Kahuroa, Wikimedia Commons Contributor
Plant Common Name
New Zealand Christmas Tree, Pohutukawa
With brilliant crimson blossoms in late spring and early summer, the pohutukawa, or New Zealand Christmas tree, is among the world's most beautiful flowering trees. Native to New Zealand, it blooms there in December, which is summertime in the southern hemisphere. This broadleaf evergreen tree develops an upright, rounded canopy. Its root system is extensive and problematic because the surface roots crack and lift sidewalks and patios if growing space is limited.
Young plants resemble shrubs but develop into trees with age. They are covered with glossy green, oval leaves with recurved edges. As plants age, the leathery leaves become less shiny and turn dark green with gray, felty undersides. The crushed leaves and branches smell of pine. Anytime from late spring to early summer, branch tips bear dome-like clusters of crimson flowers that lack petals but are teeming with long, whisker-like stamens. Emerging buds are white and felty. Nectar-loving insects and birds relish the blossoms and leathery seed capsules develop after pollinated.
Grow New Zealand Christmas tree in a sunny spot with loam that is slightly acidic. This plant tolerates heat, drought and salt spray, but cannot withstand subfreezing temperatures. Lower branches can be pruned away to encourage a tree-like habit. This is a short-lived tree that will typically survive no more than 30 years. It makes a fine tree for mild coastal landscapes. Plant as a specimen tree in a spacious lawn, seaside garden, or large planter. It has many surface roots that can damage pavement, so it does not make a good street tree for space-limited tree lawns.
There are several appealing cultivars to choose from; 'Aurea' produces golden yellow flowers and 'Gala' has dark red flowers with gold accents on the stamens and green leaves spotted with yellow.
AHS Heat Zone
12 - 9
USDA Hardiness Zone
10 - 12
H1, H2, 16, 17, 23, 24
Full Sun, Partial Sun
30'-65' / 9.1m - 19.8m (35)
20'-40' / 6.1m - 12.2m (20)
Late Spring, Early Summer
Container, Feature Plant, Mixed Border, Screening / Wind Break, Shade Trees, Street Trees, Tropical
Sharp or Has Thorns