Planting a tree in your Florida yard not only adds beauty but can be functional as well. Trees add to the layered canopy and create shade cover in this hot, tropical region.
The common name bottlebrush perfectly describes this evergreen plants bright red flower spikes. Hummingbirds love the flowers, and the plant is hardier than most Bottlebrushes. The flowers are followed by small, woody capsules that look like bead bracelets on the bark, and which last for years. Offered as a shrub, Bottlebrush can be trained as a tree to 15 feet or espaliered as a quick wall cover. It makes a nice screen or tall unclipped hedge. Pruning to develop several trunks and removing some lower branches can create a fine small specimen tree.
A good choice for a spot offering full sun, it will adapt to a variety of soils. Very drought-tolerant once established, Bottlebrush tolerates any soil except very poor, alkaline, or poorly-drained. Fertilize regularly to maintain good flower color and dark green foliage. Suckers from the trunk need to be removed periodically to maintain tree form. Propagation is usually from cuttings as it is variable when grown from seed.
Though commonly called black olive tree, this native of the upper Florida Keys (some consider it native, others do not) is not the edible olive we know and love, but does produce a small, black seed-capsule. Black olive is a 40 to 50-foot-tall evergreen tree with a smooth trunk holding up strong, wind-resistant branches, forming a pyramidal shape when young but developing a very dense, full, oval to rounded crown with age. Sometimes the top of the crown will flatten with age, and the tree grows horizontally. The lush, dark bluish-green, leathery leaves are two to four inches long and clustered atbranch tips, sometimes mixed with the 0.5 to 1.5-inch-long spines found along the branches.
The inconspicuous, small, greenish-yellow flowers are produced in four-inch-long spikes during spring and summer and eventually form the black fruits which, unfortunately, exude a staining tannic acid material which could damage patios, sidewalks,or vehicles parked below. Besides this one drawback, black olive is beautifully suited as a street, shade, or specimen tree for frost-free areas, but is probably overplanted. There are many native trees which could be used in its place, including satin leaf, gumbo-limbo and others.
Black Olive grows slowly and should be planted in full sun or partial shade on well drained, moist soils. Plants may be slightly damaged at 32-degrees F. but are killed at 25-degrees F.
This upright, bushy, medium to coarse-textured evergreen tree is densely foliated with four-inch-long, leathery leaves, and it is also known as the Santa Maria tree. Although able to reach 50 feet in height in the forest, Santa Maria tends to be a slow-growing, moderately-sized tree about 30 to 40 feet tall with a 40 to 50-foot spread. It is well-suited for planting beneath power lines 40 feet high. Small, white, fragrant flowers appear on one to two-inch-long racemes among the four to six-inch-long, glossy leaves. Well-suited as a street, parking lot, patio or small shade tree, especially for coastal areas, Santa Maria can also be used as a screen, and can be maintained as a shrub. The stems bleed yellow latex when injured and the wood of the Santa Maria tree is valuable for ship building and cabinet work. The bark is almost black and is longitudinally furrowed and quite attractive.
Santa Maria should be planted in full sun or partial shade on well-drained soil. It has good salt tolerance and is often seen along the beach. Grows well in confined soil spaces, such as along a street, and the tree should be propagated, sold and planted in urban areas much more often. Remember that the golf ball-sized fruit is poisonous and hard, and this could be undesirable in the landscape under some circumstances. The trunk grows to about two feet in diameter.
This low-branching, multi-trunked, shrubby, evergreen tree has glaucous medium-green leaves. The inconspicuous, small, greenish flowers appear in dense cone-like heads in terminal panicles in spring and are followed by 1/2-inch, cone-like, red-brown fruits. The dark brown attractive bark is ridged and scaly. The tree is ‘clean’ with small leaves which fall between the grass blades of the lawn or are easily washed away in the rain.
