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The New Zealand tea tree is native to the North and South islands of New Zealand where it grows in many types of habitats, ranging from lowland bogs and sandy coastal headlands, to forest and mountain scrub-lands over 3,500 ft. in elevation. These are mostly cool and moist habitats. The true species is highly variable in form and is not considered to be of value for ornamental use. Instead, many attractive cultivars have been developed that range from prostrate and dwarf forms, to upright shrubs and small trees. They are all characterized by small prickly foliage, a dense branching habit and tiny colorful flowers. Flowers occur from winter through spring.

The most popular cultivars of New Zealand tea used in Inland Empire gardens grow into large flowering shrubs, 10-12 ft. high, that are useful for screening and flowering accent plants. Mature plants can be pruned to reveal sculptural branching and become focal elements in raised planters. They grow well in full sun, adapt to many types of soils and thrive with moderate amounts of supplemental moisture during the dry months of the year. Popular cultivars include: L. s. 'Apple Blossom' has double pink flowers, L. s. 'Helene Strybing' has single pink flowers, L. s. 'Ruby Glow' has double blood-red flowers, and L. s. 'Snow White' has double white flowers.

Water Needs

The New Zealand tea tree and its many cultivars all grow well in sunny exposures with normal winter rainfall and regular summer water. The chart below provides a baseline irrigation schedule for this species. It should be noted there are several winter months marked by an asterisk (*) when rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. The high and low range of moisture indicates it can grow with varying amounts of water; higher amounts of water within this range will result in stronger springtime flowering performance and summer foliage character.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Moderate Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 3

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 3x 0x to 3x 0x to 3x 2x to 3x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 2x to 3x 0x to 3x 0x to 3x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
Inches per Month 0" to 3" 0" to 3" 0" to 3" 2" to 3" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 2" to 3" 0" to 3" 0" to 3"

Range of supplemental summer water: 9"-16"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-15"

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, follow this link.

For information how to calculate your irrigation system’s schedule and precipitation rate, please follow this link.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Shrub
Foliage Character: Evergreen
Habit: Upright, Spreading, Rigid, Low-branching, Irregular branching, Dense
Growth Rate: Moderate
Height: 3 ft. - 12 ft.
Width: 4 ft. - 12 ft.
Water Needs: Moderate 3
Foliage Color: Dark green
Flower Color: White
Flower Season: Winter, Spring
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil, Loam
Exposure Adaptations: Wind, Morning sun, Heat, Fog, Drought, Coastal salt air, All day sun
Function: Specimen, Slopes, Screening, Residential spaces, Raised planters, Parks and open space, Grouped, Foundations, Flowering accent plant, Commercial spaces, Banks, Background plant


Can be pruned as a hedge or used as an individual specimen (S). Older plants can be pruned up to expose attractive bark and twisting branches (D). If pruning is necessary, do so in spring, after flowering (D). Pruning cuts into old wood (without leaves) will not resprout, so if pruning older wood, it should only be done with the intent to remove entire branches (D).



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