The Australian tea tree is known for its tea tree oil, which has many uses from antimicrobial to gum healing. However, its decorative properties are much less well known. Melaleuca alternifolia can be cultivated very well here, even if only as a container plant and not in the garden.

Buy or grow?

Whether you will be happy with a Melaleuca alternifolia is already decided at this early stage, because the Australian tea tree has both:

Buy Melaleuca alternifolia

If you are interested in an Australian tea tree, you will often read that unfortunately we cannot buy it as a plant. That’s not quite right, but at least almost right, small tea trees are only grown occasionally in a few herb nurseries. You will have to search quite a bit, and you will have to pay not very small two-digit amounts for a real tiny one.

Melaleuca alternifolia anziehen

Melaleuca alternifolia from the much warmer Australian climate has to winter indoors here anyway. Theoretically, the cultivation of the seeds is possible all year round. In practice, a tea tree in Germany does not get enough light/heat anyway – breeding in late spring is certainly best.

It’s not easy. Even the seeds are difficult to handle. The seeds are really extraordinarily tiny and delicate. Therefore, you should start sowing right away with a trick:

  • Mix the seeds with very fine sand
  • Spread this mixture on moist potting soil
  • Melaleucas are light germs, cover seeds very thinly with soil
  • Now you have to keep the culture vessels evenly moist (not wet).
  • Set up as sunny as possible and never let it dry out
  • The temperature must be at least 18 and preferably 20°C
  • Cover the culture vessel with foil or glass
  • The film should let UV light through, which is not the case with all transparent films
  • Poke a few holes in it for ventilation
  • The glass pane lets in some air with a clip on the edge of the pot or similar
  • In addition, the pot should be briefly covered every few days to ensure that the soil does not get mouldy
  • If everything is correct, the seeds should germinate after 4 to 6 weeks
  • After sprouting, the tiny plants should not be exposed to direct sunlight

A rather acidic substrate is suitable as growing soil, which is what most Australian plants are used to. You can e.g. B. use ready-made rhododendron soil or slightly acidic growing soil or coconut fiber, which also has a low pH value, is permeable to air and low in nutrients.

problems with breeding

  • When the small plants have grown so large that they crowd each other, they need to be pricked out
  • With this isolation, it’s not that easy to get the perfect timing for the Melaleucas
  • Small, fine plants grow from fine seeds
  • When the first pair of leaves can be seen after the cotyledons (normal transplanting time), it is difficult to grasp
  • You should therefore wait a little longer for the Australian tea tree, the risk of injury is simply too great
  • But you have to keep a close eye on the plants, at some point they don’t like being too close together
  • A guideline: Approx. 5 – 8 weeks after budding, the seedlings in the group feel “pushed”.
  • They’re still pretty tiny, so you have to prick them very carefully
  • Above all, the hair-thin young roots should not be damaged under any circumstances
  • If the substrate is up to it, you can simply divide it and transplant the seedling with soil
  • The remaining soil in the pot can then already be the potting soil in which it is to grow later

If you miss the right time, the tea trees like to bitch around and just don’t grow any further. Maybe it’s just not enough light. A tea tree is used to very different light intensities than we can offer – even in summer. A little additional artificial plant light during rearing certainly can’t hurt.

There is still a risk of mold in the larger pots. You need a drain in the bottom, it is best to add a drainage layer of sand/gravel as well. These pots should be covered further and not left in full sunlight for long periods of time.

After a good quarter of a year, the plants can slowly be covered – put the glass pane aside more often, gradually puncture the foil so that the plants can slowly get used to the drier room air.

When the Australian tea tree has at some point reached a hand length and looks nice and strong, it can move to its permanent location. If it is very sunny, again with careful acclimatization.


This final location for the Australian tea tree should be sunny, nice and warm and protected from drafts and the like. In summer, the tea tree is happy about a location outdoors, possibly with a little getting used to it again.


Once you have nurtured the tea tree from the miniature stage, care becomes easier:

  • Don’t let it dry out
  • When repotting, always use lime-poor (pH 5 to 6) but humus-rich soil
  • During the growing season, the tea tree needs plenty of water
  • Also avoid any waterlogging now, check the drain in the pot regularly
  • The lime-sensitive tea tree should be watered with soft/softened water
  • In the growing season (April to September) the tea tree should be fertilized
  • As needed, usually every 14 days some (low phosphate) container plant fertilizer

To cut

You can and should prune your tea tree as soon as you are sure that the young plant is not planning to secretly and unprovokedly say goodbye (how can you be sure? I don’t know, this requires the kind of intuition known as “green fingers”. will).

If your tea tree is growing vigorously and happily and shows no signs of losing that joy, pruning can encourage more branching. If you prune the shrub-like tea tree all around, it will grow bushier. In addition, you can keep it in any desired growth height.

