Bring Christmas to your garden by growing the Christmas Bush, an attractive and low maintenance Australian native plant that flowers around Christmas.
I prefer my plants and flowers outdoors in their natural habitat but if I were to make an exception, and have cut flowers in the house, it would be for the Christmas Bush.
The New South Wales Christmas Bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum) is an iconic Australian native plant. It’s an attractive evergreen native shrub with pointed shiny leaves, an ornamental plant well worth having in an edible garden. It produces creamy white flowers in spring which turn a beautiful shade of bright red around Christmas time, hence the name.
It’s worth mentioning that what is termed Christmas Bush varies from state to state within Australia.
How to Grow Christmas Bush
Christmas Bush grows in sun or partial shade but favours full sun for prolific flowering. Plant in moist soil with good drainage in a spot that is protected from the wind, particularly during the flowering phase..
Ceratopetalum gummiferum grows anywhere from 3 to 6 metres and spreads 1.8 to 3 metres wide. I’m growing mine in a large container where I’ve prepared the soil with compost and blood and bone. Naturally, mine won’t grow to such heights as the roots will be contained and I plan to prune it after flowering to keep it under control, in good shape and to maintain the bushy aspect.
The plant can be grown from seeds or cuttings. If growing from seeds, it is recommended to sow the whole fruit with its calyx lobes attached though I have not attempted this method. I bought a small plant from a local council nursery a little under a year ago.
In Sydney’s temperate climate, small white flowers begin to form in mid to late spring. They begin to open and by mid to end of December, the plant puts on its signature display of red flowers. These are in fact sepals which protect the flower bud. As it matures, the colour deepens and encloses the fruit, a seed and a nut when it ripens.
Christmas Bush Plant Care
Christmas Bush is relatively low maintenance. It needs regular watering in spring and summer and an occasional seaweed tonic. After it has finished flowering in January/February, it benefits from a light prune, cutting the soft growth not the old woody branches. Give it a little compost and blood and bone in spring, mulch well and that’s all the maintenance it needs.
Tips for Growing Christmas Bush
- Plant in full sun for prolific flowering and in a spot sheltered from the wind.
- Water regularly during spring and summer.
- If you’re after a dwarf variety, look for the dwarf ‘Johanna’s Christmas’ which grows up to three metres tall and wide, or ‘Albery’s Red’, a compact form of the NSW Christmas Bush growing up to 5m high (source).
The Christmas Bush is popular with florists around Christmas time. If you have a large plant, you can cut off a few branches and use it as a centrepiece on the table for Christmas lunch or offer someone a beautiful piece of Australiana as a Christmas gift, perhaps to go with your home-made nasturtium salt or nasturtium capers.
Want to Know More?
You’ll find more information on how to grow 50 botanicals including Australian natives, which varieties to try, how to pair them with food and spirits, and how to use them in cocktails including a full recipe in my 260+ page digital book GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN available now.
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