Candlestick Trees and Other Cassias

By Cynthia Mueller
Master Gardener, Galveston County

‘Candlestick tree’ (Cassia alata), also known as ‘Empress candle plant’ or even ‘Candle bush’ in other parts of the United States, is an old-fashioned, easily grown plant for the back of the border. It grows from 6 feet to as tall as 15 feet in height, and in the fall is covered with beautiful golden spikes of bloom. In the warmer parts of Texas such as the Gulf Coast area the Candlestick tree will last for several years, but should be trimmed back after flowering to maintain compactness. They rarely survive the winter in the College Station area, but may prove root hardy under mild freezes unless the cold lasts longer than a day or two. These cassias (sometimes now referred to as Sennas) may be started from seed soaked overnight and planted outdoors in the spring after danger of frost is past. They are trouble-free growers which can endure a certain amount of neglect, and mix well as backdrops with other large plants such as Castorbeans.

‘Autumn cassia,’ or ‘Flowery senna’ (Cassia corymbosa) is another very attractive shrubby cassia which has become more noticeable in the Texas landscape in recent years, due to the very mild winters. It can grow to a height of 8 feet, with a spread of 6 feet, and in the fall is covered with sheets of small golden blooms, followed by long, slender green seedpods.

Cassia splendens is an especially desirable species for Central Texas. It is a somewhat larger plant with even more showy blooms than Cassia corymbosa. It has fewer seedpods and is commonly reproduced through cuttings.