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How to Grow Coral Tree – Erythrina

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Coral tree is the common name for several deciduous and nearly evergreen trees or shrubs that are chiefly grown for their brilliant-colored flowers. Flowers range in colors from greenish-white through yellow, light orange, and light red to orange and red.

Members of the Erythrina genus range in height from 3 feet (.9m) tall to more than 40 feet (12m) tall. Most species are grown in normally frost-free regions such as California, Arizona, and Florida. Members of the genus are native to Mexico and South Africa.

Coral tree flowers have a beak-like shape and are borne in late summer and autumn in long spikes. They are about 2 inches (5cm) long. Leaves are oval and leathery and up to 4 inches (10cm) long. The branches of some species are spiny.

Coral tree, Erythrina crista-galli
Coral tree, Erythrina crista-galli

Get to Know Coral Tree–Erythrina

  • Plant type: Deciduous or nearly evergreen trees or shrubs
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 9 to 11
  • Hardiness: Mostly grown in frost-free regions; a few species can survive in colder regions
  • Height and width: Trees are 20 to 40 feet (6-12m) tall; shrub species are as short as 3 feet (.9m) tall.
  • Foliage: Oval, leathery leaves divided into three leaflets
  • Flowers: Beak-shaped flowers to 2 inches (5cm) long in colors ranging from white to yellow, light orange, and light red to orange and red; flowers are followed by flat, bean-like pods—seeds are poisonous.
  • Bloom time: Summer to autumn
  • Uses: Specimen plant
  • Common name: Coral Tree
  • Botanical name: Erythrina
  • Family name: Fabaceae

Where to Plant Coral Tree–Erythrina

  • Plant Erythrina in full sun.
  • Erythrina grows best in humus-rich, well-drained soil.
  • Erythrina grows best in frost-free regions.
  • Erythrina will benefit from growing near a south or west-facing wall.
Coral tree, Erythrina
Coral tree, Erythrina

When to Plant Coral Tree–Erythrina

  • Sow seeds indoors at 70°F (21°C).
  • Set container-grown plants in the garden after the last frost in spring.

Planting and Spacing Coral Tree–Erythrina

  • Space 3 to 35 feet (.9-11m) apart depending on the variety.

How to Water and Feed Coral Tree–Erythrina

  • Keep the soil evenly moist; when the leaves fall, allow the soil to nearly dry.
  • Feed Erythrina with an all-purpose fertilizer in spring when new growth begins.

Coral Tree–Erythrina Care

  • Mulch around Erythrina to conserve soil moisture and protect roots.

Coral Tree–Erythrina Pests and Diseases

  • Container-grown plants may be susceptible to spider mites.
  • Shrubs species can be cut back to ground level in autumn.
  • Prune trees to shape removing any dead or diseased wood.
Coral tree shrub, Erythrina x bidwillii
Coral tree shrub, Erythrina x bidwillii

Coral Tree–Erythrina Propagation

  • Take semi-ripe cuttings in summer.
  • Sow seed indoors in early spring.

Coral Tree–Erythrina Varieties to Grow

  • Erythrina acanthocarpa, tambookie thorn: Deciduous shrub grows to 3 feet tall; scarlet yellow-tipped flowers in spring.
  • E. americana: Deciduous tree grows to 25 feet tall bears fiery red flowers.
  • E. bidwillii: Deciduous shrub grows to 20 feet tall; 2-foot-long clusters of pure red flowers on willowy stalks from spring until winter.
  • E. caffra, Kaffirboom coral tree: Deciduous tree grows to 40 feet tall and wide; big clusters of deep red-orange, tubular flowers in early spring.
  • E. coralloides: naked coral tree: Deciduous tree grows to 30 feet tall; fiery red flowers in spring on thorned branches.
  • E. crista-galli: cockspur coral tree: Deciduous shrub or tree grows to 20 feet tall; pink to red flowers in spikelike clusters in spring through fall.
  • E. falcata: Nearly evergreen tree grows to 40 feet; deep red flowers in late winter and early spring.
  • E. herbacea, coral bean: Perennial-shrub grows to 6 feet tall; bright red flowers in spring.
  • E. humeana, natal coral tree: Deciduous shrub or tree can grow to 30 feet tall; bright orange-red flowers; blooms late summer to fall.
  • E. lysistemon: Deciduous tree grows to 40 feet tall; light orange flowers bloom from fall to spring.
  • E. sykesii: Deciduous tree grows to 30 feet tall; showy red flowers in winter.
  • E. variegata: Deciduous tree grows 20 to 30 feet tall, prickly trunk and branches; profuse coral-red flowers in late winter and early spring.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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