Six years ago, when we arrived in Playa del Carmen for the first time, I was struck by the beauty of a particular tree that seemed to grow prolifically in this tropical region. The Flamboyant Tree or Royal Poinciana is ablaze with fiery red flowers when it blooms, surrounded by delicate fern-like foliage. In the spring, when the leaves and flowers die off and drop, what remains is the skeletal structure covered with hundreds of large (often as long as 24 inches) hard seed pods. The seeds inside are often collected and used inside handmade percussion instruments or strung onto thread for necklaces and bracelets.

Flamboyant Tree
Photo Credit: Forest Starr and Kim Starr

Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Delonix
Species: regia
Common Names: Flamboyant Tree, Flame Tree, Peacock Flower
Origin: Madagascar
Category: Tender Perennial, Tropical
Height: 20-40 feet
Hardiness: USDA 9b-11

These are some of my favorite flowering trees and as I will be doing a lot of landscaping over the next few years, I definitely wanted to incorporate these beauties into our plans. Rather than buy the saplings from a nursery, I have decided to try to germinate the seeds myself and start them at home. It seems I am not the only Flamboyant fan out there as there is no shortage of information on the internet. This is the germination process that I am going to try first. Wish me luck.

1. Remove seeds from the hard pod. Select only those that are fully formed and shaped properly.

2. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Remove from heat.

3. Put the seeds into the hot water. Allow to soak for 3-5 minutes.

4. Add cold water to the pot to lower the temperature to about 110F.

5. Allow the seeds to soak, undisturbed for 24 hours. The outer skin surrounding the seeds should come off.

6. Place the seeds in moist potting soil and cover loosely with 1 inch of soil.

7. Cover the pot(s) with plastic wrap to preserve moisture

8. When the seedlings appear (5-7 days) remove the plastic wrap

Hopefully my experiment will go well and I can start on some of the other tropical trees that are starting to produce seeds now. We have so many beautiful flowering species whcih I will attempt to identify and propigate over the next year. If any of you locals or Caribbean neighbors have had gardening successes, I hope you will share your tips and techniques with me.

USDA Hardiness Map