Capable of reaching a height of 40 feet with a 20-foot spread, Buttonwood is often seen as a small, somewhat asymmetrical shrub but is ideal for use as a screen, clipped hedge, or specimen planting. The species is less common and grows taller than the Silver Buttonwood. Due to the attractive bark and soft foliage, a multi-stemmed specimen can make a nice patio or street tree. Planted in the open as a tree, Buttonwood will grow to about 20 to 25 feet tall and wide, and will often take on a picturesque, contorted appearance when exposed to constant seashore winds, creating an attractive specimen. The crown is more symmetrical 1/2 mile or more from the coast or on the inland side of a tall ocean-front building. The wood of Buttonwood was formerly used for firewood, cabinetwork, and charcoal making and is very strong. It is an ideal wood for smoking meats and fish. Included or embedded bark often develops in major branch crotches, but the strong wood appears to compensate for this potential defect. Trees are tough and long-lasting in the landscape.
A Florida native, Buttonwood is ideal for seaside plantings as it is highly tolerant of full sun, sandy soils, and salty conditions. It also tolerates brackish areas and alkaline soils, thriving in the broken shade and wet soils of hammocks. This is a tough tree! It withstands the rigors of urban conditions very well and makes a durable street or parking lot tree. Due to its small size, plant on 15-foot centers to form a closed canopy along a street. Purchase single-trunked trees for street and parking lot plantings.
Under most circumstances Senna surattensis is a dependable and impressive small flowering tree. It is commonly planted as a street and landscape tree in south Florida and the Bahamas. The flowering days of S. surattensis are prolonged and beautiful. As a species, it is capable of flowering from January through December. Many trees have their best show in the spring and summer while others are at their showiest from fall into spring. Late summer and mid winter are usually the two periods of minimum or no flower displays, and mid winter is when many trees can become quite unkempt. What’s quite noticeable is that most trees, growing in close proximity to each other, either put on an exceptional show or nary a flower. This suggests that flowering is stimulated by local maintenance regimes more so than by changing weather.
Newly planted trees must be kept well watered to become established and apparently to flower adequately. After establishment reduce irrigation. In alternate years, prune once after a major flowering episode to keep a tight attractive canopy. You may want to prune more often since heavy flowering can leave some trees disheveled, with scant leaves and dry, hanging, blackened pods. The trunk and branches are a silver/gray color. The crown is naturally rounded and airy, but pruning and wind damage will thicken and shorten the canopy of many trees. Easily toppled by wind, S. surattensis should probably be staked for up to three years after planting or until it becomes properly established.
It is generally not a long-lived tree, and will usually not survive for more than 6 years under normal streetscape conditions. However, properly tended, it can live for more than 10 years. This means keeping it properly standing and maintaining it free of scales and the pink hibiscus mealybug. Typical of this genus, S. surattensis attracts egg-laying cloudless sulfur butterflies. The caterpillars feed on the leaves and flowers of the tree. However, caterpillar feeding does little to detract from the beauty of its magnificent displays. Maintain a fertilizer schedule for best appearance.
Dahoon Holly is a small tree that has a narrow growth habit of upward pointing branches that grows to a height of up to 30 ft. It is often found in swamps and other wet locations where it achieves its greatest size. In warm winter areas the Dahoon is evergreen but tends to shed its foliage in colder climates. The leaves are simple with smooth edges with just a few small sharp teeth and a sharp bristle at the tip. They are 2-4 inches long and about 1 inch. The small white flowers are inconspicuous and appear in spring. In the winter, female trees are covered with bright red or yellow berries.
This is a wonderful native tree for landscapes that can be used in woodland plantings or in wet areas at the edge of lakes and streams. It tolerates brackish water and low-light conditions so it is perfect as an under-story tree especially in swampy areas. Plants can be easily transplanted or suckers dug and transplanted. Within its growing range, the Dahoon is becoming increasingly available as more nurseries respond to the ever increasing interest in gardening with native species.
Cattley guava has been in Florida for a very long time. The foliage and the bark of the tree is beautiful, and the fruit is very tasty. The fruit can be eaten fresh or made into juice, jam or jelly. Although there are two varieties, red (Strawberry) and yellow, the red variety is used more often as a landscape plant, providing a dense hedge or specimen tree. Birds also appreciate a source of food.
This tree can reach heights of 20 foot tall, and grows well in full sun. It prefers a slightly moist soil, but it is well adapted to our sandy Florida soils too.
