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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Pink Tassel Tree a hydrangeas look-a-like

By Staff | Dec 23, 2015

The Pink Tassel Tree provides a vanilla fragrance when in bloom. PHOTO BY ANITA FORCE MARSHALL

Plant Subject: Pink Tassel Tree (Dombeya wallichii)

First impression: Crinkled, cup-shaped, bubble gum pink blooms in the form of cascading umbels. The blossoms are numerous and peek through from a super large leafy dense canopy. Can’t help but notice all this color and dimension, and an intoxicating vanilla fragrance. This explosion of overflowing blossoms brings your eye back for a second ahhhhh, blooming now at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Our star is highly prized by us tropical gardeners for its resemblance to our northern flower hydrangeas. We had to leave our beloved hydrangeas up north (my north was a four hour drive from Orlando) in a different plant zone. Thanks to this look-a-like, we can grow a wannabe for us sun lovers.

Dombeya’s consist of over 250 variations in size, from small shrubs to tall trees. Lots of choices, but the Pink Tassel Tree variety is a super showy addition in our garden. The extra large leaves are heart shaped (cordate), fuzzy, and light green. They are a lovely accent to the super sized pompom flowers that literally hang all over the tree. Each pompom is a collection of about one hundred cotton candy pink flowers fused together in a ball shape. These balls are suspended from the tree by pendulous stalks. Take a sniff, ahh sweet vanilla like fragrance accompanies the profuse blooming, which occurs during winter time.

Pre-bloom orbs are light green and fuzzy. Post blooms morphs into a varnish tan look ball that people use as dried flowers. These three stages of pendulant flora create lots of interest in our star. Easy to care for, I shape and prune mine, up until the beginning of October, then anytime after its wintertime blooming period. It can reach up to 15 feet tall and is just as wide, so make room, or prune down to the size you want.

She is evergreen, a fast grower and drought tolerant. This sun to partial-shade lover needs good drainage and regular watering to do well. Dombeya’s are non native and hail from Africa. Interesting trivia: They are a favorite food of black rhinos. We won’t consider them a threat; I think we are out of their range here!


Gorgeous flowers

Attractive when blooming or not blooming

Insect damage minimal

Non Invasive

Great pollinator attractor

Very fragrant

Have a treat ready for any visiting rhinos!


Made need staking at first

Will tire of telling neighbors it’s not a hydrangea

Conclusion: Great for all us cottage garden wannabe’s. Are you missing your hydrangeas? Don’t cry, come visit our pom-poms of pretty pink in a tropical dry your eyes catching garden.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!