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Flowering Trees of Central Florida

Why Flowering Trees?
Most trees, like pines, oaks, elms, hickories, ashes, and maples, produce relatively inconspicuous flowers. If you have room for another tree and want to add a splash of seasonal color, there are many options at your disposal in Central Florida. These trees also give a sense of seasonality in an environment that is relatively verdant throughout most of the year.

Where Temperate Meets Tropic
The climate of Central Florida presents an interesting problem for those seeking to liven their landscapes with flowering plants – the location is juxtaposed between temperate and tropical climates. In USDA Hardiness Zone 9b, it is just cold enough for frosts to remove most tropical flowering trees from consideration, but too warm and physiologically stressful for most of the intense flowering species used throughout the rest of the country. When people think of temperate flowering trees, it is the cherries, pears, crabapples, and other members of the rose family that tend to come to mind. In 9b, some of their relatives like flatwoods plum and Carolina laurel-cherry are still potential candidates for landscaping, but the cold-hardiest members of the tropics are often all that can be used here without heavy wind or frost protection.

Flowers Don’t Last Forever
Seasonality of flowering is highly linked to plant origin. Plants from temperate areas will usually begin flowering in the spring. Plants from more tropical origins often have more varied seasonality to their flowering dates. Many tropical and subtropical area are divided by wet and dry seasons, and Florida is no exception here. However, flower duration varies highly from species to species. For example, loblolly-bays and magnolias flower through most of the summer and even into fall, but the golden raintree typically only flowers for a couple of weeks in September.

Florida Native vs. Colorful Outsiders
Most Florida native trees that produce flowers are not particularly colorful, which can be problematic. However, loblolly-bay, magnolias, flatwoods plum, Chickasaw plum, and Carolina laurel-cherry can provide some options for native gardens and landscapes. For those open to non-natives, many more options based on tree size, color, and flowering interval are available. Invasiveness is also a heavy consideration. Many trees that are invasive but already established in Florida’s environment are frequent flowerers and have therefore been provided in this list. This is not an advocacy for their horticultural use but a call to attention for their identification.

A Tree for Every Need
Landscape architects draw heavily on principles of design, which emphasize size, texture, uniformity, contrast, and color. An aesthetically pleasing landscape does not require huge amounts of color, but when used correctly, can create stunning effects. The trees listed below can help with plant goals, horticultural endeavors, and landscaping pursuits.

Species Common Name(s) Image Max. Height Max. Spread Native Range Flower Description Flowering Dates Notes
Bauhinia x blakeana Hong Kong Orchid Tree 45′ 30′ SE Asia 3-5″ long, fragrant, purplish to with, appears orchid-like and emerges in clusters at branch tips Winter Can be susceptible to cold damage; there are many species of orchid trees but the Hong Kong orchid tree is a sterile hybrid that does not drop pods and is therefore unlikely to become invasive
Ceiba speciosa Silk-Floss Tree 50′ 55′ Brazil and Argentina Pink and White, ~4″ wide, occur in clusters at ends of branches Late fall to early winter Spectacular when in bloom; often has a spiny trunk
Clerodendrum quadriloculare Starburst Clerodendrum; Bronze-leaved Clerodendrum 20′ 15′ New Guinea and the Philippines Showy; clusters are the tips of shoots; each inflorescence contains many flowers with a slender pink tube about 3″ long, each terminated by five slender white, reflexed corolla lobes about 1/2″ long Late winter Spreads easily via belowground root suckers
Gordonia lasianthus Loblolly-bay 60′ 20′ Coastal plain of SE United States 1-3″ wide, showy, white, occur singly in leaf axils at the ends of branches Late spring through summer Native
Grevillea robusta Silk-Oak 75′ 35′ Eastern coast of Australia showy, yellow-orange, appear at one side of racemes on branches Late spring to early summer Not recommended near structures; not particularly long-lived
Handroanthus chrysotrichus Golden Trumpet Tree

