“Fireman’s Cap” Coral Bean (Erythrina x bidwillii)
This is one of those plants that literally stopped me in traffic the first time I saw it. I was driving down Bee Cave’s Rd here in Austin, Texas about 10 years ago and just as I was passing by Barton Springs Nursery I did my usual “sneak a peek” as I drove by and some how for the first time I noticed an enormous plant with humongous red flower spikes. Now I swear I am usually a decent driver, but I nearly crashed my car spinning into the parking lot to see what the heck this plant was.
When I first laid eyes on this Texas native jewel I knew it was love at first sight. The Fireman’s Cap Coral Bean is a full sun to part sun plant that is a completely drought tolerant, deciduous perennial. It is a super fast grower once established and is an amazing specimen in the garden. With its 2 ft long blood-red flower spikes and long tubular petals, it is also a huge hummingbird attractor and is hardy in zones 8-10. I cannot tell you the compliments I have gotten on this plant and how few people have ever seen one. It is striking in every way as it has really awesome bright green spaded leaves, and the base of it with each dormant season becomes a gnarled, twisted tree trunk that with each passing season becomes an even more interesting feature of the plant. Reaching up to 8’x8′ (taller further south of here) at maturity it definitely takes up some real estate, but this is absolutely one of those plants you want to make room for.
One of my favorite plants to use in designs for so many obvious reasons. I like to use it as an impactful “boom” of color and textures and have been known to train them as a small tree (though South of here it can reach heights of 25′) but it is an excellent shrub as well and requires a lot less work if you just let it be. It will go completely dormant after the first hard freeze and will die back pretty hard requiring a bit of clean up, but it makes a come back as soon as it is warming up and goes to bloom immediately after and will continue to bloom until it freezes again. If you do attempt to train this plant as an under story tree (most large shrubs can be turned into a small tree) be sure you do so with caution as it is spikey and she means business. This plant is also toxic so if you have little ones prone to putting things in their mouth, you might choose to avoid this plant until they are older because it drops the long flower tubes onto the ground like a red carpet and can be a problem for animals and kiddos who like to eat what they see. The good news is that it is very deer and critter resistant for the same reasons.
Obviously I am a huge fan of this plant, but if you are not convinced yet, or would just like to see it in action, check out my awesome video display!
Now go get your garden on!
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- Posted in: Central Texas Gardens ♦ Eco Friendly ♦ Education ♦ Gardening ♦ Landscape and Design ♦ Native and Adapted Plants ♦ Native Plants ♦ Perennial plants ♦ Water Wise ♦ Xeriscape ♦ Xeriscape design austin
- Tagged: Avery Ranch, Central Austin, Coral Bean, Drought tolerant landscape, Erythrina x bidwillii, Fireman's Cap Coral Bean, flowering perennials for Austin Texas, landscape designer austin, low water perennials, native Texas plants, red flowers, sun plants austin, Xeriscape designer austin, Xeriscape designs austin texas, Xeriscape plants austin