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For The Garden

Fanciful Flowering Trees

Author: Lori A. Johnson
Issue: January, 2018, Page 132
Photo by Marco Schmidt
CHINESE LANTERN TREE
(Dichrostachys cinerea)      

BLOOMS: Yellow/lilac; summer

SIZE: 10-20'H by 10-20'W

SOIL: Well-drained

ELEVATION: Low

LIGHT: Full sun

WATER NEEDS: Low

MAINTENANCE: A fast grower, the Chinese lantern tree requires frequent pruning in order to maintain its shape but is otherwise low-maintenance and drought-resistant.   

ATTRACTS: Bats, bees

NOTE: This tree is best suited to yards where it has plenty of room away from walkways due to its rapid growth and thorny nature. It’s also cultivated as an indoor bonsai specimen.

WHY WE LIKE IT: Unusual flowers make this tree a stunning conversation piece when in bloom. Its name comes from the cylindrical flower spikes that resemble Chinese lanterns.




Photo by Mauroguanandi
SILK FLOSS TREE
(Ceiba speciosa)

BLOOMS: Pink to white; fall

SIZE: 12-50'H by 10-30'W

SOIL: Well-drained

ELEVATION: Low

LIGHT: Full to partial sun

WATER NEEDS: Moderate

MAINTENANCE: Silk floss trees perform best under moderate irrigation with reduced watering in the winter; very low maintenance once established.

ATTRACTS: Bees, hummingbirds

NOTE: Its 8-inch fruit pods contain pea-sized black seeds and a mass of silken fibers that give this tree its name. Silk floss trees typically drop their leaves before flowering in the fall.

WHY WE LIKE IT: While large five-petaled flowers are the hallmark of this ornamental tree, it’s also known for its thick, bottle-shaped trunk studded with conical thorns. As such, it’s best planted away from foot traffic for safety.



Photo by Dinkum
WHITE SHAVING BRUSH TREE
(Pseudobombax ellipticum ‘Alba’)

BLOOMS: White; spring

SIZE: 12-50'H by 15-30'W

SOIL: Well-drained

ELEVATION: Low

LIGHT: Full to partial sun

WATER NEEDS: Moderate

MAINTENANCE: Reduce watering during winter and increase water once blooms emerge in the spring. Trim once leaves appear after the flowering period.

ATTRACTS: Bees, birds

NOTE: This tree can grow as tall as 50'H if left untrimmed and in frost-free conditions. It can remain as small as 3'H if kept trimmed and potted.

WHY WE LIKE IT: While the large shaving brush-shaped flowers are the highlight of this tree, it's showy even when it’s not in bloom. Spring leaves emerge dark red and fade to orange before maturing to shades of green, then to gold before dropping in late fall or winter. In late summer, fluff-filled seed pods open.




Photo by Wouter Hagens
HONG KONG ORCHID TREE
(Bauhinia x blakeana)

BLOOMS: Magenta; fall to spring

SIZE: 15-25'H by 15-25'W

SOIL: Well-drained

ELEVATION: Low

LIGHT: Full to partial sun

WATER NEEDS: Moderate

MAINTENANCE: These low-maintenance trees thrive on neglect and will adapt to a variety of soil types.

ATTRACTS: Hummingbirds

NOTE: The flowers on this tree are sterile and thus, unlike the purple orchid (B. purpurea), do not set seed pods after blooming. As a result, there is less droppage to be cleaned up and they are less troublesome to people with allergies.

WHY WE LIKE IT: This tree is prized for its dramatic display of large aromatic blossoms. It also has beautiful foliage with broad butterfly-shaped leaves and a widespread umbrella-shaped canopy for abundant shade.   

OTHER FAVORITES: Purple orchid (Bauhinia purpurea), pink shaving brush (Pseudobombax ellipticum), plumeria (Plumeria rubra), mimosa (Albizia julibrissin), lemon bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus), jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia)


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