How to Grow and Care for Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans)

Yellow bells (Tacoma stans) plant in bloom

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Yellow bells (Tecoma stans) are a fast-growing evergreen shrub with slender, gray-brown branches and clusters of bright yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers. Green, toothed, lace-shaped leaves offer a beautiful backdrop for the shrub's vibrant blooms, which attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

Also known as esperanza or yellow elder, these plants produce long, green seedpods after flowering that act as a food source for small animals. While beautiful and fast-growing, these plants can become invasive.

Common Name  Yellow Bells, Yellow Elder, Esperanza, Yellow Trumpetbush
Botanical Name  Tecoma stans
Family  Bignoniaceae
Plant Type  Perennial, shrub
Mature Size  3-9 ft. tall, 6-12 ft. long, 6-12 ft. wide
Sun Exposure  Full, partial
Soil Type  Loamy, sandy, well-drained
Soil pH  Neutral, alkaline
Bloom Time  Spring, summer, fall
Flower Color  Yellow
Hardiness Zones  7-11, USA
Native Area  North America, South America, Central America

Yellow Bells Care

These plants may have a showy appearance, but they're not high-maintenance. In fact, yellow bellow shrubs are tolerant of drought, heat, and cold. These shrubs are great choices for perennial or rock gardens and can even be grown in pots or as annuals outside of their growing zones.

The plant's fast growth and thin branches make them susceptible to wind damage, so try to place them in an area where they will be sheltered from high winds. Yellow bells are not often bothered by diseases or pests, though scale may affect this shrub. Small animals enjoy snacking on the seeds while larger animals, such as deer, have been known to raze the foliage. 

Warning

Because of their fast growth and hardy nature, yellow bells can easily overtake flora outside of their native zone, becoming an invasive, problematic species. These plants are considered invasive in Africa, Asia, parts of South America, the Pacific Islands, and Australia. While native to North, South, and Central America, these plants have become an invasive species in Florida.

Light

Yellow bells thrive in full sun but can be grown in partially shaded areas. However, yellow bells grown in partial shade will not grow as tall or as lush as those that receive 6 hours of sunlight or more each day.

Soil

Yellow bells are tolerant of many soil conditions, but they do best in rich, slightly moist, well-draining soil. Adding a healthy amount of compost to the soil is an efficient way to ensure adequate draining while providing important nutrients. 

Water

Yellow bells prefer dry to slightly moist soil conditions. As a desert plant, yellow bells are drought tolerant and can handle dry spells. Be sure not to overwater, as this can lead to rot problems. Natural rainfall is often enough to keep this plant thriving.

In droughts, yellow bells appreciate some supplemental water. You may need to water plants once or twice a month. During extended droughts, weekly watering may be needed.   

Temperature and Humidity

Yellow bells are naturally found in warm climates, such as the Sonoran Desert. They are both heat and cold tolerant but will go dormant in temperatures below freezing. This robust shrub can withstand both droughts and humid climates. 

Fertilizer

In most cases, these plants don't require additional fertilizer. However, if you notice the plant is slow to grow or bloom, add a well-balanced fertilizer once during the growing season. 

Pruning 

Annual pruning can help a yellow bells shrub to maintain its shape and encourage new healthy growth. Prune in the late winter after the threat of frost. Remove old growth inner branches and cut the old woody growth back. If there is no green wood growth, cut the shrub to the ground. In most cases, it will re-grow quickly in the spring.

Propagating Yellow Bells

Yellow bells are easily propagated through cuttings taken in the spring or summer. To do this, you will need a sharp knife or pair of garden snips, a small pot with drainage holes, a plastic bag, a rubber band, and rich, well-draining soil. Once you have the materials, follow the steps below: 

  1. In the spring or summer, use a sharp knife or pair of garden snips to remove a tip cutting that is several inches long. 
  2. Bury the cut end into rich, well-draining soil. Moisten the soil. 
  3. Cover the cutting with a plastic bag to keep in moisture. Secure the bag around the pot with a rubber band. 
  4. Place the cutting in a warm area with bright, indirect lighting. 
  5. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy. 
  6. Once there are several inches of new growth, remove the bag and repot into a larger pot, if needed. 
  7. Begin hardening off the plant and move it outdoors.  

How to Grow Yellow Bells From Seed

You can also start yellow bells from seeds you've collected from the plant. To grow this plant from seed, follow these steps:

  1. Collect seed pods from the plant and wait for them to become brown and dry. Then crack open the pods and remove the seeds. 
  2. Fill a small pot with rich, well-draining soil. Peat moss or vermiculite work as well. 
  3. Lightly cover the seed in the growing medium. 
  4. Water the soil, keeping it moist but not soggy. 
  5. Keep the pot in a warm area with bright, indirect lighting. Germination should occur in two to three weeks.  

Potting and Repotting Yellow Bells

Yellow bells have a relatively compact size that allows them to grow well in containers. Choose a well-draining pot at least 12 inches wide or larger, depending on the shrub size. Clay pots are a great choice, as these mimic well-draining soil and wick away excess water.

The fast growth of these plants means you will need to repot them more often, since they're likely to outgrow their container size. To do this, gently tip the pot onto its side and tap the outside of the pot to loosen the root system. Slide the plant out and set it into a larger pot. Fill it with well-draining dirt, burying the shrub to the same height it was before.  

Overwintering

When grown in USDA hardiness zones 7 to 11, yellow bells do not require any additional winter care. When grown outside this area, it is best to keep these shrubs in containers so they can be moved to a sheltered area, such as a garage or greenhouse.  

How to Get Yellow Bells to Bloom

Yellow bells are known for their bright yellow, trumpet-shaped, lightly fragrant flowers. These reach 3-5 inches long and appear every year from spring to fall. 

Yellow bells bloom best in full sun and well-draining soil. Deadhead spent blooms to encourage more blooming and a bushier appearance. Be sure to give this fast-growing shrub plenty of room to branch out, as they do not like to be cramped or grown in small spaces. High phosphorus fertilizer will also help encourage flowering. 

Common Problems With Yellow Bells

Yellow bells are hardy plants that thrive on neglect. They do not often face issues or problems. However, the biggest problem for yellow bell growers is a lack of blooming.

Lack of Blooming

If this plant is struggling to bloom, it could be for numerous reasons. The most common causes are a lack of adequate light, drainage, or space. If you face these problems, here are some steps to take.

For more light, place yellow bells in an area that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight every day. Replant the shrub, or move the container into a more suitable location.

If slow-draining soil conditions are suspected, add sand or another fast-draining material to the soil to allow excess water to drain away.

To avoid a lack of blooming because of space, plant these shrubs 4 to 6 feet apart. For potted plants, you may need to move the shrub to a larger pot as they do not like to be root bound. 

FAQ
  • Are yellow bells fast growing?

    Yes, yellow bells are vigorous growers. They can quickly fill a space with its beauty, though this can be a problem outside of their native zone. Because of their fast-growing nature, yellow bells can become invasive weeds. 

  • How big do yellow bells get?

    Yellow bells are considered a shrub, or small tree, and reach heights up to 9 feet tall, though they are most often seen between 4 and 6 feet tall. 

  • Do hummingbirds like Tecoma stans?

    Yes. And because this shrub flowers from spring to fall, Tecoma stans will attract hummingbirds for months on end. 

Article Sources
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  1. “Tecoma Stans (Yellow Bells).” Cabi.Org, https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/52951.

  2. “ENH783/ST625: Tecoma Stans: Yellow Elder.” Ufl.Edu, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/ST625.