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Products > Leptospermum petersonii
Leptospermum petersonii - Lemon Scented Tea Tree
Image of Leptospermum petersonii
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Tree
Family: Myrtaceae (Myrtles)
Origin: Australia (Australasia)
Evergreen: Yes
Red/Purple Foliage: Yes
Flower Color: White
Bloomtime: Spring/Summer
Fragrant Flowers: Yes
Synonyms: (L. citratum, L. flavescens var. citratum]
Height: 12-20 feet
Width: 8-12 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Seaside: Yes
Summer Dry: Yes
Deer Tolerant: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 25-30 F
Leptospermum petersonii (Lemon Scented Tea Tree) - This is a fast-growing evergreen, open-branched shrub or small tree to 8-20 feet tall with rough and fibrous bark and small, narrow 1-2 inch long by up to 1/4-inch-wide pale green leaves. The white flowers with green centers bloom in summer on arching, pendulous branches. The leaves, if crushed, give off a lemon scent.

Lemon Scented Tea Tree has similar cultural requirements as the more common Tea Tree, Leptospermum laevigatum. Plant in full sun and irrigate occasionally to infrequently this is a drought tolerant plant once established but best to protect from locations with hot, drying winds. It will grow in seaside condition and though slightly frost-tender it tolerates temperatures down to about 25 degrees F. It is a nice-looking small tree with flowers that are attractive to bees and other pollinators.

Leptospermum petersonii comes rainforest and drier sclerophyll forests from just north or Brisbane along the Gold Coast of Queensland south to near Port Macquarie in New South Wales. The genus name come from the Greek word 'leptos' meaning "thin" and 'sperma' meaning "seed" in reference to the small seeds and the specific epithet means "smooth", likely for the smooth hairless leaves. The specific epithet honors W.J. Peterson who first collected the plant on Wilsons Peak in Queensland in 1905.

Peter Riedel in his Plants for Extra-tropical Regions noted that Leptospermum citratum, an early synonym for this plant, was introduced into cultivation in the United States by the Bureau of Plant Industry (USDA) in 1936 as BPI116690-1936 and two years later noted that a plant he thought likely to be this species but being called Leptospermum citrinum, was being offered by a southern California nursery (perhaps Evans and Reeves?). It was mentioned as growing in San Francisco in an article titled "Garden Notes from San Francisco" written by Elizabeth de Forest in the July 1941 edition of Santa Barbara Gardener, where she recorded plants featured at meeting that spring of the California Horticultural Society. de Forest listed the plant by its other synonym, Leptospermum flavescens var. citratum, as a desirable plant for its scented foliage. The first mention of this tree growing in a Santa Barbara Garden was in the 1948 by Maunsell Van Rensselaer, where he listed Leptospermum citratum as being rare and this same name was used in later city tree books.

We have grown this attractive small tree since 1994 and have a small tree growing along the west side of our accounting office. There has long been a very nice specimen low branched tree growing of the west side of the original home of Lockwood and Elizabeth de Forest and there is a beautiful specimen trained up adorning the front entrance to the Marilyn Horne Main House at the Music Academy of the West in Montecito. 

This information about Leptospermum petersonii displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.