Hartley Magazine

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Free-flowering Tecomas—Sparkling Blossoms for Greenhouse and Garden

Tecoma Bells of Fire

Want the perfect bloomer for the winter greenhouse? How about one that continually festoons itself with blossoms in the colors of a summer sunrise? Let me introduce you to tecomas.

“In the greenhouse they’ll bloom every day of the year,” says their foremost breeder, horticulturalist George Hull. The retired Arizona State University professor explains that these medium-sized (5’ x 4’) evergreen shrubs are not held back by shortened day-length.

They produce their bell-shaped flowers with astonishing alacrity. From seed, George tells me, they’ll put forth a flower in nine weeks. “They bloom on new wood,” he says, “so in containers, you can control the size by cutting them back by half in summer.” Then, quicker than you think, they’ll start to flower again on the multiple branches your pruning has encouraged.

Tecoma Lydia

In Zone 9 and above, tecomas are happy planted in the landscape. But during the colder months in most of the country, they’ll bloom their heads off in a well-lit greenhouse or sunroom.  Grow them in large containers. Two-foot diameter or bigger works best. Feed every two weeks with a balanced organic fertilizer (3-5-4 for instance) and water regularly.

What’s a Tecoma?

These beautiful blue-green leafed shrubs are relatively new to the market. Mostly native to the Americas, the tough plants grow from the southwest U.S. all the way down to Argentina. George got interested in breeding them in 2004, when he took over the hybrid collection of the late Dr. Ying Doon Moy at the San Antonio Botanical Garden.

George made a foray to Argentina for wild-gathered seed, and got permission to acquire seed from the Huntington collection in Pasadena. He’s been developing tecomas with an eye-popping range of colors in orange, maroon, as well as golden yellow. For the future he’s working on crosses with even more compactness and floriferous displays.

Tecoma Sparklette

Here are some of George’s choices to brighten your indoor growing room this winter.

Tecoma Bells of Fire™ (Tecoma ‘TEC6010916’) – Red bells that are beloved by hummingbirds cover this shrub.

T. Sparky™ – The flowers are maroon and yellow—the school colors of ASU, so this one is named after the school’s mascot.

T. Sparklette™ – Similar colors to ‘Sparky’ on a more compact plant, thus the diminutive name.

T. Lydia™ (T. ‘TEC60109106’) – Bright yellow bells are held on graceful stems that can drape over the sides of a container or even a large hanging basket.