I’m absolutely stoked today. After many years of searching, I finally found a Colville’s Glory tree (Colvillea racemosa)! Colville’s Glory is a stunning tree that puts on a big flower show from late summer to fall. Its flowers are a foot long of bright, spectacular orange. All that’s left is to find the perfect spot in my garden to show it off.
Why I Want to Grow a Colville’s Glory Tree
One look at the flowers and I was sold. They’re amazing! Just look at some of the photos below.
It reminds me of one of my other all-time favorites, the Royal Poinciana tree (Delonix regia). The foliage is quite similar. To top it all off, it grows big.
Colville’s Glory can grow 30-50ft tall and I have a super-soft spot for BIG plants. Big trees are a must for me. Not only do they provide a canopy (protection for smaller (less hardy) plants), but they also create nice shaded areas. Our horses love to chill under the big Fig and Mango trees.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of my own of this tree yet, since the plant I bought is tube stock. It’s tiny! (Update – it’s now July 5, 2022 and my tree is about 7ft tall! No flowers yet but here’s hoping!)
I’ve got a few years to go before its first flowers, but it is said to be quite fast-growing, so I have my fingers crossed. I’m also going to update this listing as it grows, so you get an idea of how fast it grows and when it starts to flower.
This is my tree:
I got mine from eBay, which is often where I get my rare and hard-to-find trees. You can create an alert for plant names and it sends you an email when new listings match your search criteria. That’s what happened this time. I got an email saying there was a match for “Colvillea” – whoopee!
I have since found some seeds on Amazon too! Here they are:
This is Colvillea racemosa, also known as Colville's Glory Tree, and Whip Tree. The large clumps of bright orange blossoms are real show stoppers.
These trees like to live in full sun to partial shade. It attracts a wide variety of bees, birds, and butterflies. USDA Hardiness Zones 10 to 11.
I’ll discuss below how easy these trees are to propagate from seeds, and whether you’re better off waiting for a plant instead.
The photos I’ve included here are from awesome people from all over the world who freely offer their photos for use. This is such a great way of spreading the word about plants and sharing gardening love!
Let’s have a look at the tree itself.
See how much it looks like the Royal Poinciana? It has the same umbrella look, which is amazing for a shady spot to sit under. The ferny foliage is lovely too.
Now… Onto how to grow Colville’s Glory!
How to Grow Colville’s Glory (Colvillea racemosa)
Let’s discuss how to grow this beautiful tree, what climate it likes, and all its other peculiarities. I want this tree to grow, so I’ll deep dive into everything I can think of for the best success.
The best way to know how best to grow a tree is to look at its natural growing conditions and replicate that.
- Colville’s Glory is from Madagascar.
- It grows in woodlands at less than 900ft elevation.
- Mean annual rainfall is 27-47″.
- It is dry for 7-9 months of the year.
My climate is quite different to Madagascar. Our annual rainfall is over 60″ per year. Our elevation is under 900ft, so we’re good in that department. However, in my case, it’s wet for 7-9 months of the year – not dry!
Yet, the tree is thriving. I believe, as long as you are in USDA zones 9, 10, or 11 (possibly 8 in a microclimate, food forest, or protected position) and the tree has good drainage – you’ll be okay. As will the tree.
Read on for more about soil, watering, where it grows, and more.
Colville’s Glory Growing Conditions
As I mentioned, Colville’s Glory looks a lot like the Royal Poinciana. The main differences are growth habit and flowers. Colville’s Glory is more upright than the Poinciana, not quite as “umbrella”. It has an open crown and the branches are a bit more “wild” than the Poinciana.
I don’t mind wild 😀
The trunk generally grows straight and can get around 3ft in diameter. This would take a long time, but something to keep in mind when you’re thinking of where to plant it.
Colville’s Glory is a fast-growing tree, 30-50 ft tall.
The flowers are foot-long clusters of very bright red/orange flowers. They are even more spectacular than the flowers on the Poinciana tree.
This is as showy as it gets!
It loves warmth and will flower in late summer to fall if your climate is right for it. Unfortunately, this is what SM Growers mentions:
Noted as extremely showy in bloom, usually in late summer to fall in locations that have enough heat to bloom this plant but we have NEVER seen or heard of it blooming in California.
They don’t have the plants for sale either, at the moment.
