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What is Calothamnus?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 13 June 2018
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Calothamnus is a genus of flowering shrubs native to western Australia. These shrubs are members of the myrtle family and they can grow to varying heights when mature, depending on the species. Australian gardeners interested in landscaping with native plants can use Calothamnus, and they can also be grown in regions with climates similar to that found in western Australia. Nurseries and catalogs can be good sources for seedlings, as can gardeners willing to exchange seeds or cuttings with people interested in cultivating these shrubs.

These plants have adapted to a relatively dry climate and poor soil conditions. They are ideal for low-water gardening in regions where drought conditions are a concern or there are water restrictions to save water. Like other plants used in xeriscaping, the term used to describe low-water gardening, Calothamnus thrives on neglect and uses water very efficiently when it becomes available.

The physical appearance of plants in this genus varies, depending on the species. Most have sessile leaves, meaning the leaves have no stems; they protrude directly from the branches. Some have thin, needle-like leaves, while others produce broader leaves, and all make fuzzy red, yellow, or brown flowers. The flowers develop in a row along one side of a branch and appear in spring and summer months. The foliage is evergreen, making Calothamnus a good choice for keeping greenery in the garden year round, even in the peak of the dry summer months.

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Known by common names like silky-leaved blood-flower, claw flower, and one-sided bottlebrush, these plants are very attractive to birds and butterflies. They produce nectar and the flowers act like a literal red flag to draw in animals that use nectar for nutrition. People interested in cultivating a bird and butterfly friendly garden in a dry climate might want to consider growing Calothamnus as a specimen plant.

These plants grow in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones nine through 11. They are not frost tolerant and if a frost is predicted, the plants should be covered for protection. Loose, well-drained soil with some organic material to help the plants retain moisture is recommended. Mulching with bark and wood chips can also help the roots stay healthy, even in dry climates. Fertilizer can be applied in spring to promote growth and the plants can be trimmed and shaped to control their growth habit and keep them looking relatively neat. Because these plants tend to get leggy with time, they can be a poor landscaping choice for highly formal gardens.

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