Royal Ponciana-With Flame-Colored Blooms

March 24, 2024

The Flame Tree-Delonix regia

The Royal Poinciana tree, image showing its wide umbrella shape.

With Flame-colored blooms, the royal poinciana is the symbol of summer in Florida. Yes, the living is easy, picture your hammock under a 60′ spread of dense shade. The flame tree makes people happy around the tropical world. It’s the national flower of St Kitts and Nevis, the official tree of Key West, and don’t forget that it was a big 1944 hit for Frank Sinatra!

‘Ponciana’ might have been the last song that American GI’s heard before boarding the ships for war in Europe!

“Ponciana, your branches speak to me of love,

Ponciana, your branches speak to me of love

Pale moon is casting shadows from above.

What Makes The Royal Ponciana Tree Unique?

If you have a place for this unique tree it has the potential to transform your property! Compare this to most of the tropical flowering trees around us. They are smaller, narrower, usually pastel in color, and bloom early in the spring. Depending on your requirements this tree will make a difference.

Images of unique features of poinciana tree
  • Royal Poinciana blooms in June providing color for the summer when other flowering trees have completed blooming.
  • The tree is umbrella-shaped, wider than it is tall, with a mature height reaching 40′ tall and a spread reaching 60′ wide. It will provide considerable shade.
  • While most flowering trees are in beautiful pastel colors, the Royal Poinciana is a vivid Flame red.
  • Even the leaves are in large tropical sizes. Each leaf is 12-20 inches long, and these are divided into 12-20 smaller leaflets.
  • The flower is extremely showy, consisting of four, spoon-shaped petals and one larger petal. They would remind you of a large orchid bloom.

Where You Can See The Magnificent Red Tree

If the soldiers served in the Mediterranean they may have seen it. It ranges along southern Europe, to the Middle East, you will see it in India and the Pacific. It is found in any part of the world in zones 9b-11.

When Did The Town Turn Red?

We live on the Gulf Coast of Florida. One of our neighbors, who commonly returns to New England in May stayed through June one year. She said,” I never knew the whole town turned red“!

She was talking about the Flamboyant tree-Delonix regia. We call it our reward for living through the heat of a South Florida summer. it is a huge umbrella of a tree 50′ high but even wider. It has feathery leaves and, in bloom a rich orange-red color!

Where Do We Sit Under The Royal Poinciana?

It is widely grown around the warm climate world. In the US we see it in very few places. South Florida, The Rio Grande River Valley, the Southern parts of Arizona, and Southern California. If you find yourself in any of those places in June, don’t miss them.

You can see them lining the streets in places like Miami, Palm Beach, Naples, and the Florida Keys. They are the national tree of Nevis and St Kitts and Puerto Rico has a valley named for them. It is so popular in South Florida that there are estimates that there are more of them in Florida now than in Madagascar their original home.

Where Did The Flame Tree Come From

Native to Madagascar they are thought to have been brought to the Caribbean island of St Kitts by its 17-century French Governor Phillipe de Longville de Poincy. A man who understood the concept of “living large,” he built the biggest mansion in the Caribbean and imported this vibrant tree from Madagascar. The mansion is a ruin today but the tree is living large in the Caribbean and any North American climate that is warm enough for it!

Uses For A Royal Poinciana Tree

We first think of this large and colorful tree as a specimen. In a large space, they can form a colorful grove. They will produce shade to cover understory trees. Beautiful Bonsai plants can be made from them. In streets wide enough to accommodate them they are popular street trees.

Give The Flame Tree Space!

At maturity, this is a large and wide tree. Expect it to grow to 40′ tall and as wide as 60.” giving it the ability to provide a wide umbrella-shaped canopy. In addition, the surface roots are large. Provide the tree with at least 15′ from sidewalks, pavement, and buildings. Do not expect grass below it to perform well as the root system is near the surface and will compete with other plants. Your hammock will be sufficient! Also, note that this is a fast-growing tree and can add five feet per year.

How To Choose And Plant A Royal Poinciana Tree

The Royal Poinciana blossom not only covers the sweeping canopy of the tree. but up close it is spectacular also.

The Royal Poinciana Tree Is Also Available in Yellow
Royal Poinciana Tree In Golden Yellow

They are available from growers in a variety of sizes. They normally begin to bloom at 5 years old. Allow the tree plenty of room. Keep them 20 feet from buildings and sidewalks. They have extensive surface root systems. The trees can reach 45-50 ‘ in height. and 60′ wide. This tree has a sweeping, wide, umbrella-shaped canopy. It requires a sunny location. High winds can damage it, If a windbreak is available you may appreciate it. Royal Poinciana is fast growing and can gain as much as 5’ per year.

The Flower and Foliage

The flower is red, red-orange or yellow. It has a flamboyant orchid shape with three spoon-shaped petals and a larger petal. The foliage is delicate and fern-like and the bark is a smooth gray color. Both the flower and the foliage are very large., There is a large seed pod that will fall to the ground. Children who grow up on Caribbean islands make a musical instrument from them. You will find yourself raking in spring. The bloom period is very long- you will enjoy the color for two months.

Planting Zones

The trees will grow in zones 9b-11. How do I find my USDA Plant Hardiness Zone. This article will tell you where the tree grows throughout the world and has a chart showing its blooming times in each place in case you are traveling.

How To Plant The Royal Poinciana Tree

Having selected your place, dig your hole two to four times the size of your root ball. Amend the soil with rich organic matter, spread the roots out gently, and water the tree well. The grass will grow poorly under the large canopy and the trunk is susceptible to damage. This suggests that a large ring of mulch is a good idea.

Soil Choices

A variety of soil types are acceptable to this tree. The pH range is from 5.6-6 or 6.1-6.5. Once established the tree is tolerant of drought and salt.

How do I know if I have healthy soil? This may help. “Good Soil, Types and How To Improve It.”

Water And Fertilizer

Young trees require frequent watering, about three times per week. Adult trees require water only during times of drought.

Fertilize according to the age of the tree. If under 3 years fertilize, 3 times per year. If 3-5 years old, fertilize 2 times per year. Trees older than 5 years old rarely require fertilizer unless in very poor soil. Use a complete fertilizer graded 16-4-8 or 15-5-15.

Pests and Diseases

There are no significant pests or diseases of the Royal Poinciana.


Prune before the spring regrowth begins, about mid-March to April. Prune any major limbs that are as large as one-half the trunk diameter.

Because it is a fast grower, young branches break easily. Remove low-hanging branches and promote strong and healthy branching. Ensure that all major limbs are 8-12′ above the ground. We live in a neighborhood with a number of them. One was damaged In Hurricane Irma and with reasonable pruning, has recovered well.

Royal Ponciana Bonsai

While you cannot grow a royal poinciana tree in your small yard you can grow one in a container. If you like the idea of creating a tiny bonsai tree from the flame tree here is an article with instructions,


This is a truly unusual tropical tree. It can serve as a destination in itself. If you have space you will enjoy it. if not, find a way to see them in May and June in many vacation spots around the world.

If you would like to find alternative tropical flowering trees here is a list I maintain. You will find the best tree for your location.