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Scientific: Tecoma stans
Common: yellow bells, esperanza, yellow elder
Family: Bignoniaceae
Origin: Broadly distributed from the extreme desert Southwest and southern Baja California south through Mexico and Latin America all the way into Argentina. Here's Tecoma stans growing on the western slopes of the Miravalles Volcano in northwestern Costa Rica at an elevation of 3,500 feet.

Invasive Alert: Tecoma stans is considered to be invasive in south Florida and Hawaii.

Pronounciation: Te-CO-ma STANS

Hardiness zones
12-13, 16, 18-24
USDA 9 (sometimes cold injury in exposed areas, but quick recovery)-11

Landscape Use: Floral accent, background screen, specimen around large patios and ramadas exemplifying regional or Spanish architecture; best used in oasis and transition landscape designs settings.

Form & Character: Vigorous and upright, open, festive, informal, subtropical to tropical.

Growth Habit: Evergreen, semi-woody, broadleaf perennial shrub, moderate growth rate to 4- (dwarf cultivars) to 20-feet tall, but can be easily maintained at heights under 10 feet. Hardened stems of all Tecoma species are brittle. Dwarf cultivars are generally less vigorous and are more serviceable in compact Phoenix landscape spaces as accent shrubs.

Foliage/Texture: Opposite, pinnately-compound leaves on brownish gray stems, leaflets coarsely serrate, stem lenticels and axillary dormant buds are obvious; medium coarse texture.

Flowers & Fruits: Beautiful yellow to apricot orange or red trumpet flowers in terminal clusters, flowers attract bees; fruits are long, narrow, unattractive brown pods.

Seasonal Color: Yellow to apricot orange or red-colored flowers during all growing season, heaviest in spring and fall.

Temperature: Heat loving, but freeze sensitive. In climates colder than Phoenix, yellow bells will freeze to the ground every winter. In Phoenix, yellow bells will have freeze damage to leaves and small terminal stems during colder winters, but recovers very quickly in the spring.

Light: Full sun is required, will grows in an loose, open and rangy manner if shaded even lightly.

Soil: Yellow bells is tolerant of all Arizona soils except those with the highest degree of alkalinity.

Watering: Yellow bells responds well to regular water and fertilizer applications during summer by producing more vigorous growth and heightened flowering. It will tolerate only moderate amounts of drought.

Pruning: Prune yellow bells hard in the winter to control height and stiffen upright character.

Propagation: Softwood cutting, seed.

Disease and Pests: In the Phoenix area, Texas and phytophthora root rot fungi occasionally cause sudden plant death, usually only in heavy soils with a former agricultural use history. During late summer of wet monsoon years, a leaf skeletonizer caterpillar will ravage foliage on upper stems primarily (during dry monsoon years such as 2020 or 2023, no damage occurs). The damage to foliage is short lived and cosmetic, not lethal. Several chemical control strategies are available including a biological spray Bacillus thurengensis; however, given the growth habit of Tecoma and its rapid recovery after pruning, I recommend that one strongly head back (prune) infested plants and dispose of the damaged material.

Additional comments: Yellow bells is a great, medium to large (depending on cultivar) accent shrub for large landscaped spaces. Mostly lush green, but can look 'sparse' during periods of winter cold or high summer heat. Tecoma stans var. angustata (Arizona yellow bells) is a smaller and more fine textured northern varietal cline from southern Arizona, New Mexico, west Texas and northern Mexicio that is more drought tolerant, but also more susceptible to Texas root rot in most formerly agricultural soils. Other superior cultivars and hybrids of Tecoma stans in the Phoenix area include 'Gold Star' and 'Sundance', both of which are cultivars of smaller size and flower profusely. The cultivar 'Gold Star' was selected by Texas plant breeder Greg Grant from a private garden in San Antonio, Texas.

Noteable locally available in Phoenix Tecoma hybrids include:

Ethnobotanical factoid: Yellow bells has long been known and used by native Americans of the Southwest and Mexico for bowmaking, bee fodder and medicines.