How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Coral Bean

Are you looking for a beautiful and easy-care burst of red in the garden? Coralbean is a showy, drought-tolerant North American native shrub with crimson blooms. In this article, we’ll tell you how to grow and care for coralbean in your garden!

grow coral bean


Grow coralbean as a pretty flowering shrub that can be pruned or shaped into a small tree. It produces stunning red tubular flowers, making it an excellent addition to a native hummingbird garden. The flowers will begin to bloom in spring and continue into the summer and fall.

The foliage is heart-shaped and glossy dark green. The trunk and stems are covered in small curved thorns, similar to roses. It’s a fantastic border plant, but produces toxic seeds. Avoid it in a garden frequented by pets and children.

Coralbean is low maintenance and drought tolerant once established. It can tolerate salt spray and thrives even in sandy soils, making it great for coastal gardeners.

This plant is native to parts of North America and can be found in Florida and Texas coastal areas. It grows large where it does not die back in the winter, so consider mature size when choosing a location in your garden for this shrub. 

Coral Bean Overview

Close-up of flowering CoralBean plants in a sunny garden, against a blurred green background. This shrub produces tall, upright stems with red tubular flowers in elongated racemes at the top of the stems.
Common Name Coralbean, Red Cardinal
Scientific Name Erythrina herbacea
Family Fabaceae
Height & Spread 6-12 feet tall and 3-6 feet wide
Light Full sun to partial shade
Soil Fertile, well-drained, sandy soil
Water Drought tolerant once established
Bloom Color Red
Pests & Diseases Leaf miner, root rot

All About Coralbean

Close-up of flowering CoralBean plants in their native environment. It is a perennial shrub consisting of upright stems adorned with characteristic curved thorns. The leaves consist of three leaflets forming a trifoliate structure. Individual leaves are oval in shape with slightly pointed tips. On the tops of the stems, elongated brushes are formed of long tubular flowers of bright red color.
Coralbean is a plant with spiny stems and red tubular flowers attracting hummingbirds.

Coralbean, also called Cherokee bean, is found throughout the Southeastern United States and Northeastern Mexico and has appeared as an introduced species in Pakistan. It works well in tropical gardens, where it is evergreen.

In areas that receive prolonged freezing and below-freezing temperatures, it dies back to the ground for the winter. Overwinter it indoors or in a greenhouse if you live above USDA growing zone 8. 

The stems are covered in curved spines, and the foliage is yellowish-green. Bright red tubular flowers appear from April to July that attract a variety of pollinators.

Prolong the blooms into the fall by deadheading the spent flowers. The flowers eventually begin to die back and produce pods that contain bright red seeds, from which this plant gets its common name, coral bean. 


Coralbean Care

Coral bean is low maintenance and drought tolerant once established, making it relatively easy to grow. Read on to choose the best planting site and provide it with everything it needs to thrive! 

Sun and Temperature

Close-up of the flowers of a CoralBean plant in a sunny garden. The flowers are tubular, elongated, bright coral-red hue. The flowers are collected in racemes on the tops of tall woody stems.
Coralbean prefers full sun.

Coralbean requires full sun but tolerates partial shade, although it may not bloom profusely in part shade conditions. If you live in an area that receives a hard freeze, overwinter your coralbean indoors or in a greenhouse, or provide extra protection like frost cover or extra mulch. Otherwise, it can be grown as an annual in these areas. 

Coralbean grows as a perennial in USDA growing zones 8-11; their ideal temperature range is 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit. At prolonged temperatures above 90 degrees, the plant may struggle, affecting the amount of blooms. 

Water and Humidity

Close-up of the flowers of a CoralBean plant covered in raindrops, in a garden. The flowers are bright red, tubular, elongated, collected in raceme at the top of the stem.
Coralbean enjoys regular watering when young and becomes drought-resistant once established.

This heat-loving plant likes to be well-watered but not waterlogged. Water newly transplanted coralbean once per week to help it get established.

Once established, this shrub becomes a drought-tolerant pollinator plant and will only need additional water during extended periods without rain. Nevertheless, it is better to underwater than overwater this plant as it does not do well in soggy conditions. Coralbean can be adaptable when it comes to humidity and tolerates various conditions. 


Close-up of flowering CoralBeans shrubs in the garden, with a black label indicating the type of plant. The shrub forms vertical stems with trifoliate complex bright green leaves. The leaves consist of oval leaflets with slightly pointed tips. The plant produces elongated racemes of bright red tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds and pollinators.
Coralbean prefers well-draining sandy soils, avoiding waterlogged conditions and excessive organic matter.

Coralbean grows best in sandy soils and other well-draining mediums. Soggy soil can lead to fungal diseases like root rot.

Too much organic matter or compost causes soil to hold on to a lot of moisture which can benefit other plants, but coralbean prefers lean, well-drained soil types. This is excellent news if you have poor soil. You don’t have to amend it for coralbean to thrive! 


