Bombax ceibu tree

siegel2June 19, 2005

Well over ten years ago I sent away for some Bombax ceibu seeds. (What was I thinking?) The strongest grower soon out grew every pot it was planted in. Finally I planted it in the ground in front of my house. Now its really huge. But it never flowers.

Is my warm season too short for it to develop flowers? I have about 7 months of 50 degree or above night time lows. I`m about 10 miles inland from the Pacific in south Orange County in CA.

Anyone else growing one in southern CA?

Here`s a photo of the tree:

Here`s the trunk (sorry about the angle. Its surrounded by rose bushes.):

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Bill(z10 swFL)


Mine never bloomed until it was about the size yours appears to be, so do not give up.


    Bookmark   June 19, 2005 at 10:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Thanks so much for your encouraging post!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2005 at 12:18AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Bill(z10 swFL)

I have to be positive. One thing I realized is Bombax ceiba has a great method of avoiding hurricane damage. It sheds its branches in order to keep the trunk intact. After Charley, mine has only about 1/4 of its branches left. During its dormany period, between being leafless and missing so many branches, tree companies would stop and offer to cut that dead tree down for some ridiculous price. It is coming back though, and I hope will bloom again this winter. It is a survivor, and I think interesting enough without blooms to keep, but if you have ever seen a large one in full bloom, it is quite a sight.It is worth the wait.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2005 at 11:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
chris32599(9b-10a AZ usa)

The tree in your photo looks more like the silk floss tree, Chorisia speciosa, not Bombax ceiba. I have both trees and the trunk of Bombax is more brown or gray in color, Chorisia is green in color like yours in the photo..

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 4:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Thanks so much for your post. It does look like a silk floss, but if it is a silk floss, it should have definitely flowered by now.

The other thing is way back when I ordered the seeds, I never would have ordered silk floss tree seeds because they are so common here in southern CA. If I wanted that kind of tree, I would have gone out and bought one and not bothered trying to grow one from seed.

This one is kinda far away, but the bark looks pretty green.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2005 at 12:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Bill(z10 swFL)

The other thing that I have seen about Bombax ceiba is that it is so variable. Mine has no spines at all. I purchased it from a trusted nursery, and the flower looks right, so I am sure it is what it is. I have seen many with spines, and different colored trunks. Most of the mature ones in my area are also another color variety, the flowers are orange, and not deep red like mine, or the one growing at Selby. I have stopped making any certain statements since I think you cannot be sure with this tree. I agree that if it were a silk floss it would have flowered, they flower at a much smaller size.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2005 at 10:00AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
chris32599(9b-10a AZ usa)

Hi Gary

I think your tree is a Chorisa and not Bombax for several reasons. Other than its looks, it took me years to get a bombax, and one reason was every place I order seeds from, the tree turned out to be Chorisa in most cases... The seed of these two tree look almost the same.... I finally got a tree from a nursery in Israel when I was there... Bombox are common there in large parks, but Chorisa is rare there..

Another reason I don't think your tree is a bombax is because, bombax get root rot during your cool wet winters. Bombax are more tropical then chorisa. This is why you don't see them in California... The Los Angeles arboretum got around this by grafting bombax on to chorisa rootstock... They have about 6 of these grafted trees there, they are less than 20' but they flower.

Another way to tell the two trees apart, chorisa trees leaves are serrated (toothed), bright green in color. Bombax leaves are not serrated and are more of a dull olive green in color..If you every go to the LA arboretum check out there grafted bombax trees.... About flowering, I have found that flowering trees that are well fed and water, sometimes delay flowering for years, I don't know if this is the case with your tree....


    Bookmark   July 20, 2005 at 3:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Bombax can grow in Southern CA. I recently acquired an 8 ft. one.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2005 at 4:00AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wow, juicy thread topic! Many good points made, and I agree with many points--for starters, just when you think you have mastered IDing any of the trees of Bombax, Ceiba, Pseudobombax and Pachira (when you don't have the luxury of seeing the flowers) it all gets confusing as to which has throns, which does, and then defining "late winter" expectations of flowering as compared to "spring",e tc.

Bill, good eye--B. ceiba has a few different color forms--a nice red (sounds like you have this one), a typical orange and there is also a rarer golden flower, too.

Since all these members of the Malvaceae (yeah, once in Bombaceae) enjoy a distinct dry season to help their inner clocks, I noticed that Cagary has the (nasty) roses planted at the tree's base. This could be problematic, as Chris points out, that the roses will love and respond to fertilizer and water, whereas a Bombax sp, Ceiba sp will not truly enjoy a solid dry dormancy (which encourages nice floral bursts).

My next question is when these trees flower in southern CA--since your winters are cool and wet, yet summer hot and dry. Would it be logical that these trees would hold off flowering until the wet seasson tapers down and the sun is intense--as in April/May? OR, do they still seem to appear to flower per the calendar year (such as Ceiba speciosa flowering in OCt/Nov, Pseudobombax grandiflora in Dec, Pachira in summer, etc.).


