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The fire engine red tree of the poinciana in full bloom near the sea
Planting a tree in a garden is always a big decision. It’s an addition that future generations may have to live with, so make sure you add something truly beautiful.

 

What you need to know about a poinciana tree

Name: Poinciana, royal poinciana, flame tree (not to be confused with the coral trees) (Delonix regia).

Plant type: large, semi-deciduous flowering tree.

Height: compound leaf, main leaf stems with multiple branchlets holding tiny leaves. Often described as fern-like. Bright green when new, ageing to darker green across summer. Leaves drop in spring as new foliage develops, but in cooler climates they will drop in autumn and remain bare across winter.

Climate: tropical and sub-tropical. Warm temperate—can grow in microclimates as far south as Sydney, Perth and possibly Auckland, however flowering is massively reduced and the leafless period is longer. 32˚ south is considered the cut-off point for quality flowering.

Soil: open, free-draining, good-quality soil.

Position: warm, sheltered, sunny.

Flowering and fruiting: masses of orange to scarlet flowers appear from December to February. These are followed by large, brown, bean-like seed pods.

Feeding: annual application of controlled-release fertiliser.

Watering: reliable moisture across the peak growth times.

Appearance and characteristics of a poinciana tree

When planting a tree, the choices are enormous. So why not choose one that will bring a host of benefits, not just add a tower of green? A poinciana will add a swag of awesome features—deep, spreading shade across summer, a truly breathtaking flowering display over mid-summer, and then across winter the canopy thins, allowing warming winter sun to flow through.

As it ages, the poinciana has a very distinctive form—a widely spreading canopy that is generally wider than the tree is tall.

The main trunk is usually quite short, less than 3m, and is then multi-branched. The foliage canopy is dense with a distinctly tropical look, and has a soft appearance, thanks to the multitude of tiny leaflets.

When in full flower the display is just breathtaking. The canopy will be cloaked with vibrant red-orange flowers which, when viewed individually, have an open, almost orchid-like form. The flower is comprised of five petal-like sepals, one of which will be largely white to yellow with red spots and streaks.

 poinciana in flower 

Uses for a poinciana tree

A poinciana tree has many uses, including:

  • excellent shade tree
  • feature planting
  • fantastic tree for the nature strip where space allows.

How to plant and grow a poinciana tree

For best results, your poinciana will need full sun, and free-draining quality soil, preferably with a high organic component.

Plant in a warm, frost-free location, sheltered from strong winds. Poinciana is a tree of the tropics and sub-tropics, however it is such a beautiful tree it is worth growing outside of these zones if a suitable microclimate can be provided.

The poinciana is a truly gorgeous tree, but avoid planting it near a swimming pool or any rooflines. Its fine leaves will quickly fill your filter basket and gutters when they start dropping.

How to grow a poinciana tree from seed 

A poinciana tree can be very easily grown from fresh seed.

  • Remove the seeds from the large, bean-like seed pod.
  • Place them in a container and cover with warm water. Leave to soak for around 24 hours.
  • Plant each seed into an individual pot filled with a seed-raising mix and keep moist and warm.

Planting tips

Follow these steps for best results when planting your poinciana tree:

  • Improve the soil in the planting hole by adding well-composted manure or a suitable planting compost. Make the hole at least twice the size of the pot.
  • Fertilise well with a controlled-release fertiliser supplemented with a liquid organic-based product.
  • Nurture the poinciana for its first few years to maximise early growth and trunk development.

Caring for a poinciana tree

As with most trees, your poinciana tree will require little feeding once the tree is established. However, when it is young, annual applications of a controlled-release fertiliser and side dressing with a well-composted manure will aid establishment and development.

Keep your poinciana reliably moist over hot and dry periods and while establishing. Mature trees should not require any additional watering. Flowering tends to be better when the dry has been dry.

How and when to prune a poinciana tree

A mature poinciana tree will require very little pruning beyond removing any damaged or dead branches. When young, prune the tree to assist with the development of the main trunk by removing any side branches that develop until the main trunk reaches a little over 2m.

If you like this then try

How to plant a tree: all the tips you need for planting success.

Bromeliad: a bromeliad will thrive in the shallow soil and shade beneath a poinciana tree.

Cycad: fantastic landscape plant across a range of situations.

Start planting today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!

 

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Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.