Most trees that catch your eye this season display colorful leaves or berries. But the red-cap gum ( Eucalyptus erythrocorys) provides fall color of a different sort. This evergreen lights up the shortest days of the year with scarlet bud caps that drop off to reveal vibrant yellow flowers.
Blooming anytime from November through March, red-cap gum has deep green leaves and white bark. Reaching a modest height of 30 feet, it tolerates drought, withstands considerable heat, and is hardy to 23°, performing well in the intermediate and low deserts ( Sunset climate zones 12 and 13).
Stake it when young to form a single-trunked tree (growing almost as wide as it does tall), or cut back the main stem to grow it as a large, multitrunked shrub.
Look for red-cap gum at well-stocked nurseries.