How to Propagate a Coastal Coral Tree (Erythrina Caffra)

I’ve been noticing over the last year that Mind Your Dirt receives a great many inquiries about the Coastal Coral tree. Two of my articles on the species gets read daily, and often several times per day. This article covers the species as a whole, and this article discusses when and how to prune erythrina caffra.

I’ve often wondered what it is about erythrina caffra that causes so many people to make their way to my humble doorstep in search of answers. The species itself is indeed a beautiful specimen tree with an amazing sweeping short and stout umbrella like canopy, both alien and breathtaking bright red flowers and powerful and very organic flowing trunk and branches. Just see for yourself, I went out hunting for photogenic specimens just for you. You’re welcome.

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A beautiful smaller specimen flanking the Cabrillo bridge in Balboa Park, San Diego, CA.
Coastal Coral Propagation 05_Coastal Coral Balboa Park_Trunk Detail
On the opposite side of the Cabrillo bridge in Balboa Park sits another specimen. Here is a detail of the trunk.
Coastal Coral Propagation 03_Coastal Coral Balboa Park_Branching Detail
Off of Park Blvd. alongside Balboa Park. This coastal coral is a detail of the feature image above. A lovely example of that broad, sweeping (yet stout) trunk and branching.

So I can see the interest, but why is so much Interwebish (I know, relax) traffic drawn to this subject? Mind your Dirt offers a plethora of stories of equally amazing species all over it’s back pages. What drives this keen interest to the coastal coral tree?

Then it struck me. Several years ago when I was researching ways to propagate the species online, I had a hell of a time finding solid propagation information. A bit here, a smattering over there; but nothing solid and concise. To quote my past self…

“I scoured The Interwebs for hours looking for cutting propagation techniques. To no avail. Then I stumbled upon a PDF put together by some remote horticultural school in some small farm community somewhere in nowhere USA. The farmers were using coastal coral trees as natural fences and had a technique to quickly propagate large six foot branches! It was absolutely perfect and if I could find it again I’d link it here to give these saviors proper credit.”

Only in this day and age would one consider “scouring for hours” to be any form of extensive research, but if you know how to search effectively it shouldn’t take this long to find info on a relatively well known species. So that’s what I’m here to do; share that seemingly lost information so that it can have a new forever-home on The Interwebs and all you amazing people can begin to grow and love this amazing tree as well! How nice of me huh?

I have tried many different methods for propagation of this species (to grow as bonsai stock). Seeds are perfect, but they take a wee bit longer to achieve a beautiful and stately tree in the yard. I tried taking smaller six inch segments of the new green growth thinking that they would root successfully. I believe I tried about twenty or so of those. All of them rotted into nothingness in short order.

The key is to take larger woody branch sections and allow them to dry out before potting them. Without further adieu, here is how to grow a coastal coral tree…

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Bonsai Style Inspiration: Ficus Macrophylla (Moreton Bay Fig) and Developing Root Flare


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A beautiful and well developed cypress bonsai nebari. Via

An amazing and beautiful design element in bonsai is the root flare or nebari. Also known as buttressing, this method is a perfect way to make a bonsai appear ancient, grounded and well anchored to the growing medium. Without it, bonsai tend to look like you just stuck a stick in the dirt and the viewer is not awed and their mind remains un-blown. Continue reading “Bonsai Style Inspiration: Ficus Macrophylla (Moreton Bay Fig) and Developing Root Flare”

How to Repot a Bonsai: The Chinese Elm

I’m not exactly certain as to how old my Chinese Elm bonsai is. I know it’s the oldest bonsai I have in my collection, but I am not the first owner so I can’t be sure its exact age. Lets just say it’s old and leave it at that. Old enough for me to have been afraid to repot it for the last few years. Today is the day where I must get over that fear and dive in head first.

It’s growth has been stunted the last year and a half, so I just know that the pot it getting root bound and the soil is spent. It’s time to sh*t or get off the pot, if you will. So, with that said, let’s dive in!

Here it is in its shabby state.

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Chinese Elm Bonsai

Try to ignore the wild growth on the left side, I’m trying to create some new branching so it’s gonna look unsightly for a while. Notice instead the general lack of foliage and the shabbiness of the soil. Gross!

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Chinese Elm Nebari

Continue reading “How to Repot a Bonsai: The Chinese Elm”