Narrow-leaved tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)

The Melaleuca alternifolia is a very interesting shrub or tree to achieve privacy in a certain area of ​​the garden or in the patio. Although it is not recommended to put it next to a pool (more because of the leaves that fall than because of its roots), it would look great as a medium-high hedge bordering all or part of the site.

Like its sisters, it is a plant that resists drought very well, as well as weak frosts. But as if that were not enough, it has very, very interesting medicinal properties.

Origin and characteristics of Melaleuca alternifolia

Known as a narrow-leaved tea tree (not to be confused with Camellia sinensis, which is the shrub from which tea is made), it is a shrub or tree that reaches 5 meters in height, native to the north coast of New Wales South (Australia). The crown is highly branched, so it is very dense, and it is composed of linear leaves, 10-35mm long by 1mm wide, which give off a very pleasant aroma.

The flowers grow in spikes 3 to 5cm long, and are white. The fruit is small, rounded, and woody, measuring 2-3mm in diameter when ripe. The seeds are equally small, and black.

What are the care it requires?

If you want to have a copy, we recommend that you take care of it as follows:


The narrow-leaved tea tree should be outdoors, ideally in full sun, although it can grow well in partial shade.

Due to its characteristics, it is necessary that a separation of at least one meter be left between the plant and walls, walls, etc. since this way it will be achieved that it has a better development.


  • Pot: you can fill it with universal substrate for plants (on sale here ).
  • Garden: not demanding, as long as it has good drainage.


It will depend on where you have it:

  • Pot: during the summer water an average of 2 or 3 times a week, but the rest of the year one or two a week will have enough.
  • Garden: with 2 or 3 waterings a week the first year that it is planted in the ground will be enough. From the second year on, if a minimum of 350mm of annual precipitation falls, you will be able to space out the irrigations.


During all the warm months of the year it will be highly advisable to fertilize it from time to time, for example with guano which is a natural product (seabird manure) rich in nutrients, or if you prefer you can opt for a compound fertilizer such as blue manure ( for sale here ).

Regardless of which one you use, follow the directions specified on the product’s packaging since the risk of overdose is high (yes, also if you use guano, as it is so concentrated that adding more than necessary would burn the roots ).


Image – Wikimedia/ Geoff Derrin

The Melaleuca alternifolia is multiplied by seeds in spring. To achieve a higher percentage of success, we recommend first introducing them in a glass of water for 24 hours, and then sowing them in a seedling tray or plastic pot with a specific substrate (on sale here ).

Bury them a little, enough so that they cannot be blown away by the wind, and then sprinkle with sulfur to prevent fungus and, therefore, also the dreaded damping-off or rotting of the stem of the seedlings.

Related article:Damping-off or death of seedlings: how to prevent it?

Once watered, place the seedbed outside, in semi-shade. Thus, and keeping the substrate moist but not flooded, they will germinate in about two weeks.


It is advised not to prune. It is a shrub that itself takes on a very pretty shape. However, you can remove the branches that come out of the trunk if you want it to be more like a tree, as well as those that are dry, weak or broken in autumn or late winter.

Planting or transplanting time

Whether you want to start decorating your garden or if it needs a transplant, you have to wait until spring arrives to plant it. When temperatures rise above 15ºC, the ideal moment will have arrived.

Plagues and diseases

It is very resistant to common pests and diseases.


The Melaleuca alternifolia tolerate freezing up -7ºC.

What uses is it given?


It is a highly decorative species, highly recommended for low maintenance gardens or for those balconies or patios that urgently need some shade. It grows at a good rate, and as it does not have pests or diseases, just by watering it and fertilizing it you will get a beautiful little tree or shrub.


The essential oil of the narrow leaf tea tree is antiseptic, antifungal, antibiotic and healing. You can also relieve mild throat and mouth discomfort by gargling with a few drops of the product diluted in water.

Narrow-leaved tea tree essential oil side effects

In low doses it is toxic to both children and pets. The symptoms are:

  • ataxia
  • dizziness
  • sickness
  • disorientation
  • allergy
  • coma in severe cases

Its use is only recommended in adults, and only if it is on the skin and hair, and in small doses for a short period of time.

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