Callistemon 'Little John' (Dwarf Callistemon) - A dense evergreen small shrub that typically forms a 3 to 5 foot tall by 6 to 8 foot wide rounded mound but with time can get nearly twice this height. It has narrow 3-inch-long bluish gray-green leaves and flowers of blood-red bristle-like stamens that appear throughout the year, but peak bloom time is early summer through fall.
Plant in full sun to light shade. It is drought tolerant in coastal gardens but tolerates and performs best with some irrigation. Hardy to 20-25 degrees F and reportedly can rebound after defoliation in temperatures down into the teens. Tolerates seaside conditions. A very attractive smaller Bottlebrush for massing or as a foundation plant or a low hedge and great for attracting bees and hummingbirds into the garden.
This plant was selected as a chance seedling in the 1980s by Ken Dunstan of Alstonville, New South Wales and was has also been called Callistemon 'Alstonville Dwarf', Callistemon 'Tom Thumb' and Callistemon viminalis 'Little John'. It was the 1986 Shrub of the Year in Australia and was originally introduced as a plant that only grew to 3 feet tall but older plants can now be found in cultivation that are typically 4 to 5 feet with older plantings, such as the one at the South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes California exceeding 8 feet in height. It reportedly gets chlorotic in overly-wet soils but responds in these situations to chelated iron fertilizers.
The genus was named using the Greek words 'kallos' meaning "beautiful" and 'stemon' meaning "stamens" in reference to the long conspicuous and colorful stamens that characterize the flowers of this genus. Melaleuca and Callistemon have long been noted as closely related and separated on the basis that Callistemon stamens were free and those of Melaleuca were in bundles. In 2006, using DNA evidence, Australian botanist Dr. Lyndley Alan Craven of the Australian National Herbarium reclassified nearly all species of Callistemon as Melaleuca noting that Callistemon was insufficiently distinct from Melaleuca. For more information about this see our more detailed discussion about this name change on our Callistemon citrinus entry. Though this change makes this plant's name Melaleuca 'Little John', until such time that the new names have broad recognition in the California nursery trade, we will still refer to these plants as Callistemon. We have grown this attractive, durable and useful plant since 1990.
Information about Callistemon 'Little John' displayed on this page is based on our research about it conducted in our library and gathered from reliable online sources. We include observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well as how the crops have performed in containers in our own nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others about this plant when we feel it adds information and particularly welcome hearing from anyone who has any additional cultural recommendations that would aid others in growing it.