Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans)

Esperanza, Trumpetbush, Trumpetflower, Yellowbells, Yellow Bells, Yellow Bignonia, Yellow Elder, Yellow Trumpetbush, Yellow Trumpetflower

If you like the brightly colored flowers of trumpet vine, esperanza is a good alternative, with compact varieties suitable for small spaces. This evergreen shrub or small tree grows year-round in frost-free regions of California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida. In colder areas, esperanza can be treated as an annual or overwintered indoors in a container.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Tecoma stans is a species of flowering perennial shrub in the trumpet vine family, Bignoniaceae. Common names include yellow trumpetbush, yellow bells, yellow elder, ginger Thomas. Tecoma stans is the official flower of the United States Virgin Islands and the floral emblem of The Bahamas.

Tecoma stans is a semi-evergreen shrub or small tree, growing up to 10 m (30 ft) tall. It features opposite odd-pinnate green leaves, with 3 to 13 serrate, 8- to 10-cm-long leaflets. The leaflets, glabrous on both sides, have a lanceolate blade 2–10 cm long and 1–4 cm wide, with a long acuminate apex and a wedge-shaped base.

The large, showy, golden yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers are in clusters at the ends of branches. The corolla of the flower is bell- to funnel-shaped, five-lobed (weakly two-lipped), often reddish-veined in the throat and is 3.5 to 8.5 cm long. Flowering takes place from spring to fall, but more profusely from spring to summer.

The fruits, narrow capsules, arise from two carpels and are up to 25 cm long. A fruit contains many yellow seeds with membranous wings; when the fruit opens upon ripening, these seed are spread by the wind (anemochory). The flowers attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Apart from sexually by seed, Tecoma stans can also be reproduced asexually by stem cuttings.

Tecoma stans is native to the Americas. It extends from the southern United States through Mexico, Central America, and the Antilles to northern Venezuela, and through the Andes mountain range to northern Argentina. It was introduced in southern Africa, India, and Hawaii.

 

Yellow trumpetbush is a ruderal species, readily colonizing disturbed, rocky, sandy, and cleared land and occasionally becoming an invasive weed. It thrives in a wide variety of ecosystems, from high altitude temperate forests and tropical deciduous and evergreen forests, to xerophilous scrub and the intertropical littoral. It quickly colonizes disturbed, rocky, sandy, and cleared fields. The species prefers dry and sunny regions of the coast.

II. How to Grow and Care

Sunlight

Yellow bells thrive in full sun but can be grown in partially shaded areas. However, yellow bells grown in partial shade will not grow as tall or as lush as those that receive 6 hours of sunlight or more each day.

Temperature and Humidity

Yellow bells are naturally found in warm climates, such as the Sonoran Desert. They are both heat and cold tolerant but will go dormant in temperatures below freezing. This robust shrub can withstand both droughts and humid climates.

Watering

Yellow bells prefer dry to slightly moist soil conditions. As a desert plant, yellow bells are drought tolerant and can handle dry spells. Be sure not to overwater, as this can lead to rot problems. Natural rainfall is often enough to keep this plant thriving.

In droughts, yellow bells appreciate some supplemental water. You may need to water plants once or twice a month. During extended droughts, weekly watering may be needed. 

Soil

Yellow bells are tolerant of many soil conditions, but they do best in rich, slightly moist, well-draining soil. Adding a healthy amount of compost to the soil is an efficient way to ensure adequate draining while providing important nutrients.

Fertilizing

Plants need very little supplemental fertilizer. Apply an all-purpose slow-release fertilizer at the time of planting. To increase bloom and vigor for plants in poor soil, feed every one to two months during the growing season with an all-purpose granular or liquid fertilizer. Mulch around the base in spring with a layer of compost.

Container plants will benefit from an application of liquid fertilizer every 4 to 6 weeks in summer.

Planting Instructions

When to plant:

Esperanza can be planted during cooler months of spring or fall.

Where to plant:

Place in a site that receives full sun. Plants can tolerate some shade, but may become lanky and produce fewer flowers with less light.

How to plant:

Loosen soil in the planting area and amend with compost or other rich organic matter. Dig a hole twice as wide and slightly deeper than the root ball. Remove plant from the nursery container and loosen roots if potbound. Place the plant in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding soil. Fill in the hole with soil, tamp down gently to remove air pockets, and water thoroughly. Water regularly until established.

Pruning

Annual pruning can help a yellow bell shrub maintain its shape and encourage new healthy growth. Prune in the late winter after the threat of frost. Remove old growth inner branches and cut the old woody growth back. If there is no green wood growth, cut the shrub to the ground. In most cases, it will re-grow quickly in the spring.