In other species from the Myrtenheide genus, no more leaves form on the shoot where the flowers were. No such information is reported for Melaleuca alternifolia, but if it conforms to the habits of its genus, it would be advisable to prune the flowering stems back below the withered inflorescence after each flowering. This would encourage compact growth and hopefully the shoots will branch out further after pruning (try and watch carefully).


When an Australian tea tree has been grown with us, it also adapts to our seasons.

All of Australia’s climate regions (temperate, subtropical, tropical) have in common that there is no real winter. Temperatures aren’t even seriously approaching zero. The Australian tea tree therefore has no reason to shed its leaves in winter. It basically grows evergreen.

But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need rest periods, even an Australian tea tree deserves some hibernation. You can give it this by keeping it a little drier in winter and placing it in a bright and cool room with temperatures between 10 and 15 °C.

If this is not possible due to a lack of suitable space, the tea tree can also hibernate at higher temperatures. But then he does not rest to the same extent and needs a somewhat more plentiful supply. Since an Australian plant suffers from a lack of light in winter, very loose and light crowns often form in well-cultivated plants because the tea tree lengthens its leaf spacing during winter growth due to the lack of light. This could be remedied by artificial additional lighting during warm hibernation.

Application and effects of tea tree oil

Tea tree oil has long been used for everything from cosmetic to health-promoting and healing.

The Australian aborigines applied tea tree oil extract to open wounds and skin infections. They treated gum infections and colds and head lice at the same time. European immigrants imitated them, and tea tree oil was an essential part of the first-aid kit used by Australian troops during World War II.

The effects attributed to him are varied. Tea tree oil is definitely antimicrobial. It is also said to mitigate excessive immune reactions after insect bites, and is said to have an antiseptic, bactericidal and fungicidal effect. In alternative medicine, it is used against acne, dandruff and psoriasis, muscle pain and fungal diseases, rheumatism, smoker’s cough, varicose veins and more. In addition, it is said to be effective in cosmetic preparations against impure skin and athlete’s foot. Cosmetic products can be preserved by tea tree oil.

But tea tree oil is not that safe to use: If tea tree oil is used in too low a concentration, it is not supposed to kill bacteria, but only make them more resistant or even resistant to antibiotics.

It is also considered a risk substance that can trigger contact allergies. In the vicinity of animals, there is absolutely no place for thorough consultation with the veterinarian. Which will probably advise against it. Like many essential oils, tea tree oil is toxic to most pets. Cat owners even have to be careful that the cats do not nibble on the leaves, as they lack the ability to break down the plant’s components.

On the other hand, tea tree oil fell into oblivion after World War II because antibiotics were available to us.

The Australian aborigines also simply took the tea tree leaves, rubbed them in their hands or heated them on hot stones and then inhaled the essential oils released.

However, the scientists who have dealt with the resistant bacteria recommend not using tea tree oil in concentrations below 4 percent so that the bacteria are killed and not resistant ( .

species and varieties

The Australian tea tree belongs to the myrtle family, genus Myrtle heather or Melaleuca. Some of the species of this genus and the species of other genera of the myrtle family (Baeckea, Kunzea and Leptospermum) are called tea trees, and tea tree oils are obtained from all of these tea trees by distillation. Here are the other tea tree species:

  • Cajeput tree, cajeput tree (Melaleuca cajuputi) supplies cajeput oil, which is similar to tea tree oil but smells of eucalyptus
  • Silver tree myrtle heather (M. leucadendra) also called cajeput tree, the oil is one of the three oils in the famous “Olbas”
  • M. linariifolia, the “Snow-in-Summer” is cultivated in Australia and the USA, to get safely over the Internet
  • Mao baby woodrose (M. quinquenervia), provides tea tree oil, sometimes called niauli oil and sometimes cajeput oil
  • M. uncinata
  • Niauli tree (M. viridiflora) yields Niauli oil
  • Leptospermum scoparium, from which comes the Manuka oil
  • Kunzea ericoides, its leaves are distilled into kanuka oil

There are no cultivars of Melaleuca alternifolia, but if you are planning any use experiments it is also important that you cultivate and harvest an authentic original.


The Melaleuca reproduce under natural conditions by seeds, but also by budding, as one hears quite rapidly, on sufficiently wet locations even fallen trees are said to put down roots immediately from the crowns.

The Australian tea tree and its relatives are undoubtedly plants of great interest to anyone interested in the beneficial effects of natural substances. In addition, they are simply so decorative that indoor gardeners who enjoy variety would like to cultivate an Australian tea tree. This is exactly where it gets exciting, you can’t just buy a tea tree around the next corner, and the cultivation should offer some surprises – which of course only challenges the passionate gardener even more.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *