Summer Beauty. Photo - Linda Ross
Iridescent orange, pink and red gum flowers are the must-have plants for summer, bringing in flocks of nectar feeding parrots into your garden.
They are followed by ginormous gum nuts that the seed eating birds just adore. Let’s take a closer look.
Name: Corymbia ficifolia and cultivars
Belongs: to the Myrtaceae family
Origins: Mainly Australia, some from Papua New Guinea
Flowering: Summer (usually December)
Corymbia is a fairly recent genus (previously in Eucalyptus) of about 110 species of evergreen trees, generally known as “bloodwoods”, with outstanding terminal flowers. Their nectar-rich flowers are white, yellow, cream, red, pink or orange with stamens held in cup-like bases. Urn-shaped capsules form after flowers fade, against aromatic gum leaves. They enjoy full sun and are tolerant of drought and light frost once established, can tolerate pruning if you so desire and need little else. Most are fast-growing and long-lived, however growing species outside of their endemic region can be problematic, with Western Australian species struggling in the wet, humid summers of the Eastern states. Corymbia ficifolia (Eucalyptus ficifolia) – one of Western Australia’s best, with red, orange, white or pink flowers and a rounded canopy to 9m tall, thrives in low humidity, however the following Summer Series hybrids have been developed for gardens across to Sydney and up to Brisbane. Grafting has made them tolerant of most soil types and also insures that vigour, colour and size grow ‘true to type’.
‘Summer Beauty’ – soft pink flowers, to 5m tall.
‘Summer Red’ – red flowers, to 5m tall.
‘Summer Glory’ – vibrant pink flowers, 4-6m tall.
Summer Glory. Photo - Linda Ross
Other cultivars include
‘Dwarf Orange’ or ‘Baby Orange’ – vibrant orange flowers, to 3m tall, slower-growing than the others, grows well in large pots and make good street trees (they won’t reach the wires).
‘Baby Scarlet’ – bright red flowers, to 3m tall.
‘Calypso Queen’ – salmon pink flowers, to 6m tall.
‘Wildfire’ – striking scarlet red flowers, to 6m tall.
Orange Splendour. Photo - Linda Ross
Summer: Should you not notice yours flowering, the noise from the party the Lorikeets are having in it will give you a hint! Fluffy, fluorescent-like stamens appear at the ends of each branch, so wonderfully bright in colour. Prune off spent flowers on young trees in January so they don’t put all their energy into developing big gumnuts. Established trees don’t have to be pruned so you can choose to let the birds continue with their after-party amongst the gumnuts, or prune lightly after flowering to create an even better floral display next year.
Autumn: Tidy up any wayward growth.
Winter: Mulch around the base, in preparation for spring and summer.
Spring: Fertilise in early spring with a native fertiliser. The recommended time to plant a young tree is in early spring, after the threat of frost has passed. A free draining spot is best; improve the soil with composted cow manure and slightly mound-up the planting location. This will improve drainage and root development. Avoid disturbing the root ball unless roots are ‘pot bound’, in this case, lightly tease out the lower roots. Plant centrally in the mound at a depth not above the graft union; identified by a change in bark colour. Firm down the soil lightly and water in well with a seaweed solution.
Brilliant Orange. Photo - Linda Ross
We love them with
A simple mass under-planting of Dianella ‘Little Jess’, which works as a living mulch and has contrasting bright blue berries on show when these stunning gums are flowering. Use them in native gardens to achieve vertical interest and get height without freaking out the neighbours! It’s a perfect tree for sunny small spaces, terraces and balconies.
Like many native plants, they’re sensitive to phosphorous so be sure to only use native plant fertilisers or ones with a phosphorous level less than 3%.
Flower colour in the red and pink flowering species may not always come true from seed. They attract nectar feeding birds, and bees of course.
Where to buy
From our nursery partners throughout summer, specialist native plant nurseries and online nurseries.
Corymbia ‘Summer Snow’
If bright reds and pinks are just too garish for your taste, enjoy the classic, understated beauty of this one with creamy white flowers, to 5-7m tall.
Summer Snow. Photo - photolibrary.com