You are here Plant Care Grow the best - Tea Bushes

Grow the best - Tea Bushes

Every gardener should try the Tea Bush as something different in a mixed planting. The Leptospermum family has many different varieties and colours but our favorite is the Cherry Brandy. Leptospermum or Tea Bushes as we know them are from New Zealand and are well suited to our local climate. They are closely related to the Australian Melaleuca which grows much bigger which we all know for its tea tree oil properties. We don’t love them just because of the leaves; they have beautiful flowers that are dainty and papery just like confetti.


Tea Bush?

Why is it called a tea bush? When Captain James Cook discovered New Zealand he learned the Maori people used this special bush called Manuka, for its medicinal qualities. Captain Cook named it the "tea bush" and wrote this about it in his Endeavour Journal : “the leaves were used by many of us as a tea which has a very agreeable bitter taste and flavour when they are recent but loses some of both when they are dried.” It never took off as the bitter taste proved only agreeable to those desperate for tea! Fortunately today we have many better options to use for tea but it makes a great story to tell kids about the history of plants. Cherry Brandy is a rounded, evergreen tea bush which has a refined appearance due to its neat, small purple leaves which are fragrant when crushed. Perfect, burgundy red flowers are produced from July onwards and can be quite showy flowering for most of the year. They are well suited for planting in a mixed border where they add an interesting contrast with their dark foliage. They also look striking in a terracotta container where the colours of the clay contrasts well with the red flowers and the dark leaves.



Plants should preferably be in full sun and in a well-drained soil preferably not clay soil. If they get too much shade they will flower less and will become stretched and leggy. Plant in a generous hole and include a handful of 2:3:4 Planting Fertiliser and compost. Once planted care should be taken not to disturb the roots as this can severely hempen growth.


In summer watering is an important thing to do. If mulched well, the soil will be moist and relatively cool, but regular watering is still required and they should not be allowed to dry out when in bud or flower. Tea Bushes have a shallow root system and can be susceptible to overwatering which can kill them.


Tea bushes are not hungry plants and will survive quite a bit of neglect but if you want to keep them in flower and full of foliage regular fertilising is a good idea. Feed every six to eight weeks with Vitaboost organic food, with added carbon which helps the plant absorb the nutrients for optimum growth. Organic fertilisers are always available to the plant which is why one gets sustained growth all year when using them.


Tea bushes keep their shape especially the Cherry Brandy. A simple pass-over with a hedge shear will keep them looking like a ball and one can do that anytime of the year as it will not affect flowering as they flower all along the stems.