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Monday - September 20, 2010

From: Santa Monica, CA
Region: California
Topic: Non-Natives, Transplants, Shrubs
Title: Tecoma stans problems in Santa Monica CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I just purchased a mature 6ft tall potted Tecoma Stance Vine (Honeysuckle), It is placed in an area where it gets at least 3 to 4 hours morning/early afternoon sun and then a shaded sun for the rest of the day. I watered it once to the point where water streamed out of the planter and now it is melting and the blooms are looking brownish. I'm worried I will lose it. Please tell me it will recover without any more watering for a while.


We hope you mean Tecoma stans (Yellow bells). This is not a member of the Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle) family, but of the Bignoniaceae, or trumpet creeper family. It also isn't really a vine, but a deciduous shrub. According to the USDA Plant Profile, it does not even grow in California, although obviously it can be purchased and attempted there. Your area in Los Angeles County is apparently in USDA Hardiness Zones 9b to 10b, and since Yellow Bells is hardy from Zones  7-11, the temperature should not be an issue.

We can, however, see several areas where it would be questionable if this plant can do well in your garden. From our Native Plant Database on this shrub:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Drought Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Well drained, rocky, limestone, sand, and loam soils
Conditions Comments: North American native varieties of this species can survive winters within their natural range but may die to the ground during especially harsh winters even there. Varieties sold in nurseries may be from tropical stock and not do so well in US cold. Yellow Bells is drought tolerant and Southwestern varieties are adapted to monsoon rains with dry spells between. They may flower better if such conditions are emulated in planned landscapes, so allow ground to dry out between waterings. It is tolerant of confinement if containers are at least 12 inches in diameter and thus makes a good potted specimen."

Note especially the mention that "varieties sold in nuseries may be from tropical stock and not do well in US..." It is a desert plant, and probably is not reacting well to the no doubt excellent potting soil you have it in. Note, too, that it needs a pot of at least 12 inches diameter to do well. Most important of these include sun exposure and drainage. We consider "sun" to be 6 hours or more of sun a day, and "part shade" 2 to 6 hours of sun a day. It doesn't sound like it is in a position where it is getting all the sun it needs. And good drainage is imperative; this is not a plant that can tolerate water standing on its roots.

Will the plant recover? Well, first, don't water again until the soil feels dry, and don't overdo it then. Move it, if possible, to a place where it gets more sun. The biggest attraction of this plant is the yellow bell blossom, and no blooming plant does as well in shade as in sun. Don't fertilize, generally speaking native plants don't need fertilizing anyway, and you should never fertilize a plant under stress, as this one obviously is. Since it is deciduous, it is going to die back at some point anyway; at that point you can trim the branches down and cut down the water even more. Keep it in sun, and it should come back out in the Spring. And the next time you want to transplant a woody plant, do it in the late Fall, when the plant is semi-dormant. Your whole problem may be transplant shock.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Tecoma stans

Tecoma stans

Tecoma stans






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