    Bookmark   December 18, 2005 at 2:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Poiu, I will ask my neighbor about flowering time  he is familiar with these plants and is a tree specialist. I believe he said the flower was white. His plants are container grown.
I have always admired the Chorisa, but have only seen the red. I recently acquired Kapok seeds, which I guess I will need should I some day attempt grafting.
I am new to the bombax, and am in the process of learning about it. I know it needs to be protected from frost, or the leaves can burn. We usually experience frost a couple of times a year, so it is not subject to too much of it.
Does anyone know about seed production & pollination? Do I need bombax pollen to produce a "true" bombax seed? Is it self pollinating? If I have a Chloriosa nearby, will they cross, & produce a mixed progeny? Also, if anyone knows of a seed source for the bombax I would be interested. E-mail me privately if you want.
I believe there is another botanic garden in Southern CA that has these trees. Once I find the name I will post it.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2005 at 4:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The bombax flowers in the spring and summer in Southern CA. I am unsure of the floss silk. I spoke with a botanist yesterday, who believed they self pollinated. Evidentially there is also a rare black form of this species, but I am unsure as to its botanic name.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2005 at 8:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Cagery, when your Bombax was young, did you repot regulary? I've a Bombas, 4-5 yrs old, in a 4" pot..It's abou9t 1' tall..I live in IL so I think that's one reason it's so slow growing..Do you have any advice for me..Thanks, Toni

    Bookmark   December 20, 2005 at 5:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I did re-pot my tree regularly. After about six years of re-poting to larger and larger sizes, I finally put it in a fifteen gallon size pot. After another couple of years it out grew this pot so I planted in the ground. After doing so, the growth rate just exploded. Every year it more than doubled in size. I've never topped it. It stopped getting much taller after it reached 30 feet.

I don't know what to tell you. This particular tree seems to have to get quite large and quite old before it flowers so I don't know when you'll ever get to see a flower on yours.

Mine is about 15 years old now, but still no flowers.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2005 at 6:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
chris32599(9b-10a AZ usa)

Hi Baci

If the flowers are white, it's most likly Chorisia insignis...there are flowering trees in S. Calif...if they are small white flowers it could be Ceiba pentandra the kapok tree...but I dought that because I don't know of any Ceiba pentandra in California that ever flowered..

The sad fact is that most chorisia were called bombax at one time and are still sold under that name by many.....

    Bookmark   December 20, 2005 at 10:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for your response, Chris. Most chloriosa pictures I have seen have trunks with spikes on it. Their leaves are also pointed. Mine has no spikes. The Ceiba pentandra on the net has pointed leaves. Mine looks similar to this:

I have recently seen a kapok planted on a well draining hill. That would prevent root rot.

Anyway, I will go back to the owner to get the botanic name. He was a rare plant collector, & his lifeÂs work was working with trees. He traveled internationally collecting rare trees. So excuse all my simple questions, but I really want to learn as much as I can about these trees.

Chris, have you ever heard of a black tree in this species? Since you are in AZ, will these trees survive, with adequate protection in desert areas?

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 8:12AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
chris32599(9b-10a AZ usa)

Hi Baci

I saw the picture on the site you is a Pseudobombax ellipicum, the shavingbrush tree....years ago its genus was Bombax and was considered a species of Bombax.... and it is still commonly sold under the name Bombax.....there are two forms, a white flowering one and a pink flowering form....

The white form is hardier than the pink form and they grow to about 25 to 30 feet or so....

The Red silk cotton tree or the red kapok tree is Bombax ceiba also once named Bombax malabaricum...this is a large tropical tree that grows to 70 to 100 feet tall and they form large buttressed trunks...they are frost tender and develop root rot in cool wet soils....

I think I heard of a black form but I am not sure of its placement in the genus-species area....

Pseudobombax should do well for you...likes sun and fast draining soil....

I have Chorisia, Bombax, Pseudobombax and Ceiba pentandra in my jungle area of my garden....

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 4:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

And, Chorisia will be sold as "chorisia" for years too, now, even though they are now Ceiba speciosa. New publications already show "Chorisia" is a widespread common name.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 6:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Baca, is that your plant? Do you know its age and height? All all my 'bottle trees', that one goes dormant first..I'm in IL. They're semi-dormant now, so I withhold feeding, and really let soil dry out..My 5 trees are 3-4 yrs old, each almost 2' tall..But you must remember they were very small when I purchased them..about 7"w/o the thicker part of the trunk. Toni

    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 7:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

hopefulauthor, no it is not my plant. I am going to the LA arboretum soon to compare it with the trees there. Mine is over 8 ft. I am not in question about the ID, as the previous owner owned a rare plant nursery and contributed trees &/or co-started some of the local botanic parks around here. You kind of need to know what you are doing to start a botanic park in Southern CA. I stumble over the botanic language, however, which I am sure is confusing.
I appreciate all the info & will return to it when I get more time. I presently need to research the care of some very specific plants, however, and will turn my attention to this right now rather than the other trees. I find the post quite interesting, but I can not return to it right now as I have a personal matter I need to attend to.
As the discussion continues, it might be interesting to pursue the subject of the black kapok.
Thanks all for all your help.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2005 at 10:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi everyone,

I have a blooming Pseudobombax ellipticum in a pot and trimmed as a caudiciform and another one in the ground growing as a tree but it's only about seven feet tall. Both of them bloom. However, I was told by a knowledgeable person that my white Pseudobombax ellipticums are most likely Pseudobombax grandiflorums, as white P. ellipticums are extremely rare. I also have a pink form of Pseudobombax ellipticum and its leaves are almost twice as large as the so-called white forms that I have.

