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Landscape trees and shrubs
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Southern Magnolia
(Magnolia grandiflora)

Family - Magnoliaceae
Native evergreen tree 60-80 feet or more in height with a spread of 30-40 feet.

Southern Magnolia grows in a symmetrical pyramidal shape, trunk is usually straight upright with a single leader.

Attractive, shiny dark green leaves to 8 inches long alternately arranged, elliptic to oval, with entire margins, rusty brown pubescent on the underside.

Southern Magnolia leavesSouthern Magnolia white flowersSouther magnolia burr or fruit.

Magnolia produces large white fragrant flowers 8 to nearly 12 inches across in the spring & summer. Fruit is cone-like, opening to reveal bright red seeds in autumn attached by thin threads before dropping.

Zones 7 - 10, Shade tree, specimen tree, screen or windbreak. Propagation is by seed or cuttings, full sun or partial shade. Medium rate of growth, best growth is in moist well drained acidic soil, but is tolerant of slightly alkaline soils.

Natural Habitat is primarily bottomland forests, margins of swamps and moist upland woodlands so this tree is only moderately drought and salt tolerant. Many cultivars of Southern Magnolia are available with varied growth habits & foliage/flower characteristics.

Southern Magnolia has a large spreading root structure, up to four times the spread of the canopy and is more drought resistant where there is ample space for the roots to spread outward from the trunk.

Peregrina
(Jatropha integerrima)

Family - Euphorbiaceae
Also called Fire cracker or Jatropha, this native of Cuba flowers year-round, producing clusters of bright red, showy flowers that stand upright above the foliage.

Jatropha integerrima Jatropha flowers and foilage

Reaching a height of 15 feet with an equal spread Peregrina can be grown as a single stemmed small tree or as a large, multiple stemmed shrub.

Jatropha makes an excellent accent plant for South Florida shrubbery borders, patio container plant or in the garden. The flowers attract butterflies, making this low maintenance shrub a popular plant for butterfly gardens.

Zones 10B - 11, frost or light freeze will kill it back to the ground, full sun is best for flower production, will take partial shade.

Moderately tolerant of salt air and drought, Peregrina grows well in most soil types as long as it is well drained. Overwatering can cause root rot. No major pests or diseases.

Leaves are up to 7 inches long & variable in shape, they may be elliptic, oval, fiddle shaped or lobed. 1 inch wide flowers are deep red, there is also a variety with pink flowers.

All parts of this plant are toxic if ingested. Milky sap may cause skin irritation and rashes from contact. Seeds are toxic. Smoke from burning plant is toxic.

West Indian Mahogany
(Swietenia mahagoni)

Family - Meliaceae
Although this sturdy tree is capable of reaching 75 to 80 feet in height, it is more commonly seen in the 35 - 40 foot range with an equal spread. Bark on older trees is dark brown and deeply fissured and may be sun-bleached a more white-ish color. Dark green leaves are alternate, pinnately compound - leaflets are ovate to lanceolate with entire margins.

Mahogany blooms in springtime producing small, inconspicuous flowers that are white to yellowish in color. The hard, 6 inch long seed pods split open while still on the tree, releasing the winged seeds.

Mahogany treeMahogany leavesMahogany tree bark

Zones 10-11, briefly deciduous or evergreen, generally the new leaves in spring emerge as old ones are shed.

Young trees are relatively fast growing under good conditions - preferring full sun, well drained soils rich in organic content and a median amount of moisture.

Mahogany is salt & wind resistant, also is fairly drought tolerant once established.

Mature trees have a symmetrical, rounded canopy that allows enough sunlight through for lawns to grow, should not be planted closer than 8-10 feet to sidewalks, driveways or other structures where surface roots can cause damage over time.

Native to hammocks in the extreme southern tip of the Florida peninsula and the Florida Keys, Mahogany trees in South Florida were heavily logged for the strong, attractive wood and it is now listed as threatened in the wild.