Growing 20 to 40 feet in height, the Hong Kong Orchid-Tree creates a rounded, spreading canopy composed of large, six to eight-inch-diameter, gray/green leaves. Since young trees can be irregularly shaped, pruning during the first several years after propagation is often needed to develop a more uniform crown. It is the beautiful display of orchid-like blooms, though, which make Hong Kong Orchid-Tree so desirable for the landscape, the large, six-inch blossoms appearing in multiple shades of purple, rose, and pink during the summer, fall and early winter months, when little color is usually present in the garden.
The flowers of this variety are sterile and will not set seed so the plant will not drop long pods as other Orchid-Trees do, and they will not become a pest in the landscape. This is often the Orchid-Tree of choice for planting in urban landscapes. It makes a beautiful specimen planted in parks or on large properties. They are well suited for planting along streets and in wide medians along a boulevard.
Hong Kong Orchid-Tree grows best in full sun on well-drained soil. Trees are very drought-tolerant and actually flower best on dry soils. Problems include a tendency to show nutritional deficiencies, especially potassium; the weak wood which is susceptible to breakage in storms; and the litter problem created by the falling leaves and flowers. Orchid-Tree may need occasional pruning to maintain its shape.
The jacaranda is a large deciduous tree with fine-textured, fern-like pinnate leaves. Young trees are upright but assume an irregular branching pattern that produces beautifully asymmetric open crowns as the trees age. From April to June (depending on species and location) the tree covers itself with showy trumpet shaped flowers that are about 1.5 inches wide and are arranged in panicles (pyramid shaped clusters) that grow at the tips of branches. Jacaranda prefers enriched sandy, well drained soils but is tolerant of most soil types. This is not a salt tolerant plant. Bright sunny conditions are preferred. This tree will tolerate some shade but will bear fewer flowers. It likes moisture but will tolerate some drought. It does not like soggy or poorly drained situations.
Most jacarandas reach very sizable proportions and are unsuitable for small properties. Occasionally certain species or selected varieties are available that are smaller in stature and can be enjoyed in suburban yards and for patio plantings - check with your nursery. Since this is a deciduous tree it is best planted among evergreens that will hide its bareness in the winter and provide a green backdrop for the vibrant flowers in the spring. As mentioned earlier, this tree is especially impressive when reflected in the still waters of a lake or pond.
Evergreen ligustrum shrubs and trees thrive throughout the state of Florida. They are widely used as landscape shrubs, hedges, and specimen trees. Many species and cultivars are available with a diversity of leaf colors, leaf forms, and growth habits. All selections are tolerant of heavy pruning, which makes them suited for clipped hedges. Because of a rapid growth rate, many require pruning to maintain them within bounds. The white flowers are attractive during late spring and early summer.
Ligustrums are some of the most commonly used landscape plants. Their low cost, availability, rapid growth, and wide adaptability to most habitats contribute to their overuse. Ligustrums are used as foundation plantings, hedges, shrub borders, accent shrubs, specimens, and patio trees. Most ligustrums are not well suited for home foundation plantings because of their rapid growth and large ultimate size. Frequent and severe pruning is necessary to prevent these shrubs from obscuring windows and overgrowing allotted areas.
Ligustrums are ideally suited for formal or informal hedges because of their large mass of foliage and ability to tolerate heavy shearing as well as neglect. Hedge plants should be spaced two feet (61 cm) apart for low formal hedges and four feet (1.2 m) or more for medium to tall formal or informal hedges. The variegated leaf forms should be used with restraint as hedge or border plants due to their overpowering accenting influence. These variegated forms can be used as accents when planted singly or as small groups. Japanese and glossy privet are prized as multiple stemmed patio and specimen trees. Specimen trees can be maintained in large containers with dramatic effects.
Privets can be planted throughout Florida with little fear of cold injury. They are tolerant of the wide diversity of Florida\'s native soils and can be grown in full sun to partial shade. Japanese and glossy privet are moderately salt tolerant but should not be used where subjected directly to salt spray. Variegated Chinese privet is not salt tolerant.
