Colorful Trees – By Mark Govan, Host “Florida Gardening”

Flowering trees can be a beautiful addition to any landscape. Trees add beauty and because of the shade they offer, give homeowners the opportunity to enjoy their outdoor spaces. There are several large and medium sized flowering trees that can not only give you the shade you so desperately desire, but as the trees begin to bloom they can also provide your home with a colorful focal point for the landscape. This week I want to go over some of the flowering trees you may be able to use around your home and I will also tell you about some of the problems you may run into while establishing these trees. Flowering trees may not be for everybody but if you are considering adding one of these gems to your landscape, you need to be aware of a few things.

Some flowering trees go through a period of dormancy during the winter months. During this resting stage, many will lose all or most of their leaves and you may have to rake the yard to keep a clean appearance. Fortunately, this dormancy period does not last very long and most of us do not mind a little work cleaning up a few leaves. Having a tree that loses its leaves in the winter gives you more sun during our cool time of year. Another benefit of deciduous trees is the fact that heavily shaded yards can cause plant dieback during the winter months. I am sure you have seen homes where the turf grass which has been shaded out because of large oak trees. Flowering trees that lose their leaves in the winter, allow the sun to shine on your plants and lawns giving them the precious light they need to survive during the winter months.

The first flowering tree I would like to talk about is called the Silk Oak Tree or the Grevillea Robusta. Even though the word oak is used in its name, this tree does not belong to the oak family. Silk Oak trees are semi deciduous meaning they will not lose all their leaves in the winter but rather replace older leaves as they begin to age. In the springtime you will normally get a big flush of fern shaped leaves which distinguish this tree from the Oak trees. Silk oaks can grow to a height of about forty feet in our area and they are drought tolerant. This makes the Silk Oak tree great for homeowners in the Tampa Bay area because of our repetitive drought conditions and water restrictions.

If you are looking for a large tree that will give you shade during the summer months and a beautiful golden flowering season in the spring, then the Silk Oak is for you. April is the month most of these beautiful trees go into full bloom. You may have noticed a few of these trees in your area with their dense clusters of fragrant golden flowers lining the branches. These flowers upon close inspection are not really flowers but more closely resemble bristles in mass. Note in the photo above how brilliantly colored this tree is in full bloom. This tree can be a nice full sized addition for any landscape.

Another nice tree you may consider for your landscape is the Jacaranda tree. Jacaranda trees are a medium growing tree that can reach heights of about twenty five feet in our area. The thing I like about this tree is its wide spreading habit and beautiful flowers. Instead of growing upright and narrow, this tree tends to have a spreading canopy which can give you much more shade over a wide area. If you have a wide lot or you want to cover your entire front yard, then this tree is for you. Most Jacarandas available in local nurseries are smaller trees so you will probably have to wait several years for this tree to start spreading but the rewards are worth the wait.

When Jacarandas go into full bloom, they are a sight to see. Beautiful five lobed blue to purple blue flowers will dazzle your neighbors. As their flowers fall to the ground, they make a carpet of blue giving the appearance of a colorful blanket draped under the tree. Most Jacarandas are in bloom now and some are truly magnificent. This drought tolerant tree is perfect for our area of Tampa bay and is easily propagated from seed if you have a friend that has a tree. Remember, trees planted from seed may take seven or more years to bloom so if you would like to have flowers now, stop by a local nursery or garden center and order a larger specimen.

I would be remiss if I failed to inform you of one of the problems with this tree. After the blooming process has ended, the tree puts on a woody shield shaped seed pod containing several winged seeds. As this seed pod ripens it will normally split open releasing the seeds which float on the breeze. This is what you need to look for if you plan on planting one of these trees from seed. The problem with this seed pod is not that you will have many seedling trees growing up around the mother plant because this does not happen. However, after the mature seed pod has released all of the seeds, the hard pod will fall to the ground making some homeowners that cut their own lawns mad when they run over these pods. The pods are hard when they first fall and can make cutting the lawn difficult. This problem only lasts a short period of time as the pods tend to decay fairly fast but the beautiful color this tree provides should make this problem seem slight.

The last tree I would like to go over today is the Jerusalem Thorn Tree. Jerusalem Thorn Trees are a smaller dooryard tree suitable for hot dry climates such as ours. This tree will grow to a height of about fifteen feet with a spread of about the same. Even though this tree does have small thorns (not a climbing tree), the sheer brilliance of color in its yellow and reddish-orange blossoms will make you a believer that this tree has a place in your landscape.
Most of these trees are grown from seed that a neighbor may save from their own tree but you can still find them at many garden centers. Blooming time is generally mid April and what a show this tree puts on. Thousands of blossoms and an extended bloom time make this tree another one of my favorites. Another nice attribute of this tree is that the fine texture of its leaf structure makes this tree drought tolerant. Many of us do not have sprinkler systems so we are reluctant to plant trees that require a lot of water. If you are in this situation then this tree is for you. In fact, all the trees mentioned in this article will take full sun and are all well adapted to this area.

I hope you have enjoyed this article on drought tolerant flowering trees we can grow in our area. Each of the trees I have listed above have a specific place in any landscape. Because the trees I have mentioned here all require little maintenance and care, you can be assured that in time, you will have a stunning addition to your landscape. When trying to locate these trees, let your fingers do the walking and try to get the largest tree that fits your budget. I hope I have given you a few recommendations that you can use to enhance the beauty of your landscape. Have fun in the garden and remember, without our plants we would not be here.

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