Cultivation and care of palo borracho (Ceiba speciosa)

Palo borracho is a tree that commonly has several names: painera, bottle stick, pot belly or bottle tree. Its scientific name is Ceiba speciosa , although it was previously classified as Chorisia speciosa.

Its origin is in South America (mainly in Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru) and its family is made up of more than 200 species. The palo borracho is common in hot climates and tropical or subtropical areas, so it is not recommended to plant it in cold places.


The Ceiba genus is made up of large trees as they can reach 25 meters in height. Physically, they have a soft wood trunk and have large flowers. Its glass is very dense and with a rounded appearance. Green bark with gray tones and usually has conical spines.

It is ideal for beginners in gardening as it grows fast, resists lack of water, supports pruning and is hardly affected by pests or diseases.

Although they are easy to care for trees, palo borracho grows to a large size. You have to plan the planting area and avoid nearby trees to avoid competition for space and light.

Drunken stick is a deciduous tree that loses its leaves with the arrival of the cold (mid-autumn or winter). Its planting in city parks and gardens is quite common, so surely you have ever seen this type of tree.


The palo borracho usually blooms in spring or summer , although there are subspecies or cultivars that offer a later flowering.

These flowers are pink or lilac at the tips , and a warmer tone like white towards the inside. As a curiosity, the nectar of these flowers is used to feed some birds of the Hummingbird species.

From its fertilized flowers some non-edible fruits are produced for humans . They have a size similar to that of a pea, of a dark greenish color with black seeds inside.


At the beginning of its development, the bark of the palo borracho is greenish smooth, but when it is old it begins to have grayish tones and greater roughness. Its branches are composed of elongated leaves that fall in the autumn or winter seasons, giving rise to new foliage.

Its trunk can measure 2 meters in diameter and its shape is bottle shaped, hence it is commonly called a bottle tree. By having the trunk of that size, it is able to store water inside.


Within the genus Ceiba we find 21 different species, but the most common from the ornamental point of view are  Ceiba speciosa and Ceiba insignis.

The appearance of both is very similar, which gives rise to frequent confusion. Botanically they differ in several respects.

  • Height: Ceiba speciosa is shorter and the shape of the trunk is more similar to that of a bottle.
  • Flowering: Ceiba speciosa has larger flowers and its colors can be white or yellow. In addition, it has a smaller number of pages.



Regarding the growing conditions , it is a drought resistant tree However, so that in adulthood it offers dense foliage and becomes a large tree, we will schedule a cycle of frequent waterings in summer.

Irrigation should be abundant in summer and much more moderate in winter. A common irrigation program can be the following:

  • Irrigation in spring and summer:  3 irrigations per week.
  • Watering in autumn and winter:  1 watering per week, with half the amount of water in spring and summer.

It is usual to place between 1 and 2 drip irrigation emitters, with a flow rate of 4 L / h. In spring and summer, irrigations of 1 hour will suffice, raising or lowering a few minutes depending on the texture of the soil and the heat.


We can fertilize the drunkwood from the spring budding, where it returns to emit new leaves and stems coming out of the winter stop.

The most comfortable way to provide nutrients to the drunken stick is by means of solid fertilizers in the form of granules. We recommend a generic fertilizer composed of NPK 12-8-16 with micronutrients , since it is an ideal ratio to maintain any crop in general.

To improve its development and the characteristics of the soil, it is advisable to add 3 to 4 kg per tree of organic matter or compost at the end of winter .


Its origin is tropical so it will not tolerate low temperatures. Its planting is recommended in areas with mild winters, typical of the Mediterranean or coastal areas (where it is commonly used).

It is a demanding tree in lighting . Given its rapidity of growth and the great height it reaches, we need to find an isolated and spacious space in the garden with high light input, free of walls and obstacles that generate shade.


Pruning in winter is recommended during the first years of life, although it can be pruned in any season of the year due to its strength and vigor.

It is advisable to cut the tips of the branches leaving shoots in the direction we want, as well as to eliminate twisted or wind-damaged branches.


The easiest way to obtain new species of palo borracho is through seeds . Once the fruit is ripe, the seeds are obtained that can be sown directly without any additional treatment.

These seeds are produced only by adult specimens.

Multiplication by cuttings

Another way to reproduce a specimen of palo borracho is by cuttings, which should be about 20 or 30 centimeters . This system is somewhat more complicated than the simple germination of its seeds, since to produce new roots in the semi-woody stems we must carry out some stimulating treatments with hormonal bases.

If you are starting out in gardening and do not want major problems, the multiplication of the drunkard by seeds will be ideal. Slower, but safe.

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