The Q&A Archives: Growing Coral Trees

Question: My husband and I own a long, low ranch house in Simi Valley, CA. We've been looking for a tall, horizontally spreading tree for a long time because we feel a very tall vertical tree would look odd next to the house. We want something fast growing and full-leaved tree that isn't messy--very specific criteria!

Recently, we noticed a beautiful tree that answers all of our needs: The coral tree (Erythrina caffra). We've noticed it less than 30 miles away in Camarillo and all over Ventura and Santa Barbara. My question is: We do live somewhat inland and it can get very hot in the summer. Are these trees exclusively coastal or can we grow them here in Simi Valley? Is there something special we can do to nurture and grow this tree? I'm not sure of our zone, but if there's anything we can do to grow this tree I'd sure like to give it a try. Can you suggest anything?

Answer: Erythrina caffra is native to South Africa, so summer heat shouldn't bother it. In fact, once the tree is established, it will need little to no water in the summertime. Kaffirboom coral trees are briefly deciduous, losing their leaves in January. Big clusters of deep red-orange flowers develop on bare branches from January through March, then new leaves sprout. The tree will grow 25-40 feet tall with a 40-60 foot spread. To eliminate too-rapid growth, keep water to a minimum during the summer months. Prune after flowering to help maintain shape.

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