Why don’t Flame trees flower more often?

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Brachychiton acerifolius is an amazing medium sized tree, when it flowers!!! Unfortunately I think I can safely put it in the same flowering category as Gymea Lilys, which is difficult… Doryanthes excelsa flowers on average after 7 years, Brachychiton acerifolius is often more like 8, thats a long time to wait for a tree to flower. But when it does it is simply beautiful. The Brachychiton acerifolius in these particular images was one specimen in a line of 8, it was the only one in flower, all the others were in full leaf 😉 not very good odds hey?



In the image above you can see a fine specimen in full flower, this was taken in late November and the tree hasn’t put any leaf on yet, just flowers. That is another useful feature of the Illawarra Flame tree and that is that it can be deciduous, sometimes only partly loosing its leaves other times fully. It seems that they flower a lot better when they have no leaves.



I have sometimes seen some flame trees with their new green leaves out and still some flowers on part of the plant, it looks pretty weird and this is another reason that most Brachychiton species can now be bought grafted. Grafting takes some of the pot luck out of the flowering, it means they will flower earlier, often in the first season of planting and it also means they will be more likely to flower all over rather than in patches, and every year rather than when they feel like it.



The Illawarra Flame tree makes a wonderful shade tree, feature tree or screening plant for larger gardens. They tend to be a little slow growing but will withstand long periods of drought and fairly heavy shade. I only use grafted species in my garden designs now as I want people to be able to appreciate the amazing flowers and not just the lush green leaves with their partly deciduous disparity.



5 responses to “Why don’t Flame trees flower more often?”

  1. Helen Kendall

    I have a large Flame Tree that currently is filled with green healthy leaves, some beginning to fall. However, not one flower this year. My next door neighbour also has an established Flame Tree, full of flowers, but not a leaf on the tree. Being next door I would say that conditions for growth are the same. Why do they flower differently?

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Helen,

      It is a very good question, I suspect they will flower best when under a little environmental stress…otherwise they seem to just put on new leaf. Generally speaking they do loose all their leaves and then become covered in flowers, it is a mystery 😉 hopefully you can rejoice in your neighbours flame tree flowers,

      Best Wishes,


  2. Barbara Roestenburg

    I have had my flame tree in for at least 10 years. The leaves are lush and green but it has never flowered.
    It is in well drained soul and gets plenty of water.
    Can you tell me why it hasn’t flowered please?

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Barbara,

      I’m sorry but I really don’t know, perhaps you are being too nice to it? most natives tend to like a little bit of adverse conditions to flower well, pull back on the water and fertiliser if you are using them and see if that makes a difference.

      Good luck!


  3. Geoffrey Bennett

    I purchased my Illawarra flame tree and planted is about 17 years ago It is about 20 feet tall now but has never flowered Is it because we live in Somerville about 70 Ks south of I don’t fertilise it Should I and what should I use

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