Corymbia (Eucalyptus) ficifolia
Family: Red-flowering Gum
Red-flowering gum is a prominent tree in the sand belts in the southern Melbourne suburbs. Because of its tidy, rounded shape, elegant foliage, and showy summer flowering, C. ficifolia is readily noticed. This tree can also be noticed in areas where there are heavy clay soils; here it’s noticed for its weak, spindly growth and die-back throughout the canopy. With C. ficifolia, it is important to site the tree on well-drained soils, so that the problems of waterlogging will not become noticeable.
Some producers are now grafting C. ficifolia on seedling understocks to ensure bright red flower colour. Others are grafting onto C. maculata understocks to give greater flexibility with clay soil siting. Both of these grafting ideas are excellent, but to date there are no mature (15+ years) populations of these grafted trees to evaluate. It is possible that graft incompatibility will not show up for many years after grafting, and this incompatibility could cause trees to become unstable (at the graft union). Because of this liability, we recommend that grafted C. ficifolia are used only in areas where tree failure (typically, mature trees breaking off 10cm above ground level) will not be too expensive. We cannot recommend planting these grafted trees into streetscapes until experience indicates that they are safe.
Metropolitan Tree Growers are producing seedling-grown trees from commercial seed that will give relatively uniform shape and reasonable flower colour in the landscape. These trees will need to be sited correctly, but do not have the potential graft incompatibility problem to concern the horticulturist.
Corymbia ficifolia grafted cultivars
‘Wildfire, Sunset and Calypso’ are recently-developed cultivars and feature masses of brightly-coloured flowers produced at the ends of the branches. These cultivars are selections of the Western Australian red flowering gum (Corymbia ficifolia) and are grafted to ensure that they are true to type. We have sourced these trees from Humphris Nurseries.
These cultivars are small to medium-sized trees that may reach 5-6 metres in height. The peak flower display is in the summer months but occasional flowers can be found at other times. They will have similar adaptations as the parent species and will perform best in areas with reasonably well-drained soil and not excessive water stress over summer.
Typical mature height: to 15m
Useful in: streetscapes, parks
Sites for best growth: all with free drainage