Greyia sutherlandii

Greyia sutherlandii, Greyia radlkoferi


Natal Bottlebrush


Flower in the winter to spring are a couple of interesting large shrubs / small trees commonly called Natal Bottlebrush. Interestingly they have a connection to New Zealand as their genus Greyia was named after Governor Grey who was Governor of the Cape Colony at the time.

There are only three species in the family Greyiaceae; Greyia sutherlandii, Greyia radlkoferi and Greyia flanagani. The first two are regarded as deciduous and are the ones grown in New Zealand. The third one is Greyia flanagani which is evergreen though very seldom seen in cultivation. I find that Greyia radlkoferi never drops all its leaves so I regard it as semi-evergreen. They all have leaves similar in shape to a regal pelargonium.

Greyia sutherlandii is the tallest of the two grown here, growing up to 8m high over twenty five years. It is multi-branched and the flowers appear in the spring at the end of all the branches. They are in spike-like clusters of bright to brick red flowers which supply a copious amount of nectar much enjoyed by the Tuis and Waxeyes.

Greyia radlkoferi is a lower growing bushy plant which I have found grows wider than high, mine being about 2.5m high and now about 3.5m wide after seven years. Flowers are more orange-red and have larger petals but unfortunately they tend to be a little hidden by the persistent deteriorating, older leaves. Again plenty of nectar is produced.

These plants need a reasonably free draining soil and will stand a light frost, some wind and drought times. They can be grown from seed (though the tender seedlings need care when small) and also from cuttings. They can start flowering from about three years old from seed so give you colour in the garden in a short time. The plants can be cut back to keep in a controllable size if required.