The Genista, also called Brambusch, is a plant genus within the family of the leguminous plants (Fabaceae). It is divided into about 90 subspecies and occurs throughout Europe, North Africa and West and Central Asia. However, many broom species have already spread to other parts of the world as neophytes. Beside the real broom, still some other types carry the trivial name “broom”, so for example the broom broom (Cytisus), the Spanish broom (Spartium junceum), the spiny broom (Calicotome) and the gorse (Osmanthus). However, they are only remotely related to the real broom.
Appearance and growth
Brooms are mostly (semi-)shrubs with deep tap roots. Their rod-shaped twigs, often carrying spines or thorns, reach growth heights of between half a metre and two metres. The Etna broom (Genista aetnensis) is the only broom species up to five meters high. Gorse throw their leaves early in the year. The leaves are undivided or three-numbered and alternate on the twig. The usually yellow broom blossoms usually stand together grapey at the branch end and show the typical butterfly blossom. They do not contain nectar, but pollen attracts bees and bumble bees. In autumn, elongated legumes are formed, which can contain up to 30 tiny seeds. These are widely spread by a centrifugal mechanism. Gorse is basically poisonous in all parts of the plant.
Location and soil
As Mediterranean heather plants, broom are frugal plants and thrive well in nutrient-poor, sunny and warm locations. The soil should be sandy and well-drained. The sunnier the location, the richer the abundance of flowers. In the shade, broom flowers little to not at all. Avoid waterlogging as the plants do not tolerate damp soils.
When buying broom, it is advisable to purchase potted plants. The soil ball protects the sensitive tap root until it is planted. Dig a planting hole deep enough for the entire tap root to fit in without bending over. A drainage made of sand or chippings ensures a good water drainage. Heavy soils should be loosened with sand before planting. Insert the plant just as deeply as it stood in the pot. The planting distance should be as large as half the expected final height of the plants. After planting, the broom is well watered, after which it needs no further watering. Once the broom has grown, it should no longer be transplanted.
Gorse is an extremely undemanding plant that does not need to be fertilized or watered. On the contrary: fertilization stimulates leaf growth and has a negative effect on the abundance of flowers in broom. When planting broom in the tub, make sure it is deep enough for the tap root and fill in a drainage at the bottom to allow good water drainage. In the pot the broom must be poured regularly little.
Gorse should only be cut if the branches are disturbed, frozen or spread too far. If it is necessary to keep the plant small, the broom should be carefully cut back by about one third after flowering. Avoid cutting into the old wood.
Planted broom is fully hardy and does not require separate protection. However, potted plants should be packed and moved to the house wall so that the pot ball does not freeze through during severe frosts. Do not let the plant dry out completely even in winter.
Due to its dryness tolerance, broom is wonderfully suitable for the greening of gravel and rock gardens. Upright species are used for planting embankments and for creating Mediterranean bedding areas. Higher broom species like the dyer broom (Genista tinctoria) bring colour to the heather bed. The yellow dye of the dyer’s broom and the German broom (Genista germanica) were formerly used for dyeing textiles. Also for the perfume production and as seasoning herb different broom species are used.
Important species and varieties
Some of the many broom species are used as ornamental plants in our gardens. They are popular groundcovers or small hedges. Groundcovers like stone broom (Genista lydia) or sand broom (Genista pilosa) spread quickly over dry walls and rock gardens. With up to 60 centimeters of growth-height rather low, upright growing types are for example wing-broom (Genista sagittalis) and German broom (Genista germanica). The distinctive ball broom (Genista radiata) grows up to one meter higher and blooms from May to August.
Broom is multiplied by its small seeds. Collect the ripe seed capsules in August and either sow them directly into the bed or store them in a dry place and spread them next spring. Cuttings can also be cut in early autumn. However, the cuttings-propagation doesn’t always succeed. To do this, remove at least 15 centimeter long, non-woody twigs from the mother plant and place them in a mixture of sand and growing soil. Keep the substrate moist and cover the plants until they take root with a hood. Once the cuttings have taken root, they are transplanted directly into the bed. In ground-covering broom species, the shoots lying on the ground grow roots by themselves.
Diseases and pests
Gorse is an extremely robust plant genus. Their species are hardly affected by pests or diseases.
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