Those of us who have a large piece of property and want some shade need to take these three trees into consideration. All you need to do is take a ride around any of the older neighbors in town and you will fall in love. Try 6th Street — right off of 5th Avenue in Naples — and also 4th Avenue, you’ll be happy you did.
First is the royal poinciana (Delonix regia), also known as the flamboyant tree from Madagascar, and once you have seen, it you will know why. I think it is the showiest tree we have here in South Florida. This tall tree (40 feet) is fast growing and has a spread aswide — if not wider — than it is tall. In spring and summer, it is covered with clusters of bright red to orange flowers that look neon-colored in the sun, but its foliage alone is very lacy and fern like. It is a wonderful landscape tree when it is given enough room and sun to strut its stuff and supply some shade. As a specimen tree in the garden, it has no match.
In the winter, the Poinciana will go deciduous and produce large brown woody seed pods, which are so hard they can bend a lawn mower blade if run over by accident. The downfall with the Poinciana tree is it will shed its leaves and pods,and brittle branches snap easily. So, some picking up of debris is necessary in the winter months, but for me, it is worthwhile for the show of shows it puts on in the spring and summer.
Poinciana trees require very little care once established, and acclimate to almost any soil. Poinciana will grow in containers with rich soil and must be kept wet. Do not plant Poinciana near pavers or walkways because of its large spreading surface roots some consider works of art. The Poinciana tree pruned properly will withstand high winds and can tolerate severe pruning to be kept at a manageable height. The Peltoptorum pterocarpum, or yellow form of Poinciana, has mostly the same characteristics as theorange Poinciana tree.
The Jacaranda tree is a spring bloomer with clusters of blue-purple flowers that can be 14 inches long and 10 inches wide. It also has vey feathery foliage and announces spring in South Florida. The Jacaranda tree makes a beautiful specimen tree on medium to large lots. It grows to about 20 feet and produces a dappled shade.
Some people actually think these trees are messy because they create a blanket of flowers on the ground beneath the tree, which looks like purple snow. I can think of a lot of things that create a mess, but I don’t think flowers are on my list.
Jacaranda and Poinciana trees are very similar in that they needs little care,are drought tolerant, adapt to almost any soil conditions and can take severe pruning. Leaves fill out the branches after the flowers fall.
The third beauty in spring in South Florida is the golden chain tree (Laburnum) has pendulous yellow flowers that are very dense and 10-12 inches long, but depending on variety, the flower stems can grow to 20 inches long. The leaves are somewhat clover-like, and like all three of these beauties, they are all eye catchers even when not in bloom. The golden chain will get about 20 feet, and a huge yard is not necessary. They also bloom in the spring.
Let us not forget the native Tamarind tree which is also a host plant forthe Cassis Blue Butterfly with its white powder puff like blooms. Pruning after blooming will encourage flower production for the next year, and cutting out dead branches, seed pods and small limbs makes the tree stronger and healthier. It usually takes seven years to produce blooms and will not bloom as a container plant. It usually is not bothered by damaging pests. All parts of this tree are poisonous and can be lethal if enough is ingested. This plant also is a larvae food plant for some species of butterflies.
All of these trees are traffic stoppers and deserve a spot in Florida gardens. I have three in my yard, and I think down the road my beautiful butterfly garden might evolve into a beautiful shade garden.