Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Silk Cotton Tree, Kapok Tree, Red Silk Cotton Tree
Bombax ceiba

Family: Malvaceae (mal-VAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Bombax (BOM-baks) (Info)
Species: ceiba (SAY-buh) (Info)

Synonym:Bombax malabaricum
Synonym:Salmalia malabaricum

One vendor has this plant for sale.

11 members have or want this plant for trade.


over 40 ft. (12 m)

30-40 ft. (9-12 m)
over 40 ft. (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

Seed is poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring

Grown for foliage

Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
Direct sow as soon as the ground can be worked
From seed; germinate in a damp paper towel

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

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to view:

By palmbob
Thumbnail #1 of Bombax ceiba by palmbob

By IslandJim
Thumbnail #2 of Bombax ceiba by IslandJim

By IslandJim
Thumbnail #3 of Bombax ceiba by IslandJim

By IslandJim
Thumbnail #4 of Bombax ceiba by IslandJim

By palmbob
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By palmbob
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By palmbob
Thumbnail #7 of Bombax ceiba by palmbob

There are a total of 54 photos.
Click here to view them all!


9 positives
3 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive aboukhary On Nov 7, 2013, aboukhary from Cairo
Egypt (Zone 10a) wrote:

It is a beautiful tree that flowers in the late summer early autumn in the Mediterranean region.

This tree is extremely drought tolerant. Some trees of this species can be observed in Cairo with virtually no access to water except from the early morning fog.

Positive gardengremlin On Aug 15, 2012, gardengremlin from Riverside, CA wrote:

Mine is about 6 feet - in a largish pot. Waiting to see what happens next.

Positive gardn_whisperer On Apr 12, 2012, gardn_whisperer from Sarasota, FL wrote:

I first spotted this wonderful tree last year as it was shedding the cottony fluff--I have never seen the blooms--but love the fluffy 'silk'.

It is close to Fruitville Road in Sarasota, Florida.

Positive paulconwy On Aug 16, 2007, paulconwy from conwy north wales uk
United Kingdom wrote:

saw this treee in the grounds of the San Domica Palace hotel in Taormina in sicily.Was amazed at the trunk with the horrific lookin spines.Have seen in june in flower without seemingly leaves.Saw it again in September on on occasion it was full of cotton wool type balls which were then being blown about.Each ball had a small seed inside.I managed to cpture some but have been able to have any success with planting the seed.Going again there in a month but possibly all the seeds will have blown away

Positive nofool On Aug 7, 2004, nofool from Sarasota, FL wrote:

I have a Kapok tree that is about 25' tall. It is covered with awsome thorns. I understand as the tree gets larger it will grow out of these thorns and the adult tree will have a smooth bark. But right now I am just amazed at the thorns they, give the tree such a presents of strength and power.
But at the same time it is not a place for the kids to build a tree house, ouch. The blossoms are big and beautiful, and last a long time, followed by the silk, truely another spectatular display of natures diversity.

Neutral foodiesleuth On Jul 23, 2004, foodiesleuth from Honomu, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

The ceiba is a well beloved tree in Cuba, where I was born and grew up. It is tied to several historical moments in the late 19th century and early 20th century when Cuba was fighting for its independence from Spain..

There are some very tall specimens in the Foster Botanical Gardens in Honolulu (near China Town)

Positive twiglike On Jul 22, 2004, twiglike from Mission Viejo, CA wrote:

There is a business park near my home with several very large trees. The thorns are not as prevelant as the pictures on this site. There are thorns covering the tree, but not nearly as large. I've not seen it in bloom, but I have seen the pods and what appear to be bouquets of cotton. Awesome looking tree. Grows well in Southern California.

Neutral spaceman_spiff On May 29, 2004, spaceman_spiff from Saint Petersburg, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

I just collected some seeds from a tree here in St. Petersburg, FL, and am going to try growing some seedlings. I collected the seeds from some of the cotton-silk left over from the pods on the ground underneath the tree. I had originally seen this particular tree blooming a few months ago. I had never seen this kind of tree before, but the large, beautiful red flowers caught my attention. I don't think I would want this kind of tree in my yard--between the huge flowers dropping all over, and the pods and the cotton-silk fuzz balls falling later, it must be a mess! If I can get any of the seedlings to grow, I will see about planting one or more in a business park near the office building I work in. Then, I can enjoy it on walks through the park, but not have to clean up after it!

July 11th, 2004 Update: I now have 18 seedlings, about 6 inches tall! So far, they seem to be doing well. (Knock on wood).

July 17th, 2004 Update: Just uploaded a photo of the seedlings to the photo section.

Positive DawnRain On Apr 23, 2004, DawnRain from Bartow, FL wrote:

This plant has a very long bloom period in Florida. It opens first bloom in fall, lights up the sky throughout winter and may still have a bloom or two in spring. It's a fabulous plant here.

Positive pjives On Apr 22, 2004, pjives wrote:

I have observed this tree around the St. Petersburg, Fl. area and am in awe of the length of blooming time. They seem to be quite an attraction for wild Parrots!

Positive palmbob On Apr 2, 2004, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

Saw this tree for the first time in summer, and though attractive, didn't think much of it... just visited again this April and the look is totally different- leafless for one thing... but also covered with huge, bulky red flowers (all near top of tree so no great photos) with wide petals- reminiscent of a monstrous passion vine flower. Great look- nothing like it's cousin, Bombax elipticum (spelling?). Flowers up to 6" across... are edible. The root is used as some sort of aphrodesiac. Also the fruit has a fiber called Kapok that is used for stuffing pillows and mattresses.

Note, some people confuse this plant with Ceiba speciosa, another silk cotton tree, much more common in cultivation. However, that tree has GREEN bark and super sharp spines on trunk... do NOT confuse the two. It also has pink flowers, not red ones.

Neutral IslandJim On Mar 8, 2003, IslandJim from Keizer, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

What interests me about the Bombax is that it blooms so spectacularly for only a very short time--a week to 10 days.


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

, (2 reports)
Tucson, Arizona
Bonsall, California
Los Angeles, California
Mission Viejo, California
Riverside, California
Spring Valley, California
Avon Park, Florida
Cape Coral, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Homestead, Florida
Melbourne Beach, Florida
Miami, Florida (2 reports)
Mulberry, Florida
Nokomis, Florida
Palm Beach, Florida
Pompano Beach, Florida
Port Charlotte, Florida
Saint Petersburg, Florida
Sarasota, Florida (2 reports)
Vero Beach, Florida
Brownsville, Texas
Corpus Christi, Texas
La Porte, Texas
Mission, Texas
Rockport, Texas

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