Trees_Please_Kowhai_Tree_GiftKōwhai are beautiful native trees iconic to New Zealand, with the gorgeous yellow flowers – while unofficial – being widely recognised as NZ’s native flower.

The following information is in relation to Dragons Gold, Sophora molloyi, a tidy, compact shrub which grows to approximately 2 metres, making it suitable for small gardens and for growing in a pot.

Best areas to grow

Dragon’s Gold is suitable for growing throughout New Zealand and is fairly hardy. However it’s important to know that Kōwhai can drop leaves and sulk often in transplanting or with changes of temperature, so best to keep an eye on your tree during those times.

Sun and shade

While Kōwhai will grow in both sun and semi-shade, they can sulk and drop leaves if too cold or too hot. They will tolerate moderate frosts, however particularly when young, it may be best to keep them inside during particularly cold months. Otherwise use frost protection. They are drought tolerant but only once established.

Soil & Feeding

Kōwhai grow in most soil types, however the speed is dependent on the quality. They tolerate dry soil and can also grow in clay soil however it will be slower than well-drained soil which they thrive in.

Dragons Gold grows well in pots as well, so provided the pot drains well, they will be quite happy. Feed with a suitable fertiliser from your local plant shop.


Water regularly while young. Note however that Kōwhai can sulk and drop leaves if too wet or too dry! So keep the soil moist but not too wet.


Depending on where they are planted and weather temperatures, Dragons Gold will shed some to all leaves, pre-flowering. They produce tubular flowers that are around 3-5 cm long and are a favourite of tui, bellbirds and silvereyes. Once established, they flower over a long period in late winter and early spring. The flowers are bright gold yellow – hence the name, which means “yellow” in Maōri.


Trim after flowering to maintain a tidy habit. As a shrub, Dragons Gold is well suited for hedging purpose, however it should be noted that fewer flowers will be produced with regular trimming.

Dealing with issues

The following is a list of issues that you may experience with your Camellias, and some suggestions on how to deal with them:

  • Dropping leaves: Generally suggests the tree is too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry! Try to bring your tree back to balance.
  • Yellow leaves: Again it is either experiencing extreme conditions, it may not be getting enough sun, or it may need re-potting up a size and/or into more quality potting mix.
  • Caterpillars!!! You may not see them, but they may be nibbling on your poor little tree when you’re not looking. Kōwhai can be susceptible to a little green native caterpillar that is often in the tips and are quite hard to see. As a healthy adult they will generally survive these caterpillars, but if not healthy or if it is younger, either remove by hand, spray (preferably natural organic sprays), or if those don’t work, try an organic Derris Dust.

Did you know?!

Kōwhai were used by Maori for applying a poultice to wounds and tumours. An infusion made from the bark of the Kōwhai, combined with Manuka bark, was used to treat internal pains, bruises and broken limbs. The ashes of the wood were also used to treat ringworm!

Want to gift someone a Kōwhai tree?

Click here to view the Trees Please gift range, and select a Kōwhai as your preferred tree option! (NZ delivery only)

Share your tips!

Do you have some tips to add for growing beautiful Kōwhai? Share and comment below!