garden. The deciduous Bottlebrush Buckeye has fabulous fall color and a striking winter silhouette that is hardy and able to withstand temperatures in the growing zones 4-9. Callistemon is a sub-tropical shrub that remains evergreen and prefers the warmer USDA growing zones of 9-11. The ornamental seedpods and brightly colored flowers also remain throughout the winter to provide a lovely backdrop to a deck or patio area.
Protecting Bottlebrush in Winter
Rarely do any of the commonly named Bottlebrush shrubs need winter protection when growing in their preferred climate. Callistemon is more of a tropical shrub and can be treated as a houseplant when grown outside of USDA zones 9-11. The evergreen leaves of Callistemon may be prone to losing moisture during periods of high winds and low humidity. Regular watering through the winter, when temperatures are above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, helps to combat the effects of those winds.
Cutting Back Bottlebrush For Winter
Pruning before winter is not necessary. The evergreen Callistemon will continue to flower intermittently and only slow growth a bit during the winter months. Light pruning early in the spring will remove any damaged branches. Bottlebrush Buckeye blooms on old wood and generally does not need any pruning until after it has bloomed in the summer.
Bottlebrush Winter Care in Pots
Callistemon makes a beautiful container plant and can be grown its whole life in a pot. Some varieties can grow in USDA zones as low as 8, although when grown in a container, the effects of winter are more noticeable. Adding extra insulation to a large planter with layers of burlap or horticultural fabric will ensure that the root system is protected. Moving smaller planters to a more protected location out of the path of prevailing winds or storms is also good insurance that the shrub will survive if unusually cold weather occurs. Any potted Bottlebrush shrub will require watering when the temperature is above 45 degrees F.
Watering Bottlebrush in Winter
Callistemon Bottlebrush requires minimal watering during the winter months as long as natural rain occurs. Bottlebrush Buckeye will also require little watering in the winter, although continued watering in the late summer and fall will help the shrub to form flower buds for the following spring. Poor flowering in the summer for Bottlebrush Buckeye can almost always be traced back to an unusually dry fall the previous year.
Growing Bottlebrush Indoors
Calistemon is the only type of Bottlebrush that is suited for growing indoors over the winter. If you garden in growing zones below 9, treat Callistemon as a houseplant and grow it indoors when the outside temperature begins to fall to 50 degrees F. The shrub will require a bright southern exposure. Supplemental grow lights are also helpful to grow this sub-tropical plant indoors until the following spring. Watering can be greatly reduced to once every 10-14 days. Maintain a relatively high humidity around the plant using a fine mist of filtered water every 1-2 days.
Steps To Care For Bottlebrush in Winter
Bottlebrush shrubs require little maintenance to survive the winter months. When planted in a suitable climate, evergreen and deciduous Bottlebrush shrubs are wonderfully long-lived, ornamental plants for the garden.
Step 1 - If possible, move potted Callistemon out of areas with drying winds. Otherwise, ensure that the plants are properly watered during periods of dry weather.
Step 2 - Protect containers with layers of burlap wrapped around the outside. The root systems of plants growing in pots are more susceptible to freezing temperatures than those growing in the ground.
Step 3 - Continued watering during the late summer and fall will ensure a good flower display the following summer.
Step 4 - Calistemon, the evergreen Bottlebrush shrub, can be grown as a houseplant outside of its normal growing zone of 9-11.
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Author Robbin Small - Published 5-15-2023