A large, sprawling, picturesque tree, usually graced with Spanish moss and strongly reminiscent of the Old South, Live Oak is one of the broadest spreading of the Oaks, providing large areas of deep, inviting shade. It is the state tree of Georgia. Reaching 40 to 60 feet in height with a 60 to 100 foot spread and usually possessing many sinuously curved trunks and branches, Live Oak is an impressive sight for any large-scale landscape. An amazingly durable American native, it can measure its lifetime in centuries if properly located and cared for in the landscape. It makes an excellent street tree in the South. Give it plenty of room since the trunk can grow to more than six feet in diameter.
The live oak is a huge and noble evergreen broad-leaf tree with large, spreading, nearly horizontal branches and thick, leathery, oval, dark green leaves. The bark is dark red-brown to gray and deeply furrowed, eventually becoming blocky. The flowers, typical of oaks, are catkins that hang down 2-3 inches. They appear in very early spring and dust the countryside with yellow pollen. Brownish-black acorns about an inch long mature in the autumn of the same year on the current season's twigs. The acorns are sweet and edible.
Live Oak is a fast-growing, yet very long-lived tree. Its life is measured in centuries. The wood is very hard and strong. Dried live oak wood weighs 55 lbs. per cubic foot, making its wood among the heaviest of any tree in North America. There is no better wood for fuel or for charcoal cooking.
Southern Magnolia is a cultivar of the Southern Magnolia, and a beautiful, smaller magnolia, well-suited for home lawns. This cultivar will reach 40 to 50 feet in height and is also known for its large, white, fragrant flowers and succulent evergreen foliage. It has lustrous, dark green leaves with a rich orange-brown underside. They are 5 to 8 inches long, 2 to 3 inches wide, oblong or elliptical. The flowers of this tree are perfect, large, 6 to 8 inches in diameter, attractive, and very fragrant. The fruit has orange-red follicles, 3 to 4 inches long, 1 to 2 inches in diameter. The seeds are red, 1/2 inch long, slightly flattened, and suspended by the open pods with slender, elastic, thread-like tissue. The bark is dark red-brown, up to 1 inch thick, somewhat furrowed, and separating into small scales. This variety of Southern Magnolia grows on rich bottomlands or on gentle, protected slopes in mixture with other hardwood species. It is found on the coastal plain from North Carolina to Florida, west through Louisiana and Arkansas to eastern Texas. This variety of Southern Magnolia is not native to Florida.
This cultivar of Southern Magnolia has a compact, upright growth habit more typical of a multistemmed shrub than a single-trunked tree. It grows at a slow rate to a height of perhaps 30 to 35 feet with an 8 to 12-foot spread and flowers at two or three years old. It is surprising to see a Magnolia flower when it is only three or four feet tall. The Little Gem Southern Magnolia forms a dense, dark green oval or pyramidal shape, making it suited for screen or hedge planting. This variety of Southern magnolia is not native to Florida.
It has 5 to 8-inch-long, leathery, oblong, shiny leaves that are shed as new foliage emerges in the spring. The large, slowly-decomposing leaf drop on the sidewalk or patio and are considered by some people to be messy or a nuisance to clean up. The underside of the leaves is covered with a fine, red-brown fuzz which is more prominent on some selections than others. In late spring and sporadically throughout the summer, huge, 8-inch-diameter, waxy, fragrant, white blossoms open to perfume the entire garden. Fuzzy brown cones follow these blooms, ripening in fall and winter to reveal bright red seeds which are used by a variety of wildlife.
Long-used as a striking garden specimen, Southern Magnolia can also serve as a dense screen or windbreak or street tree where there is plenty of soil space for root expansion. Its ease of growth and carefree nature make Southern Magnolia ideal for the low-maintenance landscape. With proper pruning, Southern Magnolia trees can also be used as an interesting espalier. They are tolerant of pruning and can be shaped into a screen or hedge of almost any form. This is a nice Southern Magnolia for residential properties since it stays small, has small leaves and flowers early.
If moist, peaty soils are available, Southern Magnolia will thrive in full sun and hot conditions once established. If irrigation cannot be provided periodically, plants located in partial shade for several years after planting seem to grow better. Very drought tolerant when grown in areas with plenty of soil for root expansion. Only moderately drought tolerant in restricted-soil areas or in areas with poor, dry soil. Southern Magnolia prefers acid soil but will tolerate a slightly basic, even wet or clay soil. It is generally too hot and dry in central and western Texas and Oklahoma, and the soil pH is often too alkaline for this tree.
