Plants that flower with bold red blooms in early summer are often bestowed with the title of Christmas bush. As far as being red, bold and definitely summer flowering goes, Metrosideros excelsa ticks all the boxes and definitely earns the name of New Zealand Christmas bush. It is also known as pohutukawa.

While this plant is native to New Zealand, species are also found across many Pacific Islands. It grows well in Australia, particularly in coastal and inland frost-free locations. All species of New Zealand Christmas bush have fluffy, bottlebrush-like heads of deep red flowers. The bush has small, shiny, dark green leaves year-round. It can be small and bushy or tall and almost tree-like, with plants growing 3m-10m high and 2m-3m wide. It is easily pruned to keep it to whatever height and shape is required.

As it is a popular garden plant, there are also many cultivars of Metrosideros. Of particular interest are varieties that are small and rounded, making ideal choices for hedges, containers or any low-maintenance garden situation. Some favourites include ‘Little Bridget’ and ‘Little Ewan’ (1m high x 1m wide) and ‘Little Dugald’ and ‘Mini Christmas’ (2m high x 1m wide). ‘Variegata’ and ‘Firecracker’ (4mx2m) have variegated gold and green leaves for a garden feature all year round, even when the plants are not in flower. Click here to shop Flower Power's range of New Zealand Christmas bush.


With its bottlebrush-like red flowers and striking green foliage, there's a definite Christmas feel about Metrosideros.


Growing metrosideros

Suggested garden uses

This is an incredibly versatile plant. Here are a few ways you can use it in your garden.

  • Grow as a stand-alone shrub.
  • Mass-plant as a screen (especially good in gardens that are exposed to coastal winds).
  • Grow a dwarf or clipped plant in a large container.
  • Allow to grow into a small multi-branched tree or, for a single-trunked tree, remove lower branches.
  • Plant as an addition to bird and insect-friendly gardens.

Sunlight and soil

Plants enjoy full sun to light shade but tolerate any soil provided it is well drained. Plants grow best in good garden soil, so prepare the planting hole by digging in compost or well-rotted manure before planting. Surround new plantings with a light layer of organic mulch. They can be planted any time of the year, but are most widely available in summer when the plants are in full bloom.

Ongoing maintenance

This is a very low-maintenance plant. Water after planting until it is well established. After this, plants tend to be reasonably drought tolerant (although they are best watered when times are very hot and dry, especially in spring and summer). Fertilise in spring as new growth appears and buds form using any general fertiliser - Flower Power recommends Supergrow Organic Fertiliser Pellets. Prune after flowering to tidy and shape the bush.

Pests and diseases

Plants are generally free of pests or diseases, however some mature specimens in New Zealand have been affected by a dieback disease. Plants can develop root rot in poorly drained or very wet soils. Older plants may develop aerial roots as they age. These are roots that grow from the stem and branches and may indicate poorly drained soils as well as a mature plant.