Callistemon is a spectacularly flowering exotic plant for modern indoor design. Due to the high requirements for the warm content, the cultivation of Callistemon is possible only at home, in greenhouses, or in warm conservatories. It can only be grown outdoors in summer with a warm indoor wintering condition. The plant is attractive for its unusual flowers, made up of numerous long, brightly colored stamens, similar to red brushes, which is why it is often referred to as “red stamen” or simply “Bengal candles”.
General description with photo
Callistemon is a genus of evergreen shrubs or trees belonging to the Myrtle family. His homeland is the Australian continent. In nature, individual tree specimens reach a height of 15 m; at home, their size, of course, is not so impressive. Branching of shoots begins almost from the root, over the years, a dense, usually irregularly shaped and non-uniform crown density with branches sticking out in different directions is growing, which does not in the least spoil its appearance. Lateral shoots are covered with leathery petiolate leaves of a lanceolate shape, arranged in regular spiral order. The leaf blade has a pointed lanceolate shape, with a clearly defined relief along the central vein. On its surface are small glands that release essential oils into the atmosphere.
Flowering usually begins in May or the first half of summer. The inflorescence has a spike-like shape with practically no petals, like most representatives of myrtle, and is a voluminous bundle of stamens sticking out in all directions and colored most often in a yellow-red palette. However, there are varieties with orange, yellow and almost white stamens. The length of the inflorescence can reach 12 cm, the width is usually half that.
In nature, pollination occurs thanks to small birds, which are attracted by the sweet nectar of numerous stamens. The fruit pod has a spherical shape, ripens in early autumn. Outside, it is covered with a hard woody shell, under which small brownish seeds are exploded.
Thanks to the secreted essential oils and phytoncides, the callistemon growing in the room disinfects the surrounding air, killing a significant number of pathogenic microbes.
An interesting feature of this flower is that its leaves have the ability to turn depending on their location in relation to the sun, always orienting themselves towards it by the edge. This helps the flower to retain moisture due to less heating of the surface of the leaf plate.
Callistemon varieties with description and photo
This genus includes 37 natural varieties, not all of which are suitable for growing at home. As a houseplant, it is recommended to consider the following types of it.
Callistemon lemon (citrus)
The name is due to the aroma that leaves exude when they break or when they are rubbed. At home, in the South-East regions of Australia, it is a spreading bush that can reach 3 meters in height and almost the same diameter. Hard lanceolate leaves have a dark green color with a muted bluish tinge. It blooms in the first month of summer, forming red-crimson inflorescence brushes at the ends of last year’s shoots (in the basic version). It has many interesting varieties of various colors, the most popular of which can be found on sale:
- White Anzac – dissolves snow-white flowers, with good care it can grow up to 1.5 meters in height even at home.
- Reeves pink – produces bright pink stamens.
- Demens Rowena is a medium-sized shrub with scarlet “Bengal lights”, which brighten as the seeds ripen and become pale pink by the end of flowering.
- Mauve mist is a variety with an interesting purple color of the buds.
- Burgundy – deep wine color.
- Little John is a compact variety bred specifically for indoor cultivation.
Another, but a taller variety, from the southern provinces of Australia. It is a shrub that can reach 4 meters in height and looks more like a full-fledged tree than a bush. The leaves are thin, tough, elongated, up to 7 cm in length. The stamens are bright red with yellow anthers, giving the impression of golden bloom.
One of the most popular plant species, especially in subtropical regions. It can grow into a real tree 10-15 meters in height and is considered the tallest representative of its kind. In addition to size, a distinctive feature of willow Callistemon is a special cream-white bark, the appearance of which resembles the finest paper. Its inflorescences are also painted in gentle tones – white, cream, beige-yellow or light pink. Differs in high growth rates.
A fairly tall species, in the wild, it often raises its branches up to 7 meters in height. The flowers are muted purple. The most popular variety for maintenance in an apartment is the “Captain Cook” variety.
