Easy Desert Plant: Bottlebrush

Easy Plants for Desert Gardens

Red Bottle Brush, Callistemon Citrinus, Kula Botanical Garden, Upcountry, Maui, Hawaii, USA
Danita Delimont / Getty Images

The bottlebrush is sometimes referred to in Phoenix as Red Bottlebrush or Little John and is one of several desert plants that are perennial (you need to plant them only once), hardy, low care, relatively drought resistant, easy to find, pretty cheap to buy, and provide lovely color many times during the year.​

The botanical name for bottlebrush (sometimes written bottle brush) is Callistemon. These evergreen desert shrubs flower mostly in the spring and summer and can be found all over the deserts of Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Whether you're just visiting Phoenix and want to know what all the colorful plants along the city's streets are or you're new to the desert region and want to grow some of your own, knowing more about the bottlebrush is a great way to get to know this Austrailian plant that has become a big hit in Arizona's desert climate.

Growing Your Own Bottlebrush Plants

The bottlebrush plant is not an especially fast grower but makes a nice low shrub for under windows or for lining walkways or driveways if you want to plant them in your Phoenix lawn. Dwarf bottlebrush plants, which is a more popular breed in Phoenix, don't get very tall—just about two feet high—and are evergreen, with a dark green leaf and red blooms.

Regardless of which type you get, these bushes need occasional trimming to be kept neat and enhance next season's blooms. Flowering normally occurs in the spring and early summer but desert conditions cause them to bloom multiple times a year. In order to get the best results, you'll need to trim these after the bright petals fall off.

These plants also don't require much water—making them certified to survive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 11—which is helpful for adhering to Phoenix's tight watering regulations. However, while somewhat drought-resistant, bottlebrush bushes in this area take full sun and will need a water source such as a drip system to sustain themselves through the hottest seasons.

Pros and Cons of Landscaping With Bottlebrush Plants

If you're new to Phoenix and want to make a great impression on your neighbors with your landscaping and gardening skills, using these small scrubs to brighten up and add texture to your front lawn is a great way to do it.

Bottlebrush plants provide focal points to otherwise dull landscape and can brighten up a dark corner of the lawn or bring new life to a favorite window. Not only will these brilliant plants bring a pop of color to the desert landscape, they'll also attract nectar-feeding birds like hummingbirds. However, they also attract annoying insects, so this serves as both a positive and negative aspect to cultivating these plants in your yard.

Since these plants are so easy to maintain and can be watered through a drip system that doesn't require much maintenance, these plants are great for the casual gardener who still wants to have an impressive and colorful garden. This also means your water usage will be significantly less than if you chose to take care of more fragile or water-reliant shrubs, making bottlebrush one of the best desert plants around for this purpose.