Coral Bean

Coral bean is a native plant that can add interest to the landscape from spring through fall. Vibrant red flowers are followed by black seed pods that crack open to reveal striking crimson seeds. If you’re hoping to attract hummingbirds to your yard, this is the plant for you.

A spike of red tubular flowers on a coral bean plant
Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia,


The red flowers of coral bean (Erythrina herbacea) develop on tall stalks in the early spring and sometimes fall, drawing hummingbirds and butterflies. In autumn, as the rest of the summer garden starts to fade, the seed pods begin to mature and now the show begins. What once looked a bit like English pea pods turn dark, almost black, and split open to reveal shiny, scarlet seeds nestled inside. They’re very pretty — and very poisonous, so be sure to keep them away from kids and pets.

The compound leaves have deltoid (wider at the base than at the tip) leaflets that are light to medium green in color and have prickly midribs on the underside of the leaf. The stems also have spines that curve downward. In South Florida, the plant grows large enough to be a small multi-trunked tree, with pale, thick bark.

Historically, Native Americans ate the roots to increase perspiration. Derivatives of the plant have also been used as a laxative, and the beans have been utilized for poisoning rats and paralyzing fish.

Planting and Care

A dried long seed pod of coral bean, split open to reveal a few bright red seeds inside
Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia,

Coral bean can be planted in zones 8 through 11. In North and Central Florida coral bean grows as a large annual or perennial, reaching 6 feet tall before it freezes to the ground in winter. In South Florida it grows as a large deciduous shrub or small tree.

This Florida-Friendly plant is a great choice for the back of mixed borders. It also does well when planted along a fence since it will grow to cover it. While coral bean is a very attractive plant when in flower, it can appear somewhat sparse and ragged the rest of the year. Pair it with evergreen plants to keep the area around it looking lush.

Excellent for a natural landscape, coral bean grows in a wide range of soil, but does best in fertile, well-drained, sandy soil. It flowers best in full sun or light shade. Water it well when planting, but once established, it actually does better with infrequent irrigation. Coral bean is a good choice for coastal landscapes since it is moderately salt tolerant.

Propagation is simple. You can either grow Erythrina herbacea from scarified seeds or from cuttings. Pests are rarely a serious issue, but you may encounter Erythrina stem borers, Erythrina leafrollers, Erythrina gall wasps, or leafminers.

Contact the experts at your county Extension office if you have any questions as you add coral bean to your landscape.

Speartip-shaped green leaves of coral bean
Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia,

Also on Gardening Solutions

More from UF/IFAS