How to Grow and Care Silk Floss Tree

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How to Grow Silk Floss Trees

In the United States, there is a small geographic area where the silk cotton tree (Ceiba speciosa) can thrive. The people who live there are presented with a wonderfully strange and exotic shade tree that is also armed and dangerous.

This large ornamental deciduous tree, native to Argentina and Brazil, is a showy specimen with unusual characteristics that make it difficult to confuse it with any other tree. With its voluminous, spiny trunk, exotic flowers, tall size, silk thread, and pear-sized seed pods, the tree is unique.

It is not uncommon to see Ceiba speciosa used as a street tree in South Florida or California, making a good impression, but sadly also a bit of a mess. Although massive and attractive, the tree ends up leaving a fair amount of trash after the leaves, seeds, and dental floss are cleaned.

The floss tree starts out as a young seedling with a small bulge on the trunk that grows slowly until it appears swollen at the base and tapers toward the canopy. The tree can have a circumference of up to 2.10 meters at the bulge. Immature trees will have green bark, which will eventually turn gray with age. This green color has the biological characteristic of allowing the tree to continue photosynthesis while defoliating. The trunk is densely covered with sharp thorns that protect the tree from climbing by wildlife. These thorns are a hazard to humans and make maintenance a chore.

It's fair to say that this tree may seem a bit strange and difficult to maintain. However, its unique characteristics make it an interesting specimen in the right landscape, and it also boasts beautiful flowers. They have the quality and shape of the hibiscus, reaching between five and six inches in width, and the colors are remarkable, being bright pink with a white center. These stunning flowers cover the canopy when they bloom and are a magnet for pollinators, especially hummingbirds.

It is a good choice for landscape design if you need an exciting and unique tree that is large in size, fast-growing, and has clear ornamental appeal. However, you will need to be prepared for additional maintenance work and spiny appendages, and it will not be suitable for colder regions of the United States.

Botanical Name  Ceiba speciosa (formerly Chorisia speciosa)
Common Name Silk Floss Tree
Plant Type  Deciduous Tree
Mature Size 50 feet
Sun Exposure Full Sun
Soil Type Adaptable, well-drained
Soil pH Adaptable
Bloom Time October-November
Flower Color Pink
Hardiness Zones 9-11
Native Area  South America
Toxicity Yes

Silk Floss Tree Care

The cultivation of C. speciosa ultimately involves planning the location of the tree in the landscape. You must be aware of the tree's rapid growth (18-24 inches per year when young) and the massive defense mechanisms that can impale pedestrians and cars.

When placing it near a structure, consider the size of the tree at maturity and the maintenance required. For example, setting a tree so that debris continually falls into gutters means that it is more likely to crash quickly.

Another safety consideration is making sure the floss tree is placed away from roads or highways. It can be seen as a hindrance due to its shallow thorns and roots. Silk trees are great on the streets until someone touches the car against a thorny log and causes a 12-centimeter-long cut in the pavement.

There are cultivars available that are spineless, but lack the four-season character and interest that the unique bark provides. A cultivar with a beautiful thornless bloom is C. speciosa 'Majestic Beauty'.


The silk tree prefers full sun and reaches its maximum number of flowers when it receives six to eight hours of sunlight per day.


Clay, sand, and clay will give the tree a great way to grow and develop. Any type of soil where the floss tree is planted must be very draining. Acidity is preferred but tolerates an alkaline environment.


Watering the tree is essential during settlement. 15-20 liters of water per week until roots are established is a reasonable rate. So watering as needed is acceptable. Silk thread is drought tolerant, but prolonged drought makes flowering difficult.

Temperature and Humidity

Floss trees are not cold hardy and will not live long in temperatures below 20o Fahrenheit for long periods. It can survive in USDA zones 9b-11.


This tree does not need fertilization, although it can be useful to test the soil to correct the pH.

Is the Silk Floss Tree Toxic?

All parts of the tree are toxic and it is known to kill cattle in its native Argentina. It can be processed especially for vegetable oil, but only by professionals. Do not try any recipe that you have seen online, as it is very dangerous.

Enjoy This Video Tutorial About Silk floss tree

Source: Summer Rayne Oakes

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