Tree Philodendron
(Philodendron bipinnatifidum)

Family - Araceae
There are hundreds of species of Philodendron growing throughout the worlds tropics, with estimates ranging from 400 to over 900.

Most are tree climbers, some begin life as an epiphyte and produce aerial roots that eventually reach the ground, others start on the ground and work their way upwards, clinging to and obtaining moisture and nutrients trapped by the bark of the supporting tree, Tree philodendron and a few others are of a terrestrial nature.

Philodendren philodendron var. xanadu

Philodendron grows well in zones 8b-11, though they should be protected from frost or freeze, can reach a height of 12-15 feet with an equal or greater spread and has deeply cut, green to dark green leaves to 3 feet in length borne on long petolies.

Although this plant has a moderate drought tolerance and will take full sun, it prefers to be slightly moist/lightly shaded, it will grow in most soil types.

Philodendron is widely used in group or mass plantings, foundation or specimen plantings and is also used as a container plant, both indoors and out.

A smaller version, Philodendron var. 'xanadu' is a hybrid that only grows to about 4 feet X 4 feet with the same cultural requirements.

Oleander
(Nerium oleander)

Family - Apocynaceae
Oleander can grow as a shrub or small tree to around 20 feet in height, many varieties are available with a wide range of colors from salmon to reds, pinks and white to choose from. Widely used in Florida landscapes, Oleander is used as a screen, specimen plant, in group plantings and for borders. Dwarf varities are avaiable, suitable for potted plants or low border plantings.

Oleander  used as a border plantingOleander shrub

Tolerant of most soils and drought resistant, this plant is fairly fast growing under ideal conditions, with dark green foliage as a backdrop the flowers are eye catching in any landscape.

USDA zones 8-10, will survive freezing temperatures though with leaf damage. A native of the Mediterranean region, Oleander prefers a warm, dry climate and needs full sun for best flower production and a dense habit of growth but will take partial shade.

Common pests in Florida are scale, witches broom and root rot (from too much water) the Oleander caterpillar can defoliate a plant in short order and over time make the plant more susceptible to other pests.

These caterpillars, orange with black "hairs" arranged in clumps are the larvae of the Polka-dot wasp moth, an iridescent blue moth with white dots and orange tipped abdomen.

Plumbago
(Plumbago auriculata)

Family - Plumbaginaceae
Common names for this plant include Cape leadwort, Blue plumbago and Cape plumbago. This evergreen shrub is native to south Africa and flowers year-round in South Florida, producing 6 inch wide terminal clusters of blue tubular flowers from the current seasons growth. (There is also a white flowered variety - P. auriculata var. alba.)

Leaves are light green, 2 inches or less in length and oblong in shape with undulate (wavy) margins. Habit of growth is as a spreading, mound forming shrub with multiple stems.

Plumbago shrubBlue plumbago flowersWhite Plumbago flowers

Although Plumbago can attain heights to 10 feet with an equal spread it is more often kept pruned to a more compact form. Grows in zones 9, 10 & 11, frost will kill it back to ground level but it should come back in the spring. For best flowering plant in full sun, Plumbago can take light or partial shade. Soil should be light, well drained and slightly acidic. Propagation is by semi-hard cuttings, seed or division.

As a widely used landscape plant, Plumbago can be used in hedges, borders, mass plantings or containers. More or less pest free, Plumbago is occasionally attacked by scale & mites and is moderately drought tolerant once established. Several species of butterfly also use Plumbago as a nectar source and/or larval host plant.

Purple Orchid Tree
(Bauhinia purpurea)

Purple orchid tree flowersOrchid treeOrchid tree foilage

Family - Fabaceae
Purple orchid tree, also called the Butterfly Tree, is one of several Bauhinia trees & shrubs that grow in Florida. The flowers of B. purpurea are quite variable and can be similar to other Bauhinia, often confused with B. variegata which has broader flower petals that overlap and is listed as a Category 1 invasive species.

Bauhinia blakeana, the Hong Kong Orchid Tree is a sterile hybrid that produces no seed pods, it is the preferred species for landscape use in Florida.

