Can you grow pohutukawa in the UK?

Answered by Phillip Nicastro

Growing pohutukawa in the UK is quite challenging due to the relatively cool and unpredictable climate. Pohutukawa, also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree, is native to warm and coastal regions of New Zealand. It thrives in full sun and requires a sheltered location to protect it from strong winds and frost.

In the UK, the climate is generally much cooler and less favorable for pohutukawa. However, if you are determined to give it a try, there are a few key factors to consider.

1. Climate: Pohutukawa prefers a mild, maritime climate with warm summers and mild winters. The UK’s climate, particularly in more northern regions, may not provide the necessary conditions for successful growth. It is best suited to the warmest and sunniest areas on the mainland, such as the south-west coast of England or parts of Wales.

2. Sheltered Location: Pohutukawa requires a sheltered location to protect it from harsh winds, which can damage its delicate branches. Choose a spot in your garden that is shielded from strong winds, such as near a wall or fence. This will help create a microclimate that mimics the tree’s natural habitat.

3. Soil and Drainage: Pohutukawa prefers well-draining soil that is slightly acidic. If your soil is heavy and clay-like, consider improving it by adding organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure. This will help improve drainage and create a more suitable growing environment for the tree.

4. Sunlight: Pohutukawa requires full sun to thrive. Choose a location in your garden that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Without adequate sunlight, the tree may struggle to grow and flower.

5. Protection from Frost: Pohutukawa is not frost-tolerant and can be damaged or even killed by freezing temperatures. If you live in an area prone to frost, you may need to provide extra protection during the winter months. Consider covering the tree with horticultural fleece or moving it to a more sheltered spot.

It’s important to note that even with the best care and suitable conditions, growing pohutukawa in the UK is still a challenge. The tree is highly adapted to the specific climate of New Zealand, and replicating those conditions in the UK can be difficult. If you are determined to have a pohutukawa in your garden, you may need to provide additional protection and care to help it thrive.

While it is technically possible to grow pohutukawa in the UK, it requires careful consideration of the climate, location, soil, and protection from frost. It is best suited for the warmest, sunniest, and most sheltered sites on the mainland. If you are unsure or inexperienced with growing tender trees, it may be more practical to admire pohutukawa in its natural habitat or consider alternative trees that are better suited to the UK climate.