Melaleuca, also known as bottlebrush tree, is native to eastern Australia. Brought to the United States as an ornamental landscape tree, it has become invasive in Florida, where it takes over dry and sparsely planted areas. In subtropical areas, it can reach a height of 50 to 80 feet. It is a prolific seeder, so prune melaleuca shortly after blossoming to prevent seed capsules from forming. Melaleuca generally begins blooming at age three, sending out long, white flower spikes that resemble bottle brushes and have a faint, musty odor.
Things You'll Need
Long-handled pruning shears
Rubbing alcohol and cloth
Yard waste bags
Clean pruning tool blades before use to avoid introducing problems to pruning wounds. Dip them in boiling water for 30 seconds or wipe with a cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol to kill fungus, bacteria and insect eggs that linger on the metal.
Examine the melaleuca for any broken, split wood or wilted leaves. Melaleuca quickly releases seeds after this type of injury. Prune away dead or wilted branches with long-handled pruning shears if they are 2 inches or less in diameter, angling the blades at 45 degrees and cutting down and away from the trunk to leave a short stub.
Cut branches larger than 2 inches in diameter with a pruning saw, using the three-cut method. Make the first cut 12 to 24 inches from the trunk, two-thirds through the underside of the branch. Make the second cut an inch or two on the outside of the first, through the top of the branch. The branch will break as you cut. Make the third cut at the trunk, angling the saw blade as in step 2.
Rake up pruned branches and twigs, and bag and dispose of them to prevent seeds from dispersing in your yard. Clean and dry pruning tool blades before storing or using them on other plants.
Melaleuca has a naturally irregular shape. Removing lower branches will enhance its use as a shade tree.
Do not burn melaleuca clippings. Fire is one of the things that helps its seeds germinate.