Purple Orchid Tree blooms in the fall and winter, the large 5 inch flowers are mildly fragrant and put on a good show of color. The alternately arranged leaves are simple, orbicular, lobed at the base & cleft at the tip with palmate venation.

Flowers resemble those of an orchid, with 5 narrow petals in shades of purple, pink & white. Foot long, flattened seed pods follow the flowers, often persisting on the tree until spring.

Zones 9b - 11, Deciduous tree. Purple Orchid Tree can grow to 35-40 feet tall with an equal spread, likes full sun & well drained soil, with a slightly alkaline to acidic pH range, has good drought tolerance but little salt air resistance.

B. purpurea makes a nice landscape specimen tree, drawbacks are the seed pods & leaf litter which can be significant and the tendency of weak wood that may break in strong storms. Planting in a fairly protected area would remedy that problem.

Royal Poinciana
(Delonix regia)

Family - Fabaceae
Royal Poinciana is a long time favorite South Florida landscape tree, famous for spectacular masses of beautiful orange & red flowers in late spring / early summer. Common names include Flamboyant tree, Flame of the forest, and Peacock flower.

With up to a 40 foot height & 60 ft. width this tree should not be planted closer than 12-15 feet to driveways or other structures that shallow surface roots could damage as the tree grows larger.

Royal poinciana flowerRoyal Poinciana tree

Mature specimens have a broad, flat topped canopy and the fine textured, compound leaves lend a tropical feel to the landscape even when its not in bloom.

Royal Poinciana is a very fast growing tree when young, able to put on as much as 5 feet of height per year. This deciduous native of Madagascar is drought tolerant once established, resistant to salt as long as it does not get direct spray and will grow in practically any soil as long as it is sunny & well drained.

Young trees should be pruned to remove lower branches that will interfere with sidewalk traffic or mowing as the trees size increases over time. Flat, hard brown seed pods 2 inches wide X 18 to 24 inches long are considered by some to be a nuisance as they fall to the ground.

Pentas
(Pentas lanceolata)

Family - Rubinaceae
Pentas also goes by the common names of Starflower, Starcluster or Egyptian Starcluster. This shrub grows to 3-4 feet tall with an equal spread.

This hardy little plant blooms throughout the warm months, in S. Florida that's pretty much year round.The 2-3 inch wide clusters of star shaped flowers are equally attractive to Butterflies & Hummingbirds, the latter preferring the red flowered variety over the pinks, white, or lavender flowers.

Red pentas flowersPink pentas flowersPotted Pentas shrub

Zones 8b-11. Pentas can be grown as an annual in areas that freeze, elsewhere they are perennial.

Pentas prefers full sun to partial shade on well drained, rich soil with regular moisture but will tolerate a range of soils and has a medium amount of drought tolerance.

In the landscape Pentas is used in mass plantings, Butterfly gardens & as borders or understory plantings in combination with other plants, also works very well in containers. Propagation is by seed or green cuttings rooted in a moist medium.

Powderpuff
(Calliandra haematocephala)

Family - Fabaceae
Evergreen shrub native to Borneo, grows to 15 feet high with an equal spread. Produces multiple stems that branch out close to the ground. Compound leaves lend a soft feathery appearance to the landscape.

Powderpuff shrubsPowderpuff red flower

Fragrant pink, red or white 2-3 inch diameter powder-puff type flowers are produced during warm weather, year round in S. Florida, the fruit is a flat pea-like pod.

Zones 9b - 11, a light freeze will kill powderpuff back to the ground, but it usually recovers fairly quickly in spring, if not sooner.

Fast growing in full sun with adequate moisture, will take partial shade. Grows well in sandy soils and has very good drought tolerance once established, not salt tolerant. Although occasionally attacked by chewing insects/ caterpillars, Powderpuff is generally pest free.

Landscape use - Specimen plant, may be used as a thick screen or hedge when planted on 5-8 foot centers, also used as a container plant. Should be pruned to maintain form and to increase overall density.