Naked Coral propagation

One of my favorite trees here in SoCal is Erythrina Americana aka Colorin, Frijol Rojo, Cuchillitos or Naked Coral. Native to Mexico, they are so named because they flower while the tree is bare, before sending out leaves. These are quite easy to propagate large branches.

First it needs a period of dormancy and to heal the cut site. 4-6 weeks in a cool, dry, dark place. For me, the closet worked fine. After this period, simply score the bark vertically along the base, apply rooting hormone and stick it in soil. Allow the soil to fully dry out between watering. Spring time is best, while it is bare, but before budding has started. Soon you will have a flower and then lots of leaves.

Here is the parent tree:

And here you can see it in flower back in March/April

This was one of my earliest trees a couple of years ago when I first got serious with Bonsai. It was October and strong winds had felled a huge part of the tree in the park. This branch looked like a little tree already so I did some research to find the propagation method. Since then I have found that Springtime is a much better time to go for it - my first one sat from Oct. to March with no growth. Since then I’ve propagated branches w just 2 weeks dark/dormancy.

I am still learning about how to care for this tree, but one question I have - the first one I collected, this spring I put it in this large training pot. I used a premix akadama/lava/pumice. The leaves it produced are smaller (great!) and a touch pale/yellow compared to the parent and my other propagated branches.The others have been growing in cactus mix. I wonder what type of soil would be ideal for this species?

Anyone else have experience with Naked Coral?


…wish I could help, but too new. That parent tree and trunk is amazing and the pics of your naked coral were beautiful…

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Hi Wade, you haven’t specified what ratios in your soil mix or what the cactus mix consists of. Maybe you have too much akadama and it’s retaining too much water for your tree? How often do you water? What’s the pH of your water?

The training pot was very large, didn’t have enough of the Japanese brand on hand, which I’ve used on most everything else. It seems to be a balanced 1 1 1 mix. So I had to supplement with Eastern Leaf (seems heavier on the volcanic rock). Next season I will be graduating to making my own blend for sure.

The cactus mix is ‘recycled forest products’, bark, pumice, sand, and apparently has chicken poo as well.

My water pH I have not personally tested but the city says it is around 8.5. Pretty high I know. I hope to find a way to offset that. It rains so little here in Los Angeles and in an apartment anyway, rain barrels aren’t going to happen.

I water every few days usually, when it looks dry, which might be a bit misleading. The other one, in the nursery pot gets more frequent water. Sometimes daily.

I misnamed the species - it is Erythrina coralloides, and here’s some UFEI info:
Moist to Dry Soil.
Loam or Sand Texture.
Neutral to Highly Alkaline Soil pH.

Seems pretty healthy really, it’s just that the leaves on my larger one never got as dark green since I transplanted this spring. And they are about 3" where the other are between 4" and 5". That’s certainly more desirable. But for the health of the tree I might add a little more organic in the soil next time, and modulate watering in the future.

Dug up a bit more info According to that, yellow leaves are a sign of overwater and it can rot easily too. The wood is pretty soft.

The easiest way to deal with the water pH issue with a small number of trees is to just add acid to the water in your watering can before you water. The easiest and safest acid would be vinegar. You can determine how much by getting a test kit and adding small amounts of acid to the container until the water drops into the right range (6.5-7 generally). Come up with a small container that can easily be marked with the right amount of acid so it is a simple measurement.

I use a test kit where you add a couple of drops of indicator to small vial of the water, shake and compare the color. It is fairly wide range and not extremely precise, but it works for what I need. I got mine a hydroponics place, but similar ones are at pool supply stores.

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It could be the organic matter in the cactus mix that the other ones like. I would watch the watering to see if things improve in the first instance, if not you may have to take drastic action and slip pot it into a pot of cactus mix.