Home care and growing
Caring for Callistemon is assessed as moderately difficult, which is primarily due to its tropical origin and photophilousness.
All varieties of culture are photophilous and tolerate even midday sun rays well. The bush can stand on a southern, southeastern, or southwestern windowsill, without suffering in the least from bright sunlight. However, due to its impressive size, its placement on the windowsill can be difficult, and if there is a lack of lighting, the multi-stalk plant may not bloom. The problem can be solved by installing an additional light source in the form of a fluorescent lamp.
Compliance with the correct temperature regime will largely depend on how the shrub will bloom, and whether it will bloom at all. With the rise in outdoor temperatures in spring and summer, warmer maintenance of Callistemon is also necessary for the room. With the onset of autumn, the temperature must be gradually reduced. The difference between summer and winter temperatures must be at least 5 degrees. If the plant hibernates in a warm place, it will not rest, which will inevitably affect its decorative qualities.
Water for irrigation should be at the same temperature as the air in the room. It must first be defended in order to warm up and destroy traces of chlorine. Both a lack and an excess of moisture lead to a loss of decorativeness of the specimen. Watering should be done in moderation, but be regular. You need to focus on the state of the substrate. It should not dry out or be excessively wet, waterlogged. The drainage layer in the pot should help regulate this process.
The plant requires not so much increased air humidity as sanitization, cleaning the shower from dust. If the room temperature meets the requirements, the air humidity does not really matter.
For planting Callistemon, a purchased soil mixture for flowering perennials is quite suitable. A medium for growing roses is ideal. Basic requirements for the soil: looseness, neutral acidity or slightly acidic reaction, water permeability. Based on these requirements, you can independently compose a nutritious soil mixture. Arrangement of a drainage layer at the bottom of the pot is mandatory.
For successful flowering and rapid growth of Callistemon, it is recommended to water it twice a month with the addition of complex mineral fertilizers. Better than others, formulations are suitable for flowering indoor crops. Fertilizer is applied only during the active growing season. With the onset of autumn, all feeding should be stopped.
During the first three years of life, the plant requires an annual spring transplant. It is enough to replant adult specimens every 3 years or as the roots fill the volume with the flowerpot. When choosing a container, an allowance of no more than 3 centimeters in the upper diameter should be given, since relatively close conditions of detention are a prerequisite for a flowering culture at home.
As soon as the inflorescence begins to wilt, they must be removed immediately. After the end of flowering, all flower stalks should be cut off. Too thin, growing inside the crown and strongly curved shoots, which in the future can spoil the appearance of the bush and make it difficult to grow, are also subject to annual removal. Trimming can be done on specimens that have reached half a meter in height.
Despite growing indoors, the plant needs to provide special wintering conditions. Callistemon is an evergreen crop that does not have a pronounced dormant period. However, in winter, he needs rest, which a cool, but fairly bright room can provide for him.
Obtaining new copies of Callistemon from seeds is the easiest and most affordable way to propagate it. The collected seeds are laid out on the surface of a moistened substrate, the planting is compacted and moistened. From above, the container is covered with a film, in which holes are made for easy ventilation in order to avoid drying out. Seedling care consists in regularly moisturizing and maintaining greenhouse conditions.
This method will guarantee the preservation of the parental characteristics of the plant. For this, the apical cuttings are cut with the capture of 3-4 internodes. Rooting is carried out in the substrate in greenhouse conditions, for which it is necessary to maintain a high level of humidity.
Bottom heating of the container and treatment with root formation stimulants will speed up the rooting process of cuttings.
Diseases and pests
Callistemon is rarely sick but can be attacked by insect pests. Its worst enemies are the scale insect and spider mite. Signs of damage can be the appearance of a thin web and wilting of foliage. For first aid, it is necessary to rinse the shoots and leaves of the plant under a warm shower and wipe it with a damp cotton swab. After that, you need to spray with a suitable insecticide.
Callistemon is very fond of fresh air and is in dire need of it, especially during the summer heat. If possible, you can and should take it out into the garden, on the open terrace, or on the balcony.