Close-up of Coralbean flowers in a sunny garden. The plant has a cluster of elongated tubular coral-red flowers.
Once established, coralbean is low maintenance and doesn’t need fertilizing.

Coralbean is a low-maintenance shrub that doesn’t require fertilizing once established. Young plants can benefit from fertilizing in the spring to boost initial growth, but this isn’t necessary. If you choose to fertilize, use a balanced fertilizer (like 10-10-10) and follow the application instructions on the packaging. 


Close-up of a flowering CoralBean shrub in a sunny garden. This perennial shrub produces upright, spiked stems of red, elongated tubular flowers. The leaves consist of three leaflets forming a trifoliate structure. Leaflets are oval in shape, with pointed tips, bright green.
Coralbean needs minimal pruning during active growth.

Coralbean does not require much pruning during its active growing period. In most areas, it will die back over the winter.

You’ll want to prune dead stem tips when new growth appears in the spring. Remove dead or damaged branches and stems at any point in the growing season. Wear gloves to protect yourself from the thorns on the stems when pruning. 


Close-up of a flowering CoralBean against a blurred background. The flowers are tubular, slightly elongated, bright, red-pink.
Take semi-hardwood cuttings in late summer.

Take semi-hardwood cuttings in the late summer or early fall. Remove any flowers or seed pods from the cuttings. Remove the lowest leaves so the cutting’s lower one to two inches are bare.

Dip the cut end into a rooting hormone for woody plants. Place the cutting into coarse sand and keep well watered until roots form. 

You can propagate coralbean by division of the root ball. Wait until the plant is well established with plenty of growth to separate before trying this method.

Dig up the plant and divide down the center of the root ball using your hands or a shovel (depending on the size of the root ball) to split it apart. Replant each section separately and keep them well-watered until they begin to put out new growth. 


Close-up of a CoralBean in bloom against a blurred background of trees and a blue sky. The plant produces tall, upright stems with tubular flowers clustered at the tops. The flowers are tubular, elongated, coral-red.
Coralbean can thrive in containers with a well-draining potting mix.

Coralbean can be grown in containers, but choosing a well-draining potting medium is critical. Most potting mediums retain moisture, but since coralbean prefers to dry out between waterings, you may need to amend your potting mix with perlite to increase the drainage.

Repotting will depend on growth. You should check your pot once a year. If the roots reach the outer edges of the pot, it is time to size up. 


While coralbean is a relatively low-maintenance plant that can survive without much intervention, some issues can arise. Identify these issues at the early stages to prevent them from becoming more significant problems that cause damage or the death of your plant. 

Growing Problems

Close-up of a flowering CoralBean against a green garden blurred background. The plant has an upright stem with bright red flowers. The flowers are tubular, grouped in racemes.
Coralbean needs 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily for optimal flowering.

If your coralbean is suffering from a lack of blooms, a lack of direct sunlight could be the cause. This plant will flower the best when it receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily.

It can survive in partial shade, although it might not flower as profusely. These shrubs cannot tolerate full-shade environments. The best approach is to monitor a potential planting site at different points in the year to ensure it consistently receives 6-8 hours of sunlight daily, even during the winter.

If your planting site has less than ideal sunlight and you’ve already planted, dig it up and move it to a better location. Monitor the light conditions beforehand to save yourself this step. 


Close-up of a damaged leaf miner. The leaf has a characteristic pattern caused by the feeding activity of the larva. These small insects tunnel between the upper and lower surfaces of the leaf, creating serpentine or winding tracks that often resemble twisting pathways.
Leaf miners are larvae that create swirl patterns on leaves.

The leaf miner is a small larva that feeds between the two layers of leaf material. If you see a swirling pattern appearing on the foliage, this is an indication of leaf miners. The only way to control these miners is to remove infected plant material.

The best defense is a good offense. Providing diverse habitats for predatory bugs like ladybugs, the praying mantis, paper wasps, etc., will keep these pests in check. 


Top view, close-up of a flowering CoralBean plant in a garden, against a blurred background of dark green foliage. The plant has an upright stem with flowers grouped in elongated clusters. The flowers are tubular, elongated, bright red-coral color.
Coralbean is susceptible to root rot, seen as wilted, mushy stems and roots.

Root rot is the primary disease that can affect your coralbean. Root rot symptoms appear as soft mushy stems, wilting, and (as should be expected) rotten roots. This type of rot is hard to recover from. You can remedy it if the fresh, white roots on the plant have not yet turned to mush.

Cut back the rotted roots and plant them into a pot of dry soil. To avoid this issue in the first place, be sure not to overwater your coralbean or let it sit in waterlogged soil. This promotes the fungal growth that causes root rot. 

Final Thoughts

This native perennial is a stunner in growing zones 8-11, and a beautiful annual in colder regions. Grow coralbean if you’d like to add interest to a border and attract hummingbirds and other pollinators to your garden. It is low maintenance and drought tolerant and will survive varied conditions.  

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