How to Grow New Zealand Christmas Tree — Metrosideros

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Metrosideros–commonly known as New Zealand Christmas tree–is a subtropical tree or large shrub that bears colorful red flowers with many stamens from spring to early summer. Metrosideros is native to New Zealand.

Metrosideros can be grown as a specimen, hedge, or screen. It takes well to pruning and clipping. It can be planted on coastal sand dunes and cliffs; it tolerates salt spray and persistent wind once established. It is best grown in frost-free regions.

Metrosideros grows best with regular water; however, once established it will grow with just supplemental water.

Metrosideros is a genus of about 50 species of dwarf to tall, upright, evergreen shrubs and trees native to rainforests and river valleys from New Zealand to South Afric

Get to know Metrosideros

  • Plant type: Evergreen dwarf to tall shrubs, trees
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 9-15
  • Hardiness: Hardy to Zone 9
  • Height and width: 15 to 70 feet (20m) tall depending on the variety, 25-40 feet (8-12m) wide
  • Foliage: Simple, leathery leaves borne in opposite pairs
  • Flowers: Small, trumpet-shaped flowers with insignificant petals and brush-like tufts of stamens
  • Bloom time: Spring through summer
  • Uses: Specimen, hedge, screen
  • Common name: New Zealand Christmas tree, Pohutakawa, Rata
  • Botanical name: Metrosideros
  • Family name: Myrtaceae
  • Origin: Subalpine areas of New Zealand, South Africa to Malaysia, Australia, Pacific Islands
New Zealand Christmas tree also called Pohutukawa Tree
New Zealand Christmas tree also called Pohutukawa Tree

Where to plant Metrosideros

  • Plant Metrosideros in full sun.
  • Plant Metrosideros in humus-rich, moist but well-drained soil.

When to plant Metrosideros

  • Set container-grown Metrosideros in the garden in spring or autumn.

Planting and spacing Metrosideros

  • Space Metrosideros 25 to 40 feet (8-12m) apart.

How to water and feed Metrosideros

  • Keep the soil just moist for optimal growth.
  • Fertilize Metrosideros with a slow-release organic fertilizer in spring.

Metrosideros care

  • Shelter young plants from cold, drying winds.

Metrosideros pests and diseases

  • Scale insects may attack Metrosideros.

Metrosideros propagation

  • Surface sow Metrosideros seed in spring.
  • Root semi-ripe cuttings with bottom heat in summer.
  • Metrosideros can be air-layered in spring.

Metrosideros varieties to grow

  • Metrosideros excelsus, Christmas tree. Erect, freely benching tree, spreading with age; elliptic leaves yo 4 inches, semi-glossy, dark green above, densely white-felted beneath; many-flowered cymes with crimson filaments and golden anthers; grows to 15-20 feet tall and almost as wide.
  • M. kermadecensis. Bushy, rounded tree to 70 feet tall and 40 feet wide; ovate dark green leaves; flowers on dense cymes with crimson filaments and yellow anthers.
  • M. robustus, New Zealand Christmas tree. Freely branching tree, spreading with age; grows to 100 feet tall and 40 feet wide; semi-glossy, dark green leaves; summer flowers with crimson filaments and yellow anthers on dense, terminal cymes.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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