I also have a Pseudobombax palmeri and a Ceiba aesculifolia.

As far as blooming age--both of my white P. "ellipticums" and the pink P. ellipticum have bloomed, so I don't think that age is quite an issue with them. Also on another site I frequent, a lady from Texas posted pics of the beautiful electric pink blossoms from a plant of Chorisia (Ceiba) speciosum that she grew from seed. If I remember correctly, the plant was only three years old. I have a modest-sized (12 foot) Chorisia speciosum that has been in the ground for about 15 years and it has bloomed only once about 7-8 years ago.

Another fellow grower I know has a Pseudobombax maximum and a P. septenatum.


    Bookmark   December 28, 2005 at 1:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Fouquieria--is your white P. ellipticum flowering NOW? P. grandiflorums flower notably earler than P. ellipticum.

I have tried to ID a white pseudobombax this month. Since it is flowering so early, I was convinced it was P. grandiflorum. But, then when consulting literature on specific floral anatomy, I am now convinced that it is likely P. ellipticum 'Album'. The petal curvature, hair color, number of stamens and the fused groupings of stamens seem to follow the desiriptions of P. ellipticum.

I'm in Southern FL, though, and I don't think P. ellipticums are rare here, but 'Album' is. Another curve ball is that Wilma did a direct hit here, so that could have greatly disrupted natural cycles, too--the tree may indeed think it is now late January.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2005 at 6:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
pilotkh4(N.T. Aust)

Here's my two cents worth. You have already got some great technical info so i'll not even attempt to offer any more. However, I live in the Northern Territory of Australia, very tropical and also home to Bombax ceiba. I have two points for you to consider.
1. The Bombax that grow here have fairly brown trunks but have no thorns. I have a mate who has the most beautiful specimen I have seen growing just south of Cairns in tropical north Queensland. His is about 9-10' tall and is covered in so many flowers that you can't see the trunk or branches. It is also covered, completely in vicious looking thorns. So many that the thorn bases overlap over the entire trunk.
2. The Bombax ceiba here grow in very hard conditions. Our summer is very hot and wet and our winter is mild and completely dry for 5-6 months. The ground bakes hard and there is no moisture available for the trees from late May until early December.
I hope this helps.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 12:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
castorcrap(z5 wv & z6 Md)

Does anyone know if a pseudobombax ellipticum can only develop the "soccer ball" swollen green mottled trunk if it is cut extremely low to the base. IM making mine into a bonsai kind of. It no goes 14" of pure strait trunk before branchin. Can I wack it down lower? or would the long/ first 13" develop attractive green stripes?
castor crap

    Bookmark   January 30, 2006 at 9:32AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

There is a Chorisia insignis tree at The Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, near Pasadena. It is pretty spiky all right. The sign said it was from South America.

Here is a link that might be useful: Chorisia insignis

    Bookmark   June 6, 2006 at 3:12AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hello All!
I'm new here and am looking for some good advice on growing Ceiba pentandra here.
Searching the net I am finding actually conflicting stories on their needs. So some solid help C. pentandra needs would be a godsend!
Any information on sun, water, soil, etc. will be awesome.

Thanks so much,


    Bookmark   October 5, 2006 at 7:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi all there,
this year I brought a whole fruit of a ceibu tree from Colonia / Uruguay back home. Does anybody know what I have to do with it? Should I get the seed out of it or may I put it into the earth as it is?

The flowers have been deep red nearly magenta. Look at the third last picture here:

Here is a link that might be useful: Colonia El Sacramento

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 6:19AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi folkz,
it's native in my place(Assam). Quite a beautiful species, with colors ranging from deep pink and to faded orange. Coincidentally I planted one today to try out a bonsai.

@eyiogbe : I was searching for the same and get in here. Bombax do well in moderate temperatures and humid conditions.

@ toccato : Your seeds will surely sprout if they are mature enough(the pod turns brown).

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 3:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It's also a native here. They're a wide spread tree, from India, through southern Asia, and to Australia. We call them Kapok Tree. There's also a Kapok Bush here. Totally unrelated, grows as a large spindly shrub to small tree size. It has yellow flowers though, but the same seed pods with kapok.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 8:20PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Need ID please
Can anyone identify this tiny tropical plant, please?...
josephines123 z5 ON Canada
It may be too late, but what it happening to my Avocado tree?
So my little tree is about ten months old. The whole...
Making roots larger on Ficus 'Ginseng'
Hi! This is my first post ever on the forums! I recently...
Very unusual interesting plant starting to flower
I've posted this elsewhere but thought I'd put it here...
Looking to swap rare tropical seeds and such
Looking to trade rare tropical seeds and such. Please...
Tropical Gardener
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™