The root system is wider spreading than most other trees, extending from the trunk a distance equal to about four times the canopy width. This makes it very difficult to save existing Magnolia trees on construction sites.
Mahogany has the potential to get 75 ft tall with a trunk diameter in excess of 2 ft, but such large trees are very rare. Most mahoganies are no more than 30-40 ft tall with 20-30 ft canopy spreads. You still can see fairly large specimens of this tropical beauty in its natural habitat in Mahogany Hammock in Everglades National Park, and in the North Key Largo State Botanical Site. Mahogany is widely planted as a street and shade tree in South Florida.
Mahogany is a semi-deciduous tree which loses its old leaves at the end of winter just as the new growth is beginning. It may be leafless for only a week or two. Mahogany produces small, fragrant, rather inconspicuous flowers on the years new growth as the leaves are emerging, and both male and female flowers are produced on the same tree.
Mahogany is a popular avenue, shade and framing tree in tropical South Florida. It often is used in parks and commercial landscapes, and around parking lots. On streets they usually are planted about 30 ft apart. Mahogany casts only a light shadow and does not discourage grass and other plantings beneath it.
A moderate-growing, orange flowering tree with a dense rounded evergreen canopy. Flowers appear throughout the year with small edible white pear-shaped fruit. Size: Medium (15-20ft in height) Orange Geiger Location: Plant at least 30 feet from power lines and 16-22 feet from your house. Full sun with well-drained soil.
Salt tolerance: Moderate to high Watering: Water during planting and for one year thereafter. May need to water during fruiting if under drought conditions.
Do not fertilize until 6 months after planting. Pruning: Wait one year to prune. If staked, remove after 6 months.
This many-branched, broad, spreading, flat-crowned deciduous tree is well-known for its brilliant display of red-orange bloom, literally covering the tree tops from May to July. There is nothing like a Royal Poinciana (or better yet, a group of them) in full bloom. The fine, soft, delicate leaflets afford dappled shade during the remainder of the growing season, making Royal Poinciana a favorite shade tree or freestanding specimens in large, open lawns. The tree is often broader than tall, growing about 40 feet high and 60 feet wide. Trunks can become as large as 50 inches or more in diameter. Eighteen-inch-long, dark brown seed pods hang on the tree throughout the winter, then fall on the ground in spring creating a nuisance.
Royal Poinciana will provide fullest flowering and best growth when planted in full sun locations. Tolerant of a wide variety of soils and conditions, Royal Poinciana needs to be well-watered until established, then only during the severest droughts. Grass grows poorly beneath poinciana. Do not plant it closer than about 10 feet from pavement or sidewalks, since large surface roots often grow beneath them and can destroy them. Early pruning is required to encourage development of branches which are well-attached to the trunk. This will help compensate for the weak wood. Train the tree so the major limbs are located 8 to 12 feet from the ground to allow for adequate clearance beneath the tree. To develop a strong, durable tree, prune major limbs to prevent them from growing to more than half the diameter of the trunk.
The species elliottii is a large, stately, heavily-branched, long-needled conifer has a rapid growth rate and is capable of reaching 100 feet in height with a three to four-foot-diameter trunk. The six-inch-long cones appear among the dark green, eight-inch-long needles, and are favored by wildlife. Squirrels are particularly fond of the seeds, as they chew open the cones and litter your sidewalk or driveway with debris. The grey-brown bark is deeply furrowed and scaly.
Slash Pine is self-pruning of its lower branches, is somewhat pyramidal when young and forms an open, rounded canopy creating a light, dappled shade beneath. This allows just enough sun to filter through for maintenance of a lawn beneath this tall, evergreen tree or for underplantings of dogwoods, azaleas, camellias and other plants which thrive in this high, shifting shade. Aggressive root competition takes place beneath Pines so the shrubs and lawn beneath and around the canopy often require more frequent irrigation, particularly during the dry season. Pines have some deep roots except in poorly-drained soil where all roots are shallow. The tap root is prominent in well drained soil and can make them difficult to transplant from the wild.
