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.