How To Grow And Care For The Esperanza Shrub, Or Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans)

If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere warm, and you’re looking for a plant that will add a lot of character and sunny colors to your garden, the yellow bells shrub may tick all the boxes.

It’s a tough plant that hails from the Americas, and can grow as a tree or a shrub as big as 25 feet tall, depending on the growing conditions.

Let’s take a look.

At A Glance: What You Should Know About Esperanza

Part of the Bignoniaceae plant family, also known as the trumpet vine family, Esperanza or Tecoma stans is a perennial shrub that produces bright yellow flowers.

It also goes by several other names, including ginger-thomas, yellow elder, and yellow bells. 


The name Esperanza is the Spanish word for hope. 

You can recognize it by its broad leaves, which are evergreen in tropical areas, and semi-evergreen in places that have very light frosts.

It has a vigorous growth habit, and in the wrong places, it can outperform native shrubs and become invasive, so make sure you do your research before you buy this plant.

If you do live somewhere a little colder, there is a variety that will cope with cold spells a little more, called Tecoma stans var. Angustata, which is native to Texas. 

The Flowers Of A Yellow Elder

These stunning shrubs will produce almost luminous yellow bell-shaped flowers. In tropical climates, they will bloom repeatedly through the year, and each flower is capable of reaching 5cm long.

They appear on the ends of each branch, allowing the bright green of the foliage to show through, too.

While this shrub is called the yellow elder for a reason, there are other flower colors, dictated by the cultivar you choose. Some will be orange, and some will form red blooms.

The display this shrub puts on doesn’t get any less interesting when the flowers fade, as it produces 20cm long seed pods after the flowers have finished. 

How To Grow Yellow Bells Shrubs In Your Garden

There are several ways to grow Esperanza. You can start them off from seed, buy an established plant, or create a new plant from greenwood cuttings, or even start a new plant grown from root cuttings.

It’s worth noting that these plants are quite demanding when it comes to the richness of the soil in the beginning, as it needs to sustain their vigorous growth habit. 

Like most shrubs, they prefer a good watering as the roots settle themselves into the soil, even though they tolerate drought as mature plants.

So there is a tricky balance to maintain. To avoid drowning your new plant, let at least most of the soil dry out between watering, but be generous each time you water.

While the roots are establishing, keep it in a bright but indirect position. Otherwise, Esperanza loves as much sunlight as you can give it.

These beautiful shrubs will grow outdoors all year round in USDA zones 9 and above, but will absolutely thrive in 10 and 11.

You may be able to grow this plant in some colder areas with very light frosts, where it will be much smaller. 

You can also mulch the surface of the soil around the plant, which will help lock in some of the earth’s heat, protecting the roots from the worst of the cold.

Keeping An Esperanza Shrub Happy

As the Esperanza shrub grows very quickly, it’s important to think about where you might keep this plant, and that it will have enough room to grow.

If your area does get winters with frosts, you can cut back the shrub to the ground, and it will regrow in spring. 

If you’d prefer to keep this shrub in a pot, you can bring it indoors to overwinter it, as long as the plant will be out of drafts, and somewhere bright and warm.

In warmer climates that don’t see any freezing temperatures, a yellow bells shrub will quickly become a tree. If you don’t want it to get too large, you can prune it regularly to keep it from getting taller than 7 feet without any problems.

It’s worth remembering that these plants do drop a lot of seeds and fruits, so the surrounding area can get messy. 

 Keep this in mind when you decide where it will go in your garden, otherwise you may find yourself cursing the plant every time a fruit drops onto the patio!

It’s also worth taking off the spent flowers, so they cannot develop into seedpods, if you don’t want the plant to spread. This will go a long way in keeping on top of its vigorous growth rate.

Getting rid of dead or fading flowers also helps prolong the flowering season, supporting pollinators for longer as well as keeping your garden looking fantastic.

While these plants are drought resistant, they do benefit from some fertilizer during the growing season.

Esperanza Uses

Landscaping

This plant has a wealth of ornamental value in terms of adding color and attracting pollinators into your garden. 

They also work well as large container plants, or to make a dramatic display as part of a border.

Other Uses

There are many other uses for this plant, not just decorative. 

The wood of the Esperanza shrub is so strong that it is often used to make canoes and furniture, or as a fuel for fires. 

In some places, it’s used to treat digestive problems, fight diabetes, and it can even counteract cobra venom. 

Other Things To Know About Esperanza

Is Esperanza Invasive?

In many places, Esperanza is classed as invasive, so you will need to be very careful about where you plant it. Check with your local authority before buying this plant.

How Tall Can A Yellow Elder Get?

It depends on the growing conditions, the climate, and how much you prune it. If you live somewhere tropical, and you don’t prune it, it’s capable of reaching past 20 feet tall.

How Much Sunlight Can The Yellow Bells Shrub Cope With?

The yellow bells shrub needs a lot of sunlight to be happy, though it will cope with some afternoon shade if it needs to.

How To Prune A Yellow Elder

It’s worth knowing that the flowers appear on the growth that emerges in spring, so make sure you don’t trim it at this time, otherwise you won’t see any flowers. 

Prune it in the late stages of winter, once the risk of frost has gone.

Final Thoughts

The yellow bells shrub is a fantastic choice for adding seas of color into your garden, but you will need to check that it’s not classed as an invasive species in your area.

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