The royal poinciana (Delonix regia) is a fast-growing evergreen tree that features an abundance of scarlet blossoms. It is a favorite in many tropical and subtropical locations.
This tree has been designated as the national tree of St. Kitts and Nevis.
- Latin Name: The scientific name associated with this plant is Delonix regia and it is included in the Fabaceae (pea) family under the Caesalpinioideae subfamily. The former genus name was Poinciana, which was given in honor of Phillippe de Longvilliers de Poincy, a governor of St. Kitts.
- Common Names: Names associated with this species include royal poinciana, peacock flower, gold mohair, royal flame tree, Arbol de Fuego, Gulmohar, flame tree (which can be used for several other species) and flamboyant. Poinciana is also used as a common name for the Mexican bird of paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) shrub.
- Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones: The zones that are suitable for growing royal poinciana are 10-12 since it needs a location that is above freezing temperatures. It is native to Madagascar but has become naturalized in other tropical countries.
- Size & Shape: Royal poinciana will reach its mature size quickly since it can grow to five feet per year. The canopy forms into the shape of an umbrella.
- Exposure: Choose a location with full sun for optimal growth.
The foliage on this species is bipinnately compound, meaning that each leaf consists of up to 25 pairs of leaflets, and each of those leaflets is further divided into up to 25 more pairs of leaflets.
This tree is renowned worldwide for its clusters of exquisite red flowers that blanket the tree. Each of the five petals is reddish-orange or scarlet. One petal is bigger than the others and has yellow and white markings.
The fruit is a seed pod that can be over a foot long.
If you would prefer a version of this tree that has yellow flowers, look for Delonix regia var. flavida.
Do not plant the royal poinciana close to structures or walkways. The roots form on the surface and may cause damage as they spread and thicken.
This species can tolerate periods of drought once the root network has formed. It can also handle some salt.
Litter will happen if the branches (which are brittle) break or when the seed pods fall to the ground. You can help reduce the chances of the branches breaking if you can provide a spot with protection from winds and prune to form a strong branching structure.
This species can be used to create a bonsai.
Seed germination and cuttings are used to propagate this tree. Seeds will need to be scarificed first to break open the seed coat and allow water to germinate the seed.
If you are working with a cultivar or the flavida variety, choose cuttings to retain the parent characteristics as seeds may not be true to type. Another downside to seed germination is that it may take over a decade before the tree begins to produce blossoms.
Maintenance and Pruning
Pruning should be used in the early years to create a stronger foundation since the branches tend to be weak. You can also limb up for street clearance.
Pests and Diseases
You should not run into many problems with this tree. Some species of caterpillars may chew away on the leaves, though it should not defoliate the entire tree.
Phellinus noxious is a fungus that may cause the roots to rot. Choosing a spot with soil that drains well can help lessen the possibility that this fungus will invade.