Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Hendry County Horticulture News
Jacaranda for Exquisite Color
One of the definite benefits of gardening in south Florida is truly the wide array of flowering trees available for use in the landscape. Indeed it is possible to plant a range of beautiful flowering trees that will provide a nearly year-round unbroken succession of exquisite color in the garden. One of the most spectacular of these is the lovely jacaranda whose striking lavender blue blossoms can be seen widely across the area this month.
The jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia) is a rather large tree that can reach 30 to 40 feet in height with an equal or greater spread. The jacaranda is a member of the genus Bignoniacea, which includes a number of flowering trees and vines which originate predominately in South America. Its scientific name, jacaranda is a Latinized version of the Brazilian name of the tree, while mimosifolia refers to its delicate mimosa-like leaves. The jacaranda is native to southern Brazil and northern Argentina. It is a subtropical tree which actually performs better in central Florida than it does further south.
The dense clusters of lavender blue trumpet shaped flowers make the jacaranda an outstanding specimen plant. The unique color of the flowers is unusual in the spectrum of floral colors and is reminiscent of the unique lavender blue shade of the sky that occurs just before dusk following a summer storm or perhaps the color found in a rainbow where the blue and violet bands come together.
The jacaranda is hardy throughout all of Florida and will often bloom more profusely following a moderately cold winter with several nights in the low thirties or lower. The jacaranda performs best in full sun and will do well on a wide range of well drained soils. The tree is rather drought tolerant but younger trees will benefit from occasionally watering during extended droughts. The jacaranda requires only moderate fertility and will do well if lightly fertilized on the same schedule as citrus.
Jacarandas grow rapidly and should be pruned regularly when young to encourage a strong central trunk and open vase shaped canopy. Jacaranda is deciduous losing its dainty fern like foliage for one to two months during the cooler months before new growth and flowers appear in the spring. This habit makes it useful for allowing the warming rays of the sun to reach patios and other areas during the winter months while providing light dappled shade during the warmest part of the year.
The jacaranda makes a fine street or specimen tree creating a spectacular sight when in full bloom. The arching habit of the branches is ideal for creating a canopy over a street or long drive or provide a framework or backdrop in the landscape. Due to its large mature size, it should be sited carefully with future growth in mind as it may become too large for the small confines of some residential lots. Individual trees vary considerably in time of bloom and flower color. Some trees were in bloom in March but the big show comes April - June. Since the tree is bare for several months, it is often blended with evergreen species in larger landscapes.
Jacaranda can be propagated from seed or by grafting or from softwood cuttings. Superior types should be propagated vegetatively to preserve their desirable characteristics. In addition, seedling trees often take a very long time to bloom, it is not unusual to wait seven to fourteen years for flowers to appear while grafted tree may flower in three to five years.
The jacaranda has few if any pest problems although if planted on wet sites it is often subject to mushroom root rot which can destroy the tree. Poorly pruned trees may be subject to breakage in high winds although a number of horticulturists have noted that it was also one of the fastest trees to recover following the ravages of Hurricane Andrew in Dade County.
The jacaranda is certainly one of the world's loveliest flowering trees and should be used more widely in the area. Good luck and good gardening.
Gene McAvoy is the horticulture agent with the Hendry County Extension Service. Direct your horticulture questions to PO Box 68, LaBelle, FL 33975, e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 863-674-4092 or 863-983-1598. You are also welcome to visit the Hendry County Extension Office at 225 Pratt Blvd., LaBelle. Office hours are from 8:00 - 5:00.
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