Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Spring’s Big Three Trees

 

 

PLANT TALK 
Mike Malloy 
mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com

When these three trees are blooming in South Florida, spring has officially arrived. Take a drive through some of the more mature, tree-lined neighborhoods around Naples, and you’ll find prime examples of these magnificent trees.

The first is the Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia), also known as the Flamboyant Tree from Madagascar. I think it is the showiest tree we have here in Naples. Once you’ve seen it, you’ll agree. The Royal Poinciana is fast growing and will quickly reach 40-feet tall and 40-feet wide. During spring and summer it is covered with clusters of neon-colored bright red to orange flowers and lacy, fern-like foliage. As a specimen tree in the garden, the Royal Poinciana has no match. As

Royal Ponicana flowers. Photos By Mike Malloy

Royal Ponicana flowers. Photos By Mike Malloy

a landscape tree, it provides always-welcome shade during hot summer afternoons.

The Royal Poinciana will acclimate to most soil conditions and requires very little care once established. Because of its large spreading surface roots, do not plant near pavers or walkways. Interestingly, some people consider the exposed roots an art form. If properly pruned, the Royal Poinciana can withstand high winds. In fact, severe prunings will probably be necessary in order to maintain a manageable height. It can be planted in large containers, but make sure the soil is kept rich and wet. Peltophorum pterocarpum is commonly known as the yellow form of Poinciana, having similar characteristics to the orange Poinciana.

During the winter months the Royal Poinciana is deciduous and

Jacaranda flowers.

Jacaranda flowers.

produces large brown woody seed pods, which will wreak havoc on your lawn mower if you run over one by accident. A winter clean up of debris will be necessary, as the Royal Poinciana heavily sheds its leaves and pods. Take my word for it, the winter clean-up is well worth the sensational spring and summer show.

The Jacaranda tree is the second highly anticipated spring bloomer here in South Florida. It features feathery foliage and clusters of cascading bell-shaped lavender flowers that grow 14 inches long and 10 inches wide. The breathtaking Jacaranda tree grows about 20-feet tall and provides lovely dappled shade. It will make a beautiful specimen tree in medium to large yards. Jacarandas are considered messy

Jacaranda tree.

Jacaranda tree.

by some, because of the blanket of purple flowers after blooming. However, I think it looks like purple snow. The leaves will eventually fill out the branches after the flowers fall. The Jacaranda and Royal Poinciana require very similar care. They are both drought-tolerant, adapt to almost any soil conditions, and can tolerate severe pruning.

The last of our spring bloomers is the Golden Chain tree (laburnum). A larvae food plant for several species of butterflies. It has gorgeous pendulous yellow flowers that densely grow 10 to 20 inches long, with trifoliate or clover-like leaves. A huge yard is not necessary for a Golden Chain, as it will only grow to about 20-feet tall. In order to keep it strong

Golden chain tree flowers.

Golden chain tree flowers.

and healthy, trim off dead branches, seed pods and small limbs. Pruning after blooming will also encourage next year’s flower production. You’ll have to be very patient with your Golden Chain tree, because you may have to wait up to seven years for it to bloom. In fact, it will never bloom as a container plant. The good news is that Golden Chain trees are rarely bothered by damaging pests. The bad news is that all parts of this tree are poisonous and can be lethal if ingested.

If you want cooling shade in your Florida garden this summer and you have plenty of room, you can’t go wrong with one of these three super bloomers. Even when not in bloom, these trees are real traffic stoppers.

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