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The Palo brea grows into a small to medium size deciduous tree, reaching 20-25 ft. high and as wide. Trunks and branches are very distinctive due to their bright chartreuse-green bark and twisting branch character. Medium green leaves are bipinnately divided into 1-2 pairs of leaflets and attach to stems covered with many thorns. Early spring is a time when a very showy display of colorful yellow flowers occurs.

This attractive tree, native to the hot and summer dry climates of Mexico and South America, is one of the popular choices for southwestern style gardens in the Inland Empire. It's attractive green bark and intense spring flower display make it ideally suited as a specimen feature among boulders, in raised planters and with other plants from the Southwest. This tree will shed its leaves during summer drought if periodic water is not provided.

Water Needs

The Palo brea performs best in Inland Empire gardens when planted in well-drained soils and where it receives normal winter rainfall. It can endure summer drought without supplemental water, but monthly irrigation is recommended. The chart shown below provides a baseline guide to the monthly irrigation schedule and volume of supplemental water needed to maintain healthy growth throughout the average year. It should be noted there are several months indicated by an asterisk (*) when winter rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Low Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 2

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
Inches per Month 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2"

Range of supplemental summer water: 7"-14"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-10"

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, follow this link.

For information how to calculate your irrigation system’s schedule and precipitation rate, please follow this link.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Tree
Foliage Character: Winter deciduous, Drought deciduous
Habit: Open, Multi-trunk, Low-branching
Growth Rate: Moderate
Height: 20 ft. - 25 ft.
Width: 20 ft. - 25 ft.
Water Needs: Low 2
Foliage Color: Medium green
Flower Color: Yellow
Flower Season: Spring
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil, Sand, Deep soil
Exposure Adaptations: Heat, Drought, Aridity, All day sun
Function: Wildlife value, Specimen, Shade Tree, Raised planters, Flowering accent plant, Civic spaces, Attracts bees


Plan for some pruning when young to establish a balanced multi trunk from. Pruning is best in winter. Prune out suckers (shoots growing from base) and water sprouts (vigorous vertical shoots growing from branches) as they occur, any time of year. It is best to avoid organic mulch under the canopy. Mulch with gravel, small rocks, or decomposed granite is good with this tree though (D).



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