July 7, 2010

Christmas in July? - go Pohutukawa!

Metrosideros excelsa - The New Zealand Christmas Tree

It's funny how off I am sometimes. I go and buy these plants, with the idea that they will be in bloom in the winter greenhouse since they are southern Hemisphere plants. But here we go again. This shrub, which I bought while on a trip to southern California, looked like it might be a great container plant ( which it is), and one which would be in bloom in the winter greenhouse ( which it isn't).

The Maori name for the tree is Pohutukawa, and it was considered a chiefly tree, cherished by the tribal leaders.  One would think, that with the common name of New Zealand Christmas Tree, that I would have no problem seeing this in bloom in our cold greenhouse, since in its native New Zealand, it blooms in November and December, but in our garden, this plant has chosen mid summer as it's peak blooming time. I do wonder if it will convert to a winter blooming shrub, as many Southern Hemisphere bulbs do, after a few growing seasons, but that will piss off our hummingbirds, which currently believe that Christmas in July really can happen ( even though it is over 100 deg. F ).

My tree, which came from San Marcos Growers, is listed not as a winter bloomer, but as a spring and summer bloomer, and is reported to be hardy down to 25 degrees, which makes it perfect for my greenhouse, which seems to get a light freeze every winter. I know this grows in Santa Barbara as a street tree, but I have to tell you, that in my Worcester, Massachusetts garden, it's scarlet bottlebrush flowers are getting lots of attention. I have the plant potted in a large, cobalt blue glazed pot, and it's variegated foliage is very decorative for twelve months out of the year.

With twelve species of Metrosideros, I endemic to NZ, I might try another species and see if it grows as well. The Hawaiian species of M. polymorpha might be better, but I have to admit, that I can't help but giggle when I type my image title of MetrosiderosexcelsaGala.jpg, which sounds more like a hip gay pride party, than a tree.


  1. I believe this variegated clone is a Metrosideros kermadecensis. Awesome that you have been growing it so well in Worcester!

    Jacob Knecht

  2. Lynne4:49 AM

    I was a bit baffled by your post as the NZ Pohutakawa is nick named the Christmas Tree because it flowers in our southern hemisphere summer, November to January. Here, it is synonymous with sunshine and sand and beaches and Christmas, so it has all those lovely good-feeling "vibes" associated with it.


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