How to Grow and Care for Weeping Bottlebrush (Red Cascade)

Weeping bottlebrush (Melaleuca viminalis) tree

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The weeping bottlebrush is a fast-growing tree best known for its cascading branches and firework-like, red blooms. The cylindrical, bristle-like red blooms appear mostly in the spring and summer but can appear occasionally in the fall as well. These spiky flowers sport showy, prominent stamens and attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. Its round, hard, brown fruits attract small animals, which use these as a food source.

Red cascade, as this tree is also commonly known, has evergreen leaves that are narrow and gray-green in color. The weeping branches are covered in a shaggy, gray-green bark.

Common Name  Weeping bottlebrush, red cascade
Botanical Name  Melaleuca viminalis
Family  Myrtaceae
Plant Type  Tree, shrub
Mature Size  15-30 ft. tall, 15-20 ft. long, 15-20 ft. wide
Sun Exposure  Full
Soil Type  Loamy, sandy, moist but well-drained
Soil pH  Acidic, neutral
Bloom Time  Spring, summer
Flower Color  Red
Hardiness Zones  9-11, USA
Native Area  Australia

Weeping Bottlebrush Care

Established weeping bottlebrush trees are very low maintenance. They are drought resistant and moderately tolerant of salt, but cannot handle large amounts of salty spray near the coast. With plenty of sunshine and the occasional watering and fertilizing, these striking trees will thrive. 

The weeping bottlebrush is often very resistant to diseases and pests. However, some common problems include witches’ broom, mites, insect galls, and root rot. They are deer resistant. This tree’s dense, matting root system makes it well-suited for erosion control.

Warning

Because of its rapid growth and matting root system, weeping bottlebrush can become an invasive weed outside of its native area. According to the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, weeping bottlebrush trees are considered invasive in Florida. 


Light

The weeping bottlebrush requires full sun to thrive. These trees are not shade tolerant and won't bloom as prolifically when planted in an area of only partial sun.

Soil

Well-draining soil is important, as soggy soil can easily lead to root rot. These trees like loose, sandy soil that easily allows the root system to mat. Slightly acidic to neutral soil pH is best, as alkaline soils can cause yellow leaves.

Water

Regular watering will keep the weeping bottlebrush healthy and strong. Mature plants can withstand times of drought but fare better with supplemental water. Water intermittently when the soil feels dry several inches below the surface.

Temperature and Humidity

Red cascade trees prefer warm temperatures and do not handle cold or frost well. They grow the best in hot, dry climates, but can tolerate humid areas. 

Fertilizer

Providing weeping bottlebrush trees with well-balanced fertilizer throughout the growing season will encourage healthy growth and flowering. Apply from spring until fall, at the start of each season. 

Pruning 

Pruning can help keep this tree looking clean and manicured. Prune weeping bottlebrush trees after flowering to remove the spent blooms and help the tree keep an orderly shape. 

Propagating Weeping Bottlebrush

Weeping bottlebrush trees are very easily propagated from semi-mature wood cuttings taken in summer. You will need sharp garden snips, a small pot, moist potting soil, rooting hormone, a plastic bag, and a rubber band. Then follow the instructions below:

  1. Using clean, sharp garden snips, trim off a cutting that is around 6 inches long. 
  2. Remove the lower leaves and any flower buds that may be present. 
  3. Dip the cut end into root hormone and shake away the excess powder. 
  4. Fill the small pot with moist potting soil, then gently plant the cutting into the soil. 
  5. Place the plastic bag over the cutting to keep in moisture. Secure the bag around the pot with a rubber band. 
  6. Check the soil daily to make sure it is moist. Water when needed. 
  7. The cutting should take root in about 10 weeks. Check for a healthy root system by gently tugging on the cutting. If there is resistance, roots have formed. When this occurs, remove the plastic bag and acclimate the cutting to lower humidity. Once it is acclimated, replant the cutting to your desired location. 

How to Grow Weeping Bottlebrush From Seed

Weeping bottlebrush trees also grow well from seed. Because they take longer than a cutting, it is best to start seeds in the early spring. Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Prepare small pots with moist potting soil. 
  2. Plant the seeds in the moist soil and lightly cover them. Weeping bottlebrush seeds are very small, which means you will most likely sow them quite heavily. This is fine, as these seedlings can be thinned once they sprout. 
  3. Keep the soil moist and set the pot in an area with bright, indirect light. 
  4. Germination should occur in 6 to 8 weeks. 
  5. Once the seedlings are several inches tall, thin them out, keeping only the strongest sprouts. The seedlings can also be separated and planted in their own pots. 

Potting and Repotting Weeping Bottlebrush

Weeping bottlebrush trees respond well to being kept in pots, making them a good choice for large container gardens. Choose a container that is at least 8 inches or so larger than the root ball to allow for several years of growth. Ensure that the container has freely flowing drainage holes. You'll need to fertilize the plant in spring and summer to provide the necessary nutrients.

When the weeping bottlebrush outgrows its container, gently tip the container onto its side to loosen the root system, then slide the plant out of the container. Place the plant into a larger container and fill it with well-draining soil. Bury the root system to the same level it was previously, then water thoroughly. 

Overwintering

Because the weeping bottlebrush is grown in warm climates, no additional care is required for overwintering. Simply withhold fertilizer. For those grown outside of their growing zones, weeping bottlebrush trees must be kept in containers and moved to a protected area, such as a garage or greenhouse. 

How to Get Weeping Bottlebrush to Bloom

These trees will produce bright red, 3- to 5-inch flowers with showy, spiky stamens. These appear from spring to summer, then sometimes sporadically afterward. Water regularly when trying to encourage flowering. Fertilize at the beginning of spring, summer, and fall. Adding high-phosphorus fertilizer a few weeks before flowering begins will encourage a plentiful, vibrant bloom. Deadhead the blooms as they fade to encourage continual flowering. 

Common Problems With Weeping Bottlebrush 

Weeping bottlebrush trees are rather hardy and do not often have many problems. However, even hardy plants can have the occasional issue. For these trees, the most common issue encountered is witches’ broom. 

Witches’ Broom

Witches’ broom is a dense, rounded form of twigs growing from the branches of a tree. In response to stress, the tree sends out many shoots in the same area of a branch, causing a knotty, nest-like structure.

A common cause of stress is insects, such as mites. To address witches’ broom, try to identify the cause of stress and remove it. Then, if possible, simply remove the witches’ broom.  

FAQ
  • How tall do weeping bottlebrush trees grow?

    Weeping bottlebrush trees can reach up to 30 feet tall, although most trees only reach 15 to 20 feet in height.

  • Do weeping bottle tree plants shed needles?

    Yes, the needle-like flowers of this tree will fall and can become messy during the growing season.