Propagation

Yellow bells are easily propagated through cuttings taken in the spring or summer. To do this, you will need a sharp knife or pair of garden snips, a small pot with drainage holes, a plastic bag, a rubber band, and rich, well-draining soil. Once you have the materials, follow the steps below: 

  • In the spring or summer, use a sharp knife or pair of garden snips to remove a tip cutting that is several inches long. 
  • Bury the cut end into rich, well-draining soil. Moisten the soil. 
  • Cover the cutting with a plastic bag to keep in moisture. Secure the bag around the pot with a rubber band. 
  • Place the cutting in a warm area with bright, indirect lighting. 
  • Keep the soil moist, but not soggy. 
  • Once there are several inches of new growth, remove the bag and repot into a larger pot, if needed. 
  • Begin hardening off the plant and move it outdoors. 

How to Grow from Seed

You can also start yellow bells from seeds you’ve collected from the plant. To grow this plant from seed, follow these steps:

  • Collect seed pods from the plant and wait for them to become brown and dry. Then crack open the pods and remove the seeds. 
  • Fill a small pot with rich, well-draining soil. Peat moss or vermiculite work as well. 
  • Lightly cover the seed in the growing medium. 
  • Water the soil, keeping it moist but not soggy. 
  • Keep the pot in a warm area with bright, indirect lighting. Germination should occur in two to three weeks.

Potting and Repotting 

Yellow bells have a relatively compact size that allows them to grow well in containers. Choose a well-draining pot at least 12 inches wide or larger, depending on the shrub size. Clay pots are a great choice, as these mimic well-draining soil and wick away excess water.

The fast growth of these plants means you will need to repot them more often, since they’re likely to outgrow their container size. To do this, gently tip the pot onto its side and tap the outside of the pot to loosen the root system. Slide the plant out and set it into a larger pot. Fill it with well-draining soil, burying the shrub to the same height it was before.  

Overwintering

When grown in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 11, yellow bells do not require any additional winter care. When grown outside this area, it is best to keep these shrubs in containers so they can be moved to a sheltered area, such as a garage or greenhouse.

Pests and Diseases

  • Common Problems 

Yellow bells are hardy plants that thrive on neglect. They do not often face issues or problems. However, the biggest problem for yellow bell growers is a lack of blooming.

Lack of Blooming

If this plant is struggling to bloom, it could be for numerous reasons. The most common causes are a lack of adequate light, drainage, or space. If you face these problems, here are some steps to take.

For more light, place yellow bells in an area that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight every day. Replant the shrub, or move the container into a more suitable location.

If slow-draining soil conditions are suspected, add sand or another fast-draining material to the soil to allow excess water to drain away.

To avoid a lack of blooming because of space, plant these shrubs 4 to 6 feet apart. For potted plants, you may need to move the shrub to a larger pot as they do not like to be root bound.

III. Uses and Benefits 

The wood of Tecoma stans is used in rustic architecture like bahareque, for the construction of furniture and canoes, or as firewood or charcoal. It is a medicinal plant used against diabetes and against diseases of the digestive system, among other uses. The plant is desirable fodder when it grows in fields grazed by livestock.

It is a very potent anti-venom against cobra venom, used by Pakistani old medicine. It is proved to be better than antiserum, the paste of this plant’s leaves are applied topically on the cobra bite. Its bio-chemicals bind with the cobra venom enzymes thus effectively inhibiting the venom.

IV. How to Get Yellow Bells to Bloom

Yellow bells are known for their bright yellow, trumpet-shaped, lightly fragrant flowers. These reach 3-5 inches long and appear every year from spring to fall. 

Yellow bells bloom best in full sun and well-draining soil. Deadhead spent blooms to encourage more blooming and a bushier appearance. Be sure to give this fast-growing shrub plenty of room to branch out, as they do not like to be cramped or grown in small spaces. High phosphorus fertilizer will also help encourage flowering.

Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans) Details

Common name Esperanza, Trumpetbush, Trumpetflower, Yellowbells, Yellow Bells, Yellow Bignonia, Yellow Elder, Yellow Trumpetbush, Yellow Trumpetflower
Botanical name Tecoma stans
Plant type Shrub
Hardiness zone 10b, 11a, 11b
Growth rate Medium
Harvest time Fall
Height 3 ft. 0 in. - 25 ft. 0 in.
Width 3 ft. 0 in. - 25 ft. 0 in.
Sunlight Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
Soil condition Clay
Flower color Gold/Yellow
Leaf color Green