Cassia Alata: Candlebrush1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson 2

Introduction

This large, spreading shrub from Argentina, very tender to frost, produces from late summer to fall, large spikes of golden-yellow flowers, opening 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.

Figure 1. Mature Cassia alata: Candlebrush
Figure 1.  Mature Cassia alata: Candlebrush

General Information

Scientific name: Cassia alata
Pronunciation: KASS-ee-uh uh-LAY-tuh
Common name(s): Candlebrush
Family: Leguminosae
USDA hardiness zones: 10A through 11 (Fig. 2)
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: specimen; container or planter; trained as a standard; deck or patio; highway median
Availability: not native to North America

Figure 2. Range
Figure 2.  Range

Description

Height: 10 to 15 feet
Spread: 10 to 15 feet
Crown uniformity: irregular
Crown shape: oval
Crown density: open
Growth rate: fast
Texture: coarse

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate (Fig. 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

Figure 3. Foliage
Figure 3.  Foliage

Flower

Flower color: yellow
Flower characteristics: very showy

Fruit

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

Culture

Light requirement: full sun
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; slightly alkaline; acidic; well-drained
Drought tolerance: moderate
Aerosol salt tolerance: unknown

Other

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 next year when it is pruned back hard in the spring. 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.

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

Pests

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

Diseases

No diseases are of major concern.

Footnotes

1. This document is ENH284, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.
2. Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.