This spreading, fast-growing evergreen shrub or small tree can grow to a height of 10 to 30 feet and is noted for its brilliant, bell-shaped, fragrant yellow flowers. Reaching full bloom in fall, yellow elder produces some flowers with each flush of new growth and therefore has some color most of the year.
Scientific name: Tecoma stans
Pronunciation: teh-KOE-muh stanz
Common name(s): yellow elder, yellow trumpet flower, yellow trumpetbush
USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Figure 2)
Origin: native to the tropical America's and the West Indies
UF/IFAS Invasive Assessment Status: invasive and not recommended except for "specified and limited" use approved by the UF/IFAS Invasive Plant Working Group
Uses: street without sidewalk; parking lot island < 100 sq ft; parking lot island 100-200 sq ft; parking lot island > 200 sq ft; deck or patio; container or planter; specimen; espalier; tree lawn 3-4 feet wide; tree lawn 4-6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; highway median
Height: 10 to 30 feet
Spread: 8 to 30 feet
Crown uniformity: irregular
Crown shape: oval
Crown density: moderate
Growth rate: moderate
Leaf arrangement: opposite/subopposite
Leaf type: odd-pinnately compound; made up of 5 to 13 leaflets
Leaf margin: serrate
Leaf shape: lanceolate to elliptic
Leaf venation: pinnate, brachidodrome
Leaf type and persistence: semi-evergreen, evergreen
Leaf blade length: 4 to 10 inches; leaflets are 1½ to 5 inches
Leaf color: yellowish green to dark green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy
Flower color: bright yellow with thin, red vertical lines along the inner throat
Flower characteristics: very showy; trumpet-shaped; somewhat fragrant; emerges in clusters on racemes
Flowering: primarily spring and fall, but also year-round
Fruit shape: elongated; long slender capsule
Fruit length: 4 to 10 inches
Fruit covering: dry or hard
Fruit color: turns from bright green to brown when mature
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem
Fruiting: primarily spring and fall, but also year-round
Trunk and Branches
Trunk/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; no thorns
Bark: light gray to brown, with white lenticels when young, then becomes fissured with age
Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure
Current year twig color: green
Current year twig thickness: thin
Wood specific gravity: unknown
Light requirement: full sun
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; alkaline; acidic; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: moderate
Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: yes
Outstanding tree: yes
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown
Pest resistance: free of serious pests and diseases
Use and Management
While sometimes trained to a single trunk, yellow elder is most often used as a specimen or mixed into a shrub border. The somewhat weedy growth requires pruning to control shape, but it is worth the effort due to the brilliant flowers. Its small stature allows it to be used beneath power lines as a street tree.
Growing in full sun on any well-drained soil, yellow elder survives on rain alone making it well-suited to naturalized and low-maintenance gardens. It would also make a nice patio tree and is suited for planting in parking lot islands and medians. The dropping fruit can cause a slight litter problem.
Plants grow easily from seed and can also be propagated from cuttings. Seedlings are easily transplanted and will bloom within two years.
Yellow elder is relatively pest-free with chewing insects and scale being only minor problems.
No diseases are of major concern.
Koeser, A.K., Friedman, M.H., Hasing, G., Finley, H., Schelb, J. 2017. Trees: South Florida and the Keys. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.