Credit: UF/IFAS

25′ 35′ Brazil and N. Argentina 2″ long, bright yellow, trumpet-shaped, emerges at clusters at the ends of branches Early spring ___
Jatropha integerrima Peregrina; Fire-cracker 15′ 15′ Cuba 1″ wide, bright red or pink, and emerges in clusters on terminal cymes Year-round Cold sensitive; all parts are poisonous; shade tolerant
Koelreuteria elegans Golden Raintree 40′ 40′ E Asia Yellow, occur on 12-15″ panicles Late August – September Showy, pinkish, seedpods remain on tree from October through November
Lagerstroemia indica Crapemyrtle 30′ 25′ Asia through N. Australia Small crinkled appearance; occur on 8-10″ panicles; colors range from white, red, pink, and purple Late spring through summer Size and color highly dependent on cultivar
Magnolia grandiflora Southern Magnolia 80′ 40′ SE United States 6-8″ wide, creamy white, fragrant, and saucer-shaped Primarily spring and summer Native; many cultivars available
Magnolia virginiana Sweetbay Magnolia 90′ 30′ Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plains (E. Texas to New York) 5-7.5″ wide; white flowers are borne singly at the end of branches April to July Native
Melaleuca quinquenervia Melaleuca

Credit: kaiyanwong223, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

100′ 30′ Australia, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands 1-3″ long, white has musty fragrance, and emerges in clusters on spikes that resemble a bottle brush Primarily spring and summer Invasive
Melaleuca viminalis Bottlebrush Tree 20′ 20′ Eastern coast of Australia Small, with numerous bright red cylindrical stamens, and emerges in clusters 3-5″ long spike that resemble a bottlebrush Spring to early winter Hardy to urban environments but not particularly long-lived
Melia azedarach Chinaberry

Credit: UF/IFAS

40′ 25′ Eastern coast of Australia

 

White to purplish/lavender in color, fragrant

 

Spring Invasive; fruit are poisonous; high-quality timber
Myrcianthes fragrans Simpson’s Stopper

Credit: UF/IFAS

30′ 20′ Florida and much of the Caribbean Basin Small, white, fragrant, and emerges in clusters on long-stalked cymes Spring into summer Native
Nerium oleander Oleander 18′ 15′ SE Asia to the Mediterranean 1-2″; white, yellow, pink, red, or purple (but mostly seen in the landscape as pink); emerges in clusters on terminal cyme Mainly spring and fall but flowers year-round All parts of plant are poisonous
Peltophorum dubium Yellow Poinciana 50′ 50′ N Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay Showy, fragrant, yellow flowers on 1-1.5′ panicles Mid-summer Similar in appearance to Peltophorum pterocarpum
Plumeria sp. Frangipani; Plumeria 25′ 25′ Central America, N. South America, and the Caribbean Basin Showy; fragrant; pinwheel-shaped; waxy; appear in clusters along terminal cymes; occurs in pink, red, yellow, orange, and white Mainly early summer to early fall

 

Susceptible to cold damage
Prunus angustifolia Chickasaw Plum

Credit: Mary Keim – CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

20′ 20′ Southeastern US 1/3″ wide, white, fragrant, and emerges singularly or in dense clusters Late winter to early spring Native; multi-stemmed and often forms thickets
Prunus caroliniana Carolina Laurel Cherry

Credit: UF/IFAS

40′ 25′ Southeastern US Small, white, fragrant, and emerges on 2-3″ long racemes Winter Native; often forms thickets
Prunus umbellata Flatwoods Plum

Credit: Will McFarland, CC BY-NC 4.0

20′ 20′ Southeastern US 1/3″ wide, white, fragrant, and emerges singularly or in dense clusters Late winter to early spring Native; multi-stemmed and often forms thickets; forms less root suckers than Prunus angustifolia
Tabebuia aurea Silver Trumpet Tree

Credit: Forest and Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0

25′ 15′ South America 2.5″ wide, bright yellow, trumpet-shaped, emerges at clusters at the ends of branches Spring ___
Tabebuia heterophylla Pink Trumpet Tree

Credit: UF/IFAs

30′ 25′ Caribbean basin 3″ long, showy, pink to white, appear on clusters at end of branches Spring to early summer ___
Tibouchina urvilleana Princess Flower 15′ 15′ Brazil 5″ wide, purple, and emerges on terminal panicles Primarily May-January Invasive; can spread via belowground root suckers
Tipuana tipu Tipu; Rosewood; Pride of Bolivia

Credit: UF/IFAS

90′ 60′ Bolivia, Brazil Yellow; form loosely apart and spread along terminal and axillary racemes that are 4.5-6″ long Late summer ___

 

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