Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Hendry County Horticulture News
Tabebuia - Often Overlooked Flowering Trees
The silver trumpet tree is an often overlooked delightful flowering tree which has a place in most landscapes. The relatively small stature of the silver trumpet , 15 to 25 foot tall and several other closely related species of tabebuia make them outstanding small trees well suited for residential plantings.
The Tabebuia are new world trumpet trees in the Bignonia family (Bignoneaceae) that come from the West Indies and South and Central America. The silver trumpet tree (Tabebuia argentea) is a native of Brazil. The genus name Tabebuia is a modification of "tacyba bebuya", a Brazilian Indian name for a member of genus. The species name argentea is in reference to the silvery cast to the leaves. Many other species are grown in Florida where they are highly regarded as street trees.
The silver trumpet tree or tab, as it is sometimes called, is very beautiful deciduous tree to 25 feet tall with smooth silvery green to gray green palmately compound leaves. The picturesque contorted trunk and branches with deeply furrowed light gray bark give the tree year round visual appeal. The crown is typically asymmetrical with two or three major trunks or branches dominating the crown. The 2-3 inch long golden yellow trumpet shaped blossoms are borne profusely in terminal clusters appear in March to April, covering the bare branches with a spectacular floral display that is one of the first in a succession of extravaganza of flowering trees which include the jacaranda, royal poinciana, and crape myrtles. The magnificent golden blooms which give the tree one of it alternative names - tree of gold, are made even more dramatic by the fact that flowering occurs before the leaves appear in the spring.
The silver trumpet tree is tolerant of a wide range of soil types ranging from acidic to alkaline. It does insist on good drainage for top performance but has good drought tolerance. The tree grows best in open partial shade to full sunlight. The silver trumpet is hardy to zone 9B but may suffer from a hard freeze. Some times containerized specimens develop encircling roots which may restrict root development and cause the tree to topple when planted in the ground. In such cases, be sure to slice the root ball vertically at planting time.
The silver trumpet tree has no pests or disease of major concern. The wood may become brittle with age and is sometimes subject to breakage in strong winds but this is generally not a problem due the small size of the tree and the open nature of it's canopy.
In the landscape, the trumpet tree makes an ideal specimen or lawn tree. In addition, due to its small stature it is ideal for narrow areas such as roadside use in the area between the sidewalk and road, parking lot island, patios, and container plantings.
In addition to the silver trumpet, there are several other tabebuias with various flower colors that share most of it's desirable traits and should also be considered for wider use. These include the golden trumpet (T. chrysotricha) with golden blooms, the pink trumpet tree (T. heterophylla and T. heptaphylla) and the purple tabebuia (T. impetignosa). While the silver trumpet tree is generally widely available it may take some searching to find some of the less common varieties of tabebuia. While all the tabebuias may be propagated from seed. Seed propagated trees may flower at different times. This can be overcome by vegetative propagation to ensure uniform blooming.
The silver trumpet is one of our most beautiful flowering trees. It really should be more widely planted as it has a number of features that make it an outstanding choice for landscape use. 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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