Where Is Colvillea racemosa From?
Colvillea racemosa is native to Madagascar. It grows in woodlands and seasonally dry forests. It tends to grow in lower areas (not on mountains) in sandy soil. Mean annual rainfall is 27-47″. It is dry for 7-9 months of the year.
To do it justice, here’s a photo of its population areas identified by the IUCN Red List. They provide a directory of trees and their status, whether they are threatened, extinct, near-extinct, etc. When I checked, Colvillea racemosa is “least concern”.
Where Does It Grow?
Colvillea racemosa grows best in areas similar to its natural habitat in Madagascar. Distinct wet and dry seasons, mean annual rainfall between 27 and 47″.
Colville’s Glory can handle quite low temperatures once it is established. Someone in Florida reported it being hardy in 27F weather, so it might even handle some light frost. To flower at its best, it needs sustained warm temperatures. It’s a tree for the tropics and subtropics, so I would say try it in warm zone 8 and up.
This tree loves warm temperatures, so it may go deciduous for a while in cooler-than-ideal climates. That’s something to be aware of.
One, you may have leaves to clean up (if that’s an issue for you), and two, if you’re growing it as a shade tree, you won’t have shade when it loses its foliage. You can take advantage of that too, though!
How? Well, if you want shade from the hot sun in summer, but let the sun through in winter to warm you up, a deciduous tree is perfect. Plant it to take advantage of the sun.
What Type of Soil Is Best for Colvillea racemosa?
Since it naturally grows in woodlands, in sandy soil, I recommend a very well-draining soil. Mix some sand in to increase drainage if you have to.
If you have a heavy-duty wet season like I do, it might be worth mounding it. Raising it a bit to increase drainage. Just keep in mind that that also means it dries out much quicker, and roots are more exposed to the elements.
Mulch deeply, always.
Garden or Containers?
This tree grows well in the garden and in large containers.
Colvillea Water Requirements
Colville’s Glory likes regular watering in summer and when it’s hot. Water less in winter and cooler times. Once they’re established, they can be quite drought hardy, especially if you mulch them deeply.
Sun or Shade?
Colville’s Glory seed has a hard seed coat. Unless you get extremely fresh seed that’s still moist, you can use scarification to help germination along.
Scarification in botany involves weakening, opening, or otherwise altering the coat of a seed to encourage germination. Scarification is often done mechanically, thermally, and chemically. The seeds of many plant species are often impervious to water and gases, thus preventing or delaying germination.–Wikipedia
There are several ways in which you can scarify the seeds. American Meadows has an in-depth guide on what to use and how to do it.
The Tropical Plants Database recommends nearly-boiling water. You pour a small amount of nearly boiling water over the seeds, but you need to be very careful not the cook them! Soak them in warm water for 12-24 hours.
They then explain:
By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen – if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing. When seedlings are raised in the nursery, they can be planted into the field after 6 – 12 months when they are 50 – 100cm tall.
You can plant the seeds out in containers or plant them straight into the garden. Sometimes, direct-sowing is beneficial because you’re not damaging any roots when you transplant them. This is the case with pumpkin seedlings, for example, they hate being transplanted!
I’m a huge fan of seed saving. I save seeds for planting next year from lots and lots of my vegetables and herbs, even my fruit trees (and the neighbor’s…).
For Colville’s Glory, you can collect the seeds from the tree or pick them up from the ground. I usually go for the “on the ground” method, because it signals that the seeds were ready to drop, rather than me guessing when the right time is.
I only use this method for big seeds, because seeds like parsley are way too hard to find in the mulch or grass.
Tropical Plants Database says you can put your seeds in water to separate viable seeds from non-viable seeds. The non-viable seeds will float. Dry your viable seeds in the sun and these can be “stored for up to 4 years and still achieve a germination rate of 50 – 70%.”
Colville’s Glory can also be propagated by cuttings, so that’s probably what I’ll try first. Cuttings can give you a real head-start and you’re also producing an exact clone of your tree.
Where to Buy Colville’s Glory
That’s the question of the day! As I mentioned, I got mine from eBay, so that’s a good place to start and put an alert out. Here are some other sources to try:
Will you grow one, or better yet, are you a lucky owner of one? Share your photos with me, pretty please. I’m not the patient type so it’s going to be hard to wait for mine to flower! Thanks for reading as always,