Monday, April 19, 2021

The Weather!? Bottlebrush


Horticulture Hotline  04/19/21

  Bill Lamson-Scribner


The weather is crazy! Last fall was super wet. I saw the worst cases of large patch disease I had ever seen, which usually translates to bad large patch (brown patch) in the spring. Now we are having cool nights and little to no rain, so I am seeing the least amount of the disease I have ever seen for this time of year. Crazy! Mole Crickets seemed to have stepped up their game and are very visible during their mating season just to insure the Lowcountry is the hardest place in the world to grow grass.


I would like to talk about the plant that suffered with the cold weather of 2018. The Red Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus) plant has gained great popularity over the past 20 years in the Lowcountry.  It is pretty much at the upper end of its hardiness zone, which means with very cold temperatures it can get some cold damage. This plant has also shown to release a natural herbicide that has been registered with the EPA for home use. The label is very narrow, so read the label closely to see if it is a fit for your situation. It is amazing how many products are being derived from things in nature these days.


The bottlebrush makes a great screen.  It has small leaves that can buffer a lot of sound and visual pollution.  The plant can be used as an accent plant, in a container, or in a large buffer.  Using bottlebrush as a screen gives you good screening and good color with the flowers.  So many of our plant materials used for screening do not have showy flowers. Be sure to blend in some cold hardy plants, if you are using bottlebrush as a screen, in case we have that killing chill your buffer will not be totally lost.


Hummingbirds, people, and butterflies attract to the beautiful bottlebrush shaped flowers.  I have had so many hummingbirds around my bottlebrush that they looked like honey bees!  Butterflies enjoy the nectar from the bottlebrush and add movement and color to your garden. 


Currently the bottlebrush has little to no insect or disease problems in this area.  They are very heat and drought tolerant and are almost considered a weed in Florida.  Unlike azaleas and camellias, they can handle sandy, low moisture, and low organic matter soils.  They are also salt tolerant which means they can be used around the beach or other salt water-front areas. 


A scientist working for Syngenta noticed that certain weeds didn’t grow near his bottlebrush.  He isolated a chemical in the soil that was released from the bottlebrush plant that actually kills weeds.  Syngenta has developed this into a new product, Tenacity, which has EPA registration. This product is not meant for everyone, so read the label closely before you decide to purchase Tenacity. This product is also sold under the name Meso.


I had bottlebrush in my yard for over twenty years without any ill effects from the cold. In 2018, they did take a hit, but they are looking good now. The bottlebrush is a great addition to the Lowcountry landscape!


Things are happening in the landscape. Are you ready? Remember this is next year for your soil test!