Slash Pine grows well on a variety of acidic soils in full sun or partial shade. It does poorly in basic soil (high pH) and so is not recommended for soils with high pH, or where irrigation water has a high pH. Once established, it is more tolerant of wet sites than most other Pines and is moderately salt-tolerant. It is not highly drought-tolerant but more so than most other Pines. The horizontal branches break easily in ice storms. Trunks which break in hurricanes break several feet up from the ground. Since shaded lower branches die and drop as the tree grows taller be careful not to plant them too close to high traffic areas where branches could fall on people or vehicles, unless there is a regular maintenance plan to remove them. Open-grown trees keep more lower branches, probably due to greater sun exposure.
This native plant is becoming more popular as a landscape plant and is often planted in groups to create a natural-like setting. It is also used as a screen although it is quite unsuited for this purpose because lower branches are not retained in the tree and it grows with an open form. Needles seem to fall from the tree all during the year creating slippery walks. Needles will need to be regularly raked from the lawn in refined landscapes.
Probably the most serious problem of Pines in areas with high pH irrigation water is Pine chlorosis. Pines gradually turn yellow and begin dying soon after construction activities have begun, or when high pH irrigation water is applied regularly to the root zone. Symptoms appear as micronutrient deficiencies (iron and manganese). Landscape managers have applied fertilizers to the root zone and foliage and, more recently, directly into the trunk through injection tubes. These are probably temporary solutions to a problem which is caused by a complex of activities, including root injury and removal during construction, over-fertilization, and application of high pH irrigation water. The problem is probably best prevented by eliminating turf from beneath the canopy and withholding high pH irrigation from the root zone. The root zone on trees extends to about three times the dripline.
An ideal patio, specimen, or lawn tree, the Tabebuias are small, 15 to 25-foot tall, evergreen trees with silvery foliage and deeply furrowed, silvery bark on picturesque, contorted branches and trunk. The crown is usually asymmetrical with two or three major trunks or branches dominating the crown. During late winter and sporadically throughout the year, they put on a brilliant display composed of a multitude of two to three-inch-long, golden yellow, trumpet-shaped blooms borne in terminal flower clusters. The leaves often drop just before the flowers appear.
A native of tropical America, Trumpet Tree can be grown in full sun or partial shade on any reasonably fertile soil with moderate moisture. Trees should be protected from frost. Although some will leaf out following a freeze, the tree is often weakened and grows poorly. The wood becomes brittle with age and can break easily in strong winds but this is not usually a problem since trees are small with an open canopy and should not be cause to eliminate this beautiful tree from your tree palette. To the contrary, it is one of the most beautiful trees in flower which has a place in most landscapes. The pink Trumpet Tree (Tabebuia heterophylla) is the one most suited for street tree planting since it is reportedly more sturdy and durable than Tabebuia caraiba. Tabebuia impetigenosa and Tabebuia umbellata are hardy to zone 9b with pink flowers borne on bare branches. Propagation is by seed or layering.
This briefly deciduous tree reaches 15 to 20 feet in height and has a fairly open canopy. Branching is often sparse allowing turf and other sun loving plants to grow beneath the canopy. The dark green, palmately compound, five-inch-long leaves are joined in late winter or early spring by the showy, trumpet-shaped blooms, appearing in dense, rose-pink to purple, terminal panicles. Trees will have a better form if trained to a single trunk and staked until they are six to eight feet tall, at which time they can be allowed to grow naturally.
Use this small tree in an area where any small tree can be used. It might be best to locate it in a shrub border or other out-of-the-way place since the canopy is quite thin, even in full sun. It is probably not as well suited for specimen planting as the other Tabebuias. Purple Tabebuia should be grown in full sun on almost any well-drained soil but trees respond especially well to rich soil. Established trees are highly drought-tolerant. Propagation is by seed, cuttings, or layering. Plants flower at an early age.
Pink Trumpet Tree grows at a moderate rate from a slim pyramid when young to a broad silhouette, 20 to 40 feet tall. The palmately compound, green leaves are evergreen throughout most of its range but may be briefly deciduous as the new leaves emerge. The showy display of pink or white, bell-shaped blooms appears throughout the spring and summer and is followed by the production of long, slender seedpods.