Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Shaving Brush Tree
Pseudobombax ellipticum

Family: Bombacaceae
Genus: Pseudobombax (soo-doh-BOM-baks) (Info)
Species: ellipticum (ee-LIP-tih-kum) (Info)

Synonym:Bombax ellipticum

16 members have or want this plant for trade.

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Cactus and Succulents

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)
15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)
20-30 ft. (6-9 m)
30-40 ft. (9-12 m)
over 40 ft. (12 m)

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)
20-30 ft. (6-9 m)
30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Light Shade

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From woody stem cuttings
From hardwood cuttings
From seed; germinate in vitro in gelatin, agar or other medium

Seed Collecting:
Collect seedhead/pod when flowers fade; allow to dry

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7 positives
4 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive AridTropics On Jan 14, 2015, AridTropics from Bradenton , FL wrote:

A unique and stunning gem from the drier tropical forest regions of Southern Mexico down into Central America, Shaving Brush Trees are stunning centerpiece additions to any Tropical-esque succulent garden. They can also be trained to create conversation starting Bonsai subjects possessing swollen "Caudex" like trunk bases which fatten up the more they are pruned.

Often times, the trunk of such specimens will possess a tortoise shell like texture intertwined in bright green.

In nature, and when left to grow larger in the ground, trees are squat and can be wider spreading rather than tall and often lack the pronounced swelling of the trunk base seen in pot-bound specimens.

Interestingly, this is a tree that seems to present something eye catching all year long. After dropping all or most leaves during the winter.. ( Dry season in it's native range) Smooth green bark adds interest to a bare yet picturesque framework.

In Spring, large Cigar-like buds rapidly develop in response to warmer weather. Shortly afterwards, spectacular Neon hot Pink or White pom poms decorate bare branches like ornaments. While only lasting a couple days each, on average, flowering will continue for a coupe weeks before new leaves begin to flush and hide any late blooms. Oddly, this is a tree that puts on quite a show while pushing fresh spring foliage.

Newest leaves open a rich Blood Red or Maroon, then slowly fade through Orange-ish and Bronze shades, before changing to bright light Apple Green, and finally a nice deep Green. While the show is eye catching on small, container grown specimens like my own, larger trees are a sight worthy of stopping to investigate up close.

During the summer, the large, deep green, Palmate- type leaves create a nice shade. Meanwhile, if present, fat oval shaped seed pods cycle through their development, once again decorating the tree. At some point toward the end of Summer or early Fall, seed pods open to expose the familiar cotton ball fluff familiar to most trees within the Bombax/Chorisia genus.

While quite drought tolerant, Shaving Brush trees will grow faster and fuller when supplied extra summer water.

In Fall or winter, and especially if kept dry/ cooler, leaves will change to gold and brown before dropping. Some trees, especially in warmer places, may retain some foliage.

While considered "tropical" larger mature trees can withstand some cold exposure, perhaps down to about 27F, seedling and smaller specimens should be protected and kept on the dry side, like Plumeria, which also inhabit a similar region in Mexico/Central America.

A note on pollination: Single, widely spread out specimens may or may not develop seed pods. Despite flowering for weeks last spring, an isolated specimen here in S.W. Bradenton didn't set a single pod. I was also informed that one may have to hand pollinate container grown specimens to produce seed. In the garden, if space is adequate, planting two specimens might increase the odds of getting seed.

As far as cuttings, best to set in late spring or summer. Those taken during the cooler months run a greater risk of rotting, especially if kept wet/cold.

A spectacular, heat loving tree worthy of trialing in the ground anywhere from zone 9b to 11+, and as a container specimen anywhere else. Wish there were many more of these planted around town here, imo.

Neutral ricaudexguy On Nov 16, 2013, ricaudexguy from Westerly, RI wrote:

Hi everyone,

I just bought a p bambox. It's about 3 feet tall. Woody about halfway up. Has an avocado shaped/sized base. Can I cut it a few inches above the base in the spring? Higher a better idea? I'd like it to caudiform. Any thoughts? Other things I should think about with this little tree? I'll be trying to root the cutting as well.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Crazy plants in Rhode Island can happen!

