Flowering trees add spring color to landscapes

Richard Bogren, Young, John, Gill, Daniel J., Owings, Allen D.  |  1/4/2011 1:13:57 AM

Sustainable Landscape News Distributed 02/05/10

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Allen Owings and John Young

Flowering trees add considerable color and beauty to our landscapes during the late winter and early spring months. Many of these trees that flower at this time of the year can be considered low maintenance compared to the amount of joy we get from them.

The Taiwan flower­ing cherry blooms in late January through February in Louisiana. The attractive flowers are vibrant, deep pink and are produced in great abun­dance before the leaves emerge. This tree is one of the few flowering cherries that grow and bloom reliably this far south.

The Okame flowering cherry is another type that will grow successfully in Louisiana and is especially recommended for north Loui­siana because it blooms later and the flowers are less likely to be damaged by a freeze. It produces pale pink flowers in March or April.

The Oriental magnolia is one of the most spectacular of the spring-flowering trees because its flowers are so large. Unlike the evergreen Southern mag­nolia, the Oriental magnolia is deciduous and loses its leaves in winter.

Appearing before the foliage in February, the fra­grant flowers are tulip-shaped, 4 to 6 inches across and may be flushed pale pink to purple on the outside and white on the inside. Long-lived and reliable, Oriental magnolias grow 15 to 20 feet tall and need a sunny, well-drained location.

The related star magnolia is smaller, growing 10 to 12 feet tall, and is more shrub-like. The white or pale pink flowers are star-shaped and wonderfully fragrant. Blooming in late January or February before the foliage emerges, the star magnolia is an excellent choice for small gardens.

The native silver bell is a lovely tree that produces small, four-petaled, white flowers that hang down in large numbers from the branches. The thin leaves allow light to filter through, creating a lovely effect under the tree. Silver bells thrive in Louisiana and once established, grow rapidly, maturing at about 25 to 30 feet. They grow well with light shade or in full sun.

The hawthorns are a wonderful group of native trees that provide spring bloom as well as fruit for humans or wildlife. Growing 15 to 20 feet tall, the parsley haw­thorn is an excellent choice in patio or small plantings. The clusters of white flowers appear in March or April and are soon followed by the foliage, which looks like flat Italian parsley. The small red fruit that ripen in fall are relished by mockingbirds. Parsley hawthorn is tolerant of poorly drained soils and grows in full sun to part shade.

The American fringe tree pro­duces clusters of flowers with long, narrow, greenish-white petals that are produced in masses all along the branches. The narrow petals and hanging habit give the flowers a fringe or beardlike appearance. In the wild, you usually see them growing on the edge of the woods. They thrive in full sun to partial shade in well-drained locations.

The Chinese fringe tree also grows well here and is even showier than our native species.

Another excellent spring-flowering tree is the redbud, which usually blooms in late February or March. It produces small, pinkish-purple pealike flowers in unbelievable profusion along the branches (and even on the trunk) before the leaves appear.

This habit of blooming before the leaves grow out is fairly common among the spring-flowering trees and really adds to the impact of the flowers. Redbuds are relatively fast-growing once they’re established and prefer full sun and a well-drained location.

All of these spring-flowering trees are great choices for any Louisiana landscape.

Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.louisianahouse.org and www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.

Rick Bogren

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