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.
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.
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–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.