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Senna alata: Candlebrush

Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson, Ryan W. Klein, and Deborah R. Hilbert


This large, spreading shrub from Argentina, produces large spikes of golden-yellow flowers that open from bottom to top. Flower spikes look like golden candles when covered with unopened flower buds. Reaching a height of 10 to 15 feet with an equal spread, candlebrush makes an attractive specimen shrub or small tree if it is properly trained.

Mature Senna alata: Candlebrush
Figure 1. Mature Senna alata: Candlebrush
Credit: Stephen Brown, UF/IFAS

General Information

Scientific name: Senna alata

Pronunciation: Sen-nuh uh-LAY-tuh

Common name(s): Candlebrush, candlestick plant

Family: Fabaceae

USDA hardiness zones: 10A through 11 (Figure 2)

Origin: not native to North America

Invasive potential: caution, may be recommended but manage to prevent escape (North, Central, South)

Uses: specimen; container or planter; trained as a standard; deck or patio; highway median

Figure 2. Range.
Credit: UF/IFAS


Height: 10 to 15 feet

Spread: 10 to 15 feet

Crown uniformity: irregular

Crown shape: oval

Crown density: open

Growth rate: fast

Texture: coarse


Leaf arrangement: alternate (Figure 3)

Leaf type: even-pinnately compound

Leaf margin: entire

Leaf shape: obovate, oblong

Leaf venation: pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen

Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches

Leaf color: green

Fall color: no color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

Foliage of Senna alata: Candlebrush
Figure 3. Foliage of Senna alata: Candlebrush
Credit: Stephen Brown, UF/IFAS


Flower color: yellow

Flower characteristics: very showy

Flower of Senna alata: Candlebrush
Figure 4. Flower of Senna alata: Candlebrush 
Credit: Stephen Brown, UF/IFAS 


Fruit shape: pod or pod-like

Fruit length: 6 to 12 inches

Fruit covering: dry or hard

Fruit color: brown

Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches don't droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; thorns

Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure

Breakage: susceptible to breakage

Current year twig color: green

Current year twig thickness: thick, medium

Wood specific gravity: unknown


Light requirement: full sun

Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; slightly alkaline; acidic; well-drained

Drought tolerance: moderate

Aerosol salt tolerance: unknown


Roots: not a problem

Winter interest: no

Outstanding tree: no

Ozone sensitivity: unknown

Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown

Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

Candlebrush grows rapidly in full sun on a wide range of soils. Pinching new growth increases branching, creating a fuller canopy which produces more flowers. Candlebrush produces the nicest flower display when it is pruned back hard in the spring prior. It makes a beautiful accent in a shrub border or planted as a specimen in a ground cover. Locate it near the patio or by an entryway for a stunning fall accent plant. It should be used with caution due to its potential invasiveness.

Propagation is by cuttings or seed, blooming the first year from seed.


Caterpillars can cause a problem for candlebrush, eating the foliage and flower buds.


No diseases are of major concern.

Publication #ENH284

Release Date:February 19, 2024

Related Collections

Part of Southern Trees Fact Sheets

  • Critical Issue: 1. Agricultural and Horticultural Enterprises
Organism ID

About this Publication

This document is ENH284, one of a series of the Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2023. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering; Ryan W. Klein, assistant professor, arboriculture; and Deborah R. Hilbert, Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; Department of Environmental Horticulture; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


  • Michael Andreu
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