Pseudobombax ellipticum

Shaving-brush tree
Full sized stout tree in the ground, often cut back hard each winter in pots to create green ‘tortoise shell’ effect. Lush tropical foliage. Large white bottle brush flowers. Deciduous.
synonyms Bombax ellipticum
height 15–20
width 10–15
tolerates Heat, Pots
The shaving-brush tree grows on limestone outcroppings in Southern Mexico where it receives warm summer showers. Thus it appreciates a semi-dry winter rest, with ample water during summer, combined with good drainage. It adapts well to winter rains in Southern California, where it can be grown in the ground with good drainage. Further north it begrudgingly makes it through wet winters and is best grown in a pot with very sharp drainage. If winters are particularly wet and long you may find spots of brown rot on this plant; they should be carved out, back to healthy green flesh. The plant usually recovers, as long as the rot isn’t in the crown, creating a pocket where more rain can collect. Growing this plant in a sheltered spot under an eve solves all these problems.
exposure Part Shade – Full Sun
drainage In Ground: Cactus Mix, In Pots: Cactus Mix, Requires Perfect Drainage, Tolerates Sandy Soil
fertilizing All Purpose
origin Mexico
16, 17, 22–H2

Sunset Zones Map

Outdoor Exposure Guide


Full Sun
Six or more hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Shade
Three to five hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Sun
One to two hours of sun beams directly landing on the plants leaves.

Full Shade
The plant is never fully lit by sun beams, but is in a bright spot or has dappled sunbeams playing over the leaves throughout the day.

Deep Shade
The plant never has dappled light on the leaves, and is in a place that feels dim, even on a nice sunny day.


Growing Notes

Cut branches back to the trunk, or just above each year to force a round caudex and the swollen, glowing green, tortoise shell effect that this plant is coveted for. Shy to flower in a pot, especially if cut back hard each year.
When grown in the ground the branches have an irregular branching pattern that makes a mesmerizing crown with time.
Fertilize only from spring though summer.
We have heard that this plant makes a good houseplant, but don’t have enough first hand experience to vouch for it. Give it a try in a sunny window and report back to us!

Special Interest

Members on our team have seen sloths in Venezuela slowly scouring the shaving-brush tree, devouring the flowers in slow motion. So cool!

There is a vibrant cerise flowering form of this plant, but it is exceedingly rare.

Besides the aesthetic form, leaves often emerge an attractive dark Burgundy color. This appears to be related to growing in hot direct sun, as it doesn’t happen when grown under greenhouse conditions.