Positive MTVineman On May 29, 2012, MTVineman from Helena, MT (Zone 5a) wrote:

I have been growing Bombax ellipticum for years. I live in Montana though, so obviously my Bombax tree's are grown inside for most of the year except spring, summer and early fall. Mine have always been excellent growers and extremely easy to take care of. They don't seem to be too picky but do like plenty of water. Never let it dry out completely or you'll have a dead Bombax. Then again, don't over water either or you'll have a rotten Bombax and trust, you don't want that! These are beautiful tree's and make great houseplants. One of mine has only bloomed once and the others, never. Likely because I don't live or grow them in the correct climate. I was just lucky that one year I guess. The flowers are however, extremely beautiful and showy and DO look like giant shaving brushes. The pods produce Kapok which is the cottony seed mass that appears after the flowers get pollinated, usually by bats, moths and birds in their native habitat. The Kapok is used to stuff pillows and make other items. It's very soft and nice. I would highly reccommend getting one of these if you get a chance. No matter where you live, it will be an endearing friend. Just take good care of it and maybe it will bloom for you, too! The giant caudiciform trunks are fabulously attractive, much like myself. Just kidding. To the person above who wrote about planting one near the septic tank in Florida.......bad idea! They get huge and the roots can go deep. It would probably bust your septic tank from just the weight of the tree itself! A very fun plant and beautiful too!

Neutral learningsouthplants On Feb 7, 2011, learningsouthplants from Sarasota, FL wrote:

This is a question about this plant.....I need trees that do not have an invasive and thirsty root system, as I have a large septic field that I must plant around. I am trying to find out if this tree would be good to plant near the septic field, or not. Thanks for any info you can give me.

Neutral tazzie4u On Nov 15, 2010, tazzie4u from Melbourne, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

I've had this plant for over 3 years. Year after year it keeps losing its leaves and never blooms. It has one very long thin stalk that is a very healthy green but I'm wondering if I am supposed to cut it back to make the base grow? I'm not sure how to care for this plant.

Neutral rosenyou On Apr 24, 2010, rosenyou from Miami, FL wrote:

I first saw this tree from afar and thought is was a ceiba in bloom. However, after approaching it, I realize it was something completely different, but had no idea what it was. I collected a couple of seed pods and found it in a "rare plant" webpage. It was quite large and the fallen blooms make somewhat of a mess - but a beauty. Also, it had a very large trunk - the tree was at least 30-40 feet tall - impressive.

Positive superpepper On Jul 3, 2008, superpepper from Lauderhill, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

When I bought this plant in October or so, it had one leaf on top and didn't look so hot. I potted it and brought it inside for the winter and the one leaf promptly fell off.

In spring, I put it back outside and it is growing like crazy. I have it on a south-facing balcony in a clay pot and it seems to like the sun. I water it regularly and it seems to respond well to the ample water. It hasn't bloomed yet, so I don't know if it is pink or white.

Positive BayAreaTropics On Feb 23, 2007, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

Attractive plant.But if you grow one outdoors in a pot be careful of sunburn. For a xeriscape plant usually planted in ground, its very sensitive to hot summer sun while kept as a potted plant. Temps below freezing are likely to kill it.

Positive mljseashell On Apr 25, 2005, mljseashell from Longboat Key, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

I just saw a massive, gorgeous hot pink one at Selby Gardens, Sarasota, Florida. Incredibly beautiful blooms.

Positive SoFlaLover On Jan 11, 2004, SoFlaLover wrote:

I have a pink shaving brush, it's an amazing plant to experience. The flowers are huge as well as the leaves. I planted it in the ground and it seems to be doing fine. I live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, even though it isn't listed that they grow here. When I first bought this tree the guy at the nursery didn't even know what it was, it was already 10 feet tall. He sold it to me for 60 dollars and told me it was called a "waxy." Only recently have I figured out the name of it through extensive research. I highly recommend this wonderful conversational tree.

Positive palmbob On Oct 18, 2003, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

Bombax elipticum is a great pot plant, but if you want something large and caudiciform in your xeriscape garden that has a cool, bulbous green trunk and maroon emergent leaves with bizzare white puffy flowers, then this is the plant for you. It is extremely drought tolerant, but we find that if you water it a lot in the summer, it grows very fast and is much more likely to flower.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Apache Junction, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona (3 reports)
Tucson, Arizona
Bonsall, California
Escondido, California
Hayward, California
Reseda, California
Spring Valley, California
Thousand Oaks, California
Upland, California
Big Pine Key, Florida (2 reports)
Boca Raton, Florida
Bokeelia, Florida
Bradley, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Melbourne, Florida
Miami, Florida
Mulberry, Florida
Port Charlotte, Florida
Rockledge, Florida
Brownsville, Texas
Corpus Christi, Texas
Freeport, Texas
Harlingen, Texas
Houston, Texas
Liberty, Texas
Mathis, Texas
Spring, Texas

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