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What's In Bloom: Candlestick Plant

What’s in Bloom: October 2023

Candlestick Plant (Senna alata)

Candlestick Plant is also known as emperor’s candlesticks, candle bush, candelabra bush, Christmas candles, empress candle plant, ringworm shrub, or candletree. A plant with so many common names you would think you would see this in many of our gardens but it’s not.

This legume plant is native to Central and South America. Candlestick Plant is winter hardy only to the Coastal Region of the US. The reason that we don’t see this plant in more gardens is because you will need to plant seeds every spring. Rarely will you find it in garden centers because the plant when young looks gangly and it’s a late season bloomer, gardeners overlook it when available.

Here at BGO, volunteer Kitty Sanders heard I was wanting to have this plant in the garden and she ordered me seeds. Packet contained 10 seeds, of which 8 emerged. These 8 seedlings were pampered and eventually planted.

Candlestick plants will grow up to 8 feet tall and as wide. Even though it does not bloom until late summer to early fall, the large (3 feet in length) compound leaves are a standout in the garden. You will need only one or two plants in a mixed border. If you want late season butterflies, candlestick plants produce ample nectar for them.

Here at BGO you will find Candlestick Plant in several locations throughout the garden. You can’t miss them with their signature yellow spikes of flowers. I’m expecting this plant to stay in bloom until frost. 

Berni Kurz