What is Delonix?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Delonix is a genus of flowering trees in the pea family, native to eastern regions of Africa, as well as Madagascar. Several species are propagated as ornamental plants in regions outside the native range of this genus. D. regia, the royal poinciana or flamboyant, is probably the most widely cultivated member of this genus. Nurseries may carry seedlings in regions where these trees can be safely grown, and it is also possible to order seedlings and seeds from suppliers, as well as to trade seeds with other gardeners.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Members of this genus can reach heights of up to 40 feet (12 meters), with a very broad spreading canopy that is often much wider than the tree is high. The leaves are feathery or lacy, consisting of numerous leaflets arrayed symmetrically in rows, and the trees produce very colorful red or orange flowers. The bold flowers eventually develop into long woody pods, like those seen in other members of the pea family, with each pod containing a number of seeds.

These plants have adapted to climates like those found in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones 10 and 11, although some people have success growing them in zone nine. In climates where the weather remains fairly uniform, the trees are evergreen. In regions with a dry season, Delonix is deciduous during the dry season and will leaf out again when wet weather returns.

The Delonix species are not at all frost tolerant, and they need full sun and rich, well-drained soil to grow. It is important to avoid planting them too close to structures, as the roots can become invasive and disruptive. Other plants with showy flowers like hibiscus can make good companion plantings, or gardeners can use more subdued tropical to subtropical plants to avoid distracting from the bold, colorful flowers. Some species can benefit from occasional pruning to shape the canopy and remove delicate limbs before they break off.

Gardeners can produce Delonix from seed. In regions where the trees are wild, seeds can be readily collected, and gardeners cultivating plants outside the native range are often happy to exchange seeds with other gardeners. The seeds need warm, moist conditions to germinate and should be sprouted inside a greenhouse. Once the Delonix seeds sprout, they can be kept indoors while they develop into seedlings, and then gradually hardened off by spending days outside and nights inside to accustom them to the climate before transplanting them outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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