Unusual Flowering Timber for the Southwest

It’s not arduous to set your Southwest backyard ablaze with flowering shrubs and acquainted timber. In the precise zones, jacaranda (Jacaranda spp. and cvs., Zones 9–11), crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica and cvs., Zones 6–9), blue palo verde (Parkinsonia florida, Zones 8–11), desert willow (Chilopsis linearis, Zones 9–11), and even crabapples (Malus spp. and cvs., Zones 4–9) are simple to come back by, offering dependable colour of their most popular season. However in case you’re the type of gardener who likes to push the envelope or simply strive one thing totally different, listed below are a handful of unusual flowering timber to hunt out that you just’re not more likely to see in a typical panorama.

Floss silk tree

Floss silk tree

(Ceiba speciosa syn. Chorisia speciosa)

Zones: 9–11 (hardy to twenty°F for transient durations as soon as established)

Dimension: 30 to 40 ft tall and 15 to twenty ft large

Situations: Full solar; common, well-drained soil

Native vary: South America

This tree will turn out to be a formidable specimen over time, the kind that may encourage frequent “What the . . . ?” feedback from even informal observers. Even younger timber sport a stout trunk amply peppered with cone-shaped protrusions harking back to dinosaur armor. Trunks typically broaden to a bottle-shape with age. Marble-size flower buds start to kind in late summer season, bursting into giant hibiscus-like flowers in shades of pink every October—a season not sometimes recognized for spectacular flowering shows. Shiny, palmately compound leaves typically drop briefly throughout the chill of midwinter, revealing the tree’s attention-grabbing horizontal branching sample. Floss silk tree develops into an irregularly oval to conical form at maturity and appreciates deep rare watering occasionally.


Mexican bauhinia

Mexican bauhinia

(Bauhinia ramosissima)

Zones: 9–11

Dimension: 10 to twenty ft tall and large

Situations: Full solar; common to rocky, well-drained soil

Native vary: Mexico

A much less widespread relative of the well-known orchid tree, this smaller species hails from Mexico’s seasonally dry tropics. Its vase-shaped branching behavior offers it a lightweight, open texture, full with the standard break up evergreen leaves of the genus. The pink butterfly-shaped flowers seem in mid-spring over a interval of a number of weeks, making it a pleasant companion to its smaller relative, B. lunaroides with its crystalline white flowers. Drought tolerant as soon as established and straightforward to tuck right into a small backyard, this species can also be hardy sufficient to develop a bit past the zonal vary of the bigger, extra tropical Bauhinia varieties.


Eucalyptus torquata

Coral gum

(Eucalyptus torquata)

Zones: 8–10

Dimension: To 30 ft tall with a excessive crown to 25 ft large

Situations: Full solar; adaptable to a variety of soil sorts

Native vary: Western Australia

It’s odd that a lot of the quite common eucalyptus of the previous had been additionally among the many least suited to the house backyard. The coral gum comes with none of the worry and trepidation you could be accustomed to. Modest proportions, robust branches, and an abundance of flowers can have you enchanted. The upright behavior steadily kinds a rounded, well-balanced crown. Coral gum can also be tolerant of poor soil and droughty situations. Lengthy-lasting and plentiful blossoms can seem in waves virtually any time of yr, in shades of deep rose pink to salmon and coral. As a bonus, these are a draw for hummingbirds and different pollinators.


Handroanthus heptaphyllus in an oasis

Handroanthus heptaphyllus

Pink trumpet tree

(Handroanthus heptaphyllus)

Zones: 9–11

Dimension: 20 to 30 ft tall and 10 to twenty ft large

Situations: Full solar; well-drained soil

Native vary: South America

This placing cousin of the better-known desert willow will not be grown within the Southwest practically as typically because it might be. A South American native, this species grows in seasonally dry subtropical and tropical forests. Sturdy branches and a rounded, well-proportioned crown make this a beautiful avenue and backyard tree. Compound palmate leaves maintain up even in desert warmth with routine watering. In late winter the tree goes briefly deciduous, extra so in chilly winter areas. This naked interval is transient and is shortly adopted by the looks of clusters of pink trumpet flowers for a number of weeks when most different vegetation are nonetheless awaiting spring. This small to medium-size tree is usually misnamed within the commerce as Handroanthus impeteginosus, however that Mexican tree (distinguished by its clean leaf margins quite than toothed) is way bigger and rarely present in cultivation. Though pink trumpet tree is tolerant of seasonal dry durations, it does profit from occasional deep watering throughout the hottest climate. That is really an excellent plant for creating an “oasis” impact within the desert.


Texas mountain laurel

Texas mountain laurel

(Dermatophyllum secundiflorum syn. Sophora secundiflora)

Zones: 7–11

Dimension: 10 to twenty ft tall and eight to 12 ft large

Situations: Full solar to partial shade; common soil

Native vary: Central Texas west to New Mexico and south to Mexico

This small tree wants no introduction to most folk within the Southwest. Shiny evergreen foliage, sturdy branching, and a sluggish development fee are all qualities that make this plant best for a small backyard or patio. What many individuals don’t notice is that the expression of its flowers can range lots, from pale lavender to deep purple, and from stubby compact flower clusters to lengthy pendulous bunches that cling within the breeze like wisteria blossoms. Purchase yours whereas they’re in flower (March-April) to pick out the traits that you just like most. All specimens share the candy scent of grape soda that wafts about on heat spring days. Texas mountain laurel has low water wants, preferring an occasional deep soaking. Though it’s typically used for dense screening, it could possibly turn out to be a properly sculpted small tree with age.


Brahea armata

Blue hesper palm

(Brahea armata)

Zones: 8–11

Dimension: 40 ft tall and 10 ft large

Situations: Full solar; well-drained, alkaline soil

Native vary: Mexico

Including a palm tree to a listing of flowering timber could seem a bit unconventional, however the images don’t lie. Regardless of its Baja origins, this fan palm is among the many hardiest timber on this checklist, surviving transient temps as little as 10°F.  Within the tree’s younger years, its leaves are placing powder blue followers that slowly transition to blue-green because the tree features top. This doesn’t occur shortly, and a decade might move earlier than any signal of a trunk is seen, however they’re placing at any stage. Much more cause to plant one now! A spectacular oasis plant, it may be sustained by contoured water catchments. As blue hesper palm enters maturity, the flowers are among the many most dramatic of all flowering vegetation, as pendulous chains of dense creamy flowers can drape so long as 15 ft from the elegant crown of leaves. It’s a buffet for pollinators and a spectacle for the neighborhood.

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Dan Johnson lives and gardens in Denver and in Tucson, Arizona. He’s an affiliate director of horticulture for the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Images: Dan Johnson

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