There really is nothing quite like a pohutukawa in full bloom. This native New Zealand tree and its close cousin the rata are both members of the plant genus Metrosideros. The name means “iron-hearted” due to their exceptionally hard timber with a beautiful read colouring. It holds a special place in Maori history, being used mainly for tools and boat building. These majestic slow-growing trees are said to live up to a thousand years. They are found in the coastlines and forests in both North and South islands.
You can enjoy the crimson splendour of the pohutukawa annually as it blooms every summer once it reaches the flowering age. It blooms well into January with peak flowering time in December, giving it the common name “New Zealand Christmas Tree.”
Pohutukawa trees can get very large and form vigorous roots as it matures. Over the years, interbreeding in the wild has resulted in some great rata and pohutukawa varieties that are better suited to gardens due to their tidy shape, early flowering and bigger and brighter blooms.
Some examples of pohutukawa varieties that are best for smaller gardens include the Tahitian pohutukawa — a Pacific Island variety of the pohutukawa. It is very hardy plant that grows to around a meter. It has tidy mounding foliage that changes from olive green to silvery grey offering a beautiful contrast to the scarlet flowers.
Then there’s the Maori Princess which grows upright and lends itself to pruning once a year. Vibrance is a pohutukawa form Coromandel which has compact growth and bright orange-red flowers. Golden Dawn combines melon pink flowers with brightly variegated foliage. It can grow to 3 meters tall but can be kept tidy with annual trimming after it flowers. Pink Lady is a tall and straight pohutukawa with watermelon pink flowers. These varieties respond well to pruning and trimming, which makes them adaptable to smaller spaces and in some instances they can even be restrained in large tubs.
Generally, pohutukawas are great for coastal garden. They are wind tolerant but needs frost-protection when they are still young. Plant them in well-drained soil with full sun exposure. Pruning and trimming can be done yearly after flowering.
There are two known threats to the pohutukawa — one is the possum which eats the leaves, buds and flowers of trees and can easily kill the tree in a short time. The other is Myrtle Rust — a dangerous fungus that infect the leaves, shoots and flowers of the tree. You will see bright yellow spots on new growth and flower buds if the plant is infected.
Lifting the crown and shaping the canopy of bigger varieties of pohutukawa is the secret to controlling the meandering root system. Regular tree care maintenance is required due to their size and often precarious locations. Additionally, pohutukawa on private land in the urban environment often requires Resource Consent from the Auckland City Council before any pruning work can take place.
If you need help maintaining pohutukawas and other trees in your property, call A1 Sure Services today. We are passionate about pohutukawa tree care. We can also advise and assist with the Resource Consent process.