candlestick cassia (senna alata)

I’ve been growing candlestick cassia, also known as the candelabra plant, in my yard for almost a decade. It’s an easy-to-grow, multi-functional plant that provides a lot of nitrogen-fixing biomass, attracts many butterflies, has medicinal properties, and provides much-needed shade to our chicken coop and food forest. However, it does have an invasive tendency as it deposits thousands of seeds, so as always, use responsible management to prevent overgrowth and encroaching on neighbouring yards.

this fast-growing, one-year-old cassia will get twice as big this year

Also Known As Candle Bush, Senna Alata, Cassia Alata Fabaceae, Candletree, Candlestick Tree, Ringworm Tree, Empress Candle Bush, Empress Candle Plant, Christmas Candles, Candelabra Bush

Growing Conditions and Characteristics

Candlestick cassias are considered subtropical, and native to parts of Central and South America. In the United States, they grow best in zones 8-12.

Here in zone 9, the leave will turn brown and the plant will die back during a hard frost. Sometimes they come back from the stump in the spring, and the seeds that are left in the ground will sprout.

Cassias are very resilient and can pretty much grow in any soil type and any sun exposure. They can tolerate both drought and flooding.

Height and Spacing

When it comes to height and spacing, Candlestick Cassias are pretty versatile. They can be pruned to grow as 3-foot high shrubs or can be left to grow into 15 feet trees.

In my garden, I trim them back frequently and spread the plant material around the garden and chicken coop. Frequent cutting promotes a bushier growth habit

Sun Exposure

As with all plants, you must consider your local climate, as well as the specific needs of the plant, when determining the ideal sun exposure. These plants can tolerate full sun to partial shade, but like me, if you live in an extremely hot climate or if the sunlight in your area is intense, providing partial shade for Candlestick Cassia can be beneficial.

Soil and Water Requirements

Drought tolerant

Benefits of Growing Candlestick Cassia

This fast-growing tree provides a lot of shade from its large, nitrogen-fixed leaves which I use as a chop and drop for mulching. It also attracts many butterflies, ladybugs and lacewings.

.It’s a nitrogen fixer, its vibrant yellow flowers are popular with pollinators and it produces an abundance of seeds – which is great for biomass, but it can quickly take over, so remove the seedpods prior to them forming to prevent them from taking over.

Nitrogen Fixing Abilities

I don’t use any type of store-bought fertilizers in my yard, so I love nitrogen-fixing plants. mulch it provides through all the leaves and branches this tree produces.

Pollinator and Host plant

A Candlestick Cassia’s bloom in November with 12-18″ yellow flowers that resemble candlesticks.

Candlestick cassias serve as a host plant for various species of butterflies. The following butterfly species are known to utilize Senna alata as a larval host plant:

  1. Orange-barred Sulphur (Phoebis philea): This butterfly lays its eggs on the leaves of Senna alata, and the larvae feed on the foliage.
  2. Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae): Similar to the Orange-barred Sulphur, the Cloudless Sulphur also uses Senna alata as a larval host plant.
  3. Sleepy Orange (Eurema nicippe): The Sleepy Orange butterfly’s caterpillars can often be found feeding on the leaves of Senna alata.
  4. Large Orange Sulphur (Phoebis agarithe): Large bright orange wings with black markings.
  5. Cloudless Giant Sulphur (Phoebis neocypris): Bright yellow wings with black markings.
  6. Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus): Brown wings with elongated tails.

Dynamic Accumulator

The roots of the cassia reach deep down through the ground and extract nutrients that may not be readily available to other plants. It gathers these nutrients and stores them in its leaves, branches, and trunks. This is called a dynamic accumulator, and their ability to enhance soil fertility and contribute to sustainable gardening practices is definitely something you want in your garden.

When the leaves fall off or the tree gets cut back, the plant parts decompose and release those nutrients into the top layer of soil, benefiting nearby plants.

Candlestick cassia in the chicken coop

Candlestick Cassia trees have been an excellent addition to our chicken coop. They grow fast and provide an ample amount of shade and they generate an abundance of leaf litter and twigs that I cut back to use like bedding and mulch in the coop, which helps keep it cleaner.

Survival Gardening | Candlestick Cassia

In a survival situation, knowing which plants can provide valuable resources is crucial. Here are the benefits of the Candlestick Cassia (Senna alata).

Medicinal Properties

Candlestick Cassia possesses anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties that can aid in treating various ailments. The leaves can be crushed and applied topically to reduce swelling and provide relief from skin conditions. Its antifungal properties make it effective against infections like ringworm, while its antimicrobial abilities help combat harmful bacteria and viruses.

  • Anti-inflammatory: Candlestick cassia has anti-inflammatory properties to reduce swelling. Prepare it by crushing up candlestick cassia leaves and mixing them with coconut oil. Apply the mixture to the affected area and leave it on for 30 minutes before rinsing off.
  • Antifungal: Candlestick cassia has antifungal properties that can help treat fungal infections such as ringworm and athlete’s foot. We used this, instead of Lotrimin, on our Sulcata tortoise when he had a fungal infection on his shell. To prepare, we boiled the leaves in water for 10 minutes, strained the mixture, and let it cool. I ground it up in the food processor and applied it to his shell using a Q-tip.
  • Laxative: Candlestick cassia is a natural laxative that can help relieve constipation. I have never tried this, but it is stated to prepare it by boiling the leaves in water for 10 minutes, straining, and drinking before bed.
  • Antimicrobial and Antioxidant: Candlestick cassia is also said to have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties that can help fight against bad bacteria and viruses and can help protect the body against free radicals by consuming it.

Note: Before using candlestick cassia for medicinal purposes, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate dosage and to avoid any potential side effects.

Candlestick Cassia: Care and Maintenance


Prune in the spring to promote growth.


Mulch heavily in winter

How to Propagate Candlestick Cassia

from Seed:

One candlestick cassia tree can produce well over 50 pods that house more than 30 seeds a piece…meaning you can turn one tree into millions very quickly. After your candlestick cassia blooms, each flower bloom will form into a bunch of green seeds pods. Leave them on the tree until the pods dry out and turn black.

Once black, cut the pods off the branch, crack them open and collect the awesome-looking seeds. If left on the tree too long, the seed pods will dry so much that they crack and the seeds fall to the ground.