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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pohutukawa Tree: Maybe a Kiwi Can Help Out

Q. I would like to purchase a Metrosideros excelsa ( Pohutukawa) Tree and would like to know if it can survive Las Vegas hot climate.

Picture of Pohutukawa tree sent to me by reader.

A. Well you have me on this one. This is the first question I have ever had on this tree. I had heard of it but never had read anything much about it and of course have no experience with it. So, all I can do is what I have done which is read as much as I could find out about this tree and how it has handled similar climates. 

Maybe if there are any Kiwis reading this post from down under they can respond. But keep in mind the Las Vegas climate is DESERT, with summer temperatures reaching over 45C (115F+) very low humidity and soils that I would describe as "moon dirt", structureless, high in salinity (but manageable most of the time) and winter lows of -8C ( below 20F for brief periods of time in the morning hours).

First, there are no postings I could find from anyone in a desert climate trying this tree. We do know that it will handle temperatures down to about 20F ish…, it can be found growing naturally on very rocky soils in New Zealand, usually close to the ocean. So in the US it has been grown successfully along the California coast, mostly in northern California and up into the Pacific Northwest. So know this about the tree and some other things stuck in my head from my reading I would say the following.

It is worth a try provided you can plant it in a place out of dry, desert wind, a bit protected from cold such as closer to town and really improve the soil at planting time. What I would expect from this tree would be that it will have some problems. Namely, it will probably never look as good as it does in coastal climates. The leaves will probably have a tendency to scorch and damaged by wind. It may also tend to get yellow due to a lack of available iron so I would be giving it an iron fertilizer annually. It will not like a desert landscape so if it can be planted in a lawn you will be better off. Expect it to dieback during some winters with very low temperatures. The degree of dieback will depend on the part of the valley you live and how well it is protected from winter cold and winter winds. Expect with these diebacks that it will tend to want to be more shrubby than tree-like. It can be easily started from seed.

That is my best shot at it.

1 comment:

  1. Bob, just a comment on Pohutukawa. In Southern California it only does well under coastal conditions. It may take the heat and cold but does not do well under those conditions. I would not recommend it for Las Vegas.

    Happy Holidays, Tom Spellman, Dave Wilson Nursery