The Q&A Archives: Poinciana tree (Royal Poinciana?)

Question: I just came back from Queensland Australia where I admired the Poinciana tree and the Frangipanis trees in full bloom. Can you provide both or either of these trees and if yes, in what size?. What precaution should I take to grow these at the border of South Carolina/Georgia? Crepe myrtle thrive in this climate as they seem to do next to the Poinciana and frangipani trees in Queensland.

Answer: Royal poinciana (so named because it used to be in the genus, Poinciana) is a flamboyant tree in flower - some say the world's most colorful tree. For several weeks in spring and summer it is covered with exuberant clusters of flame-red flowers, 4-5 in (1.2-12.7 cm) across. Even up close the individual flowers are striking: they have four spoon shaped spreading scarlet or orange-red petals about 3 in (7.6 cm) long, and one upright slightly larger petal (the standard) which is marked with yellow and white. Royal poinciana gets 30-40 ft (9.1-12.2 m) tall, but its elegant wide-spreading umbrella-like canopy can be wider than its height. Royal poinciana is deciduous in climates that have a marked dry season, but in Florida and other areas where the winter is not that much dryer than the summer, it is a semi-evergreen tree. Even the leaves are elegant: they are lacy and fernlike, twice-pinnate, and 12-20 in (30.5-50.8 cm) long with 20-40 pairs of primary leaflets (pinnae), each divided into 10-20 pairs of secondary leaflets (pinules). The dark brown pods are flat and woody, up to 24 in (61 cm) long and 2 in (5.1 cm) wide. A naturally occurring variety (var. flavida) has golden-yellow flowers. Royal poinciana is very fast growing, about 5 ft (1.5 m) per year until maturity, and tolerant of a wide range of well drained soils from acidic to alkaline and from loamy to gravelly. It's best to provide protection from strong winds.

This tree needs full sunshine. Royal poinciana is drought tolerant, but does best with regular water in the growing season and very little water in its dormant season.

Hardiness: USDA Zones 10 - 12. Royal poinciana should not be exposed to temperatures below about 45?F (7.2?C). This tree is commonly grown in Florida, but may not be hardy in your growing region. It is available through mail order companies. (A web search should help you find a source.

Plumeria (Frangipani) also known as the Lei flower, is native to warm tropical areas of the Pacific Islands, Caribbean, South America and Mexico. They can grow to be large shrubs or even small trees in mild areas of the U.S. In tropical regions, Plumeria may reach a height of 30' to 40' and half as wide. Their widely spaced thick succulent branches are round or pointed, and have long leather, fleshy leaves in clusters near the branch tips. Leaves tend to fall in early winter since they are deciduous and sensitive to cold.

In colder climates plumeria should be grown in containers. They make beautiful potted plants for the patio or greenhouse. However, in milder climates, plumeria can be grown outdoors in the ground, where they make a small beautiful landscape trees. When temperatures dip into the low 40's they may be stored in their containers or uprooted carefully trying to take as much root as possible and stored over winter in a heated basement or garage where temperatures are kept above freezing. As soon as temperatures rise outdoors they can be brought out and planted again. They will resume growth, leaf out and begin to grow as if nothing happened.

You may be able to find a source through a web search.

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