The Arizona desert is hard on plants, even those in landscaped urban settings. Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans) are one of several shrubs recommended for people who want hardy desert plants that are perenial (you need to plant them only once). Some additional reasons for their popularity include: They're inexpensive, readily available, low-maintenance, relatively drought-resistant, and vibrant bloomers through much of the year.
The Yellow Bells bush is often used in landscaping as a background screen, in plantings around large patios and ramadas, and in natural desert landscaping. Yellow Bells can also enhance the authentic look of regional or Spanish architecture and are a good choice for a desert butterfly garden. The blooms are bright yellow and tubular; they look like elongated bells, perfect for attracting hummingbirds and bees. The vibrant green leaves are lance-shaped and resemble feathers. They have a rapid growth rate and are best planted in late winter.
|Botanical Name||Tecoma stans|
|Common Name||Yellow Bells, Yellow Elder, Trumpet Bush|
|Plant Type||Perennial shrub|
|Mature Size||3-12 ft. tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full, Partial|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral to acidic, alkaline|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer, fall|
|Hardiness Zones||7-11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Central America, South America, North America|
Yellow Bells Care
Yellow Bells can thrive in a harsh environment. The plant is a native of the Sonoran Desert which covers areas of the southwestern United States in Arizona and California and of northwestern Mexico. It's the hottest desert in Mexico, with temperatures topping out at 120 degrees Fahrenheit and rainfall measuring at less than 10 inches per year.
This evergreen shrub blooms from late spring through early fall. It can be grown in a container as well as directly in the ground. These fast-growing plants are typically 3-6 feet tall in the U.S. and several feet wide but they can reach up to 12 feet tall and can be pruned to form a tree. They are best planted in areas with lots of surrounding room and shouldn't be placed too close to structures or to swimming pools.
Seed pods are produced and can be removed, extending the bloom period and making the bush look better. You can try growing the seeds if you'd like to add additional plants to your landscaping.
Yellow Bells love the sun and heat. They grow best with at least six hours of sunlight a day. They will tolerate shade but will grow more upright with the benefit of ample sunlight.
Yellow Bells are drought-resistant and do well in almost any soil. They grow best in well-drained soils that are rocky, loam, or limestone.
This plant has moderate water requirements. Make sure to water it regularly but not overwater. Water a newly planted Yellow Bells bush every five to seven days and water established bushes every six to 10 days. It's most important to keep the plant watered regularly during its first summer.
Temperature and Humidity
This desert plant requires very little care once it's established. It will freeze back in the winter months when temperatures dip below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. If a Yellow Bells plant gets frost damage in the winter, cut it back and it will grow again in the spring.
When first planted, an application of slow-release fertilizer is recommended, but it's not necessary to repeat fertilizing in subsequent seasons.
Yellow Bells Varieties
There are several lovely varieties of Tecoma stans that are slightly different from Yellow Bells, including these three:
- Orange Bells (Tecoma stans var. alata) has bright orange blooms and is slightly more cold-tolerant than Yellow Bells. It needs full sun and does not do well under shade.
- Elderleaf Yellow Trumpet (Tecoma stans var. sambucifolia) is native to South America and can grow up to 30 feet tall.
- Velvety Yellow Trumpet (Tecoma stans var. velutina) has silky green leaves that are covered in a layer of down.
Pruning Yellow Bells
Yellow Bells are low-maintenance but can benefit from a bit of pruning. The shrubs will naturally form an attractive bushy shape but pruning will help the plants grow further. It's best to prune in late winter when the flowers are no longer blooming. Deadheading in the summer months will also encourage plant growth.
Propagating Yellow Bells
Yellow bells can be reproduced in two ways: from seeds or from cuttings. To propagate from seed, you'll need to first leave the seed pods on the plant to dry. Collect the seeds in the late summer or early fall and store them at room temperature. Sow them in a moist (but not overly moist) soil after the winter season has ended.
To propagate from cuttings, remove stem cuttings a few inches long from the branch tips during the spring or summer months. Place in a small pot filled with peat moss and perlite. Cover and place in indirect sunlight. After new growth appears, re-pot into a larger pot filled with standard potting mix. When the new plant reaches a height of about 1 foot, move the seedlings to an outdoor spot.