Springtime in South Florida means the bloom of those little yellow flowers on trees across the region. Those are tabebuia trees (pronounced tah-beh-BOO-ya). We spoke with Lee County Horticulture Agent Stephen H. Brown about the tabebuia tree and how long we can expect its colorful flowers.
Tell us what you can about the tabebuia tree.
The most popular one is commonly called the yellow tabebuia. That's the one probably everyone in South Florida is seeing almost simultaneously at this time of the year. So we're looking at late March, early April, when this tree has its maximum display. And it only does this once a year. The tree itself might actually bloom for a month, but within that time there are 16, what I call, intense blooming days. So you have a couple of weeks for it to be at its best. And the tree's originally from the Caribbean and Central America, but in Florida it's really done well.
There are other trees related to it. Some have purple flowers and some have pink flowers, called purple and pink tabebuias respectively. The most popular one is the yellow, and it's really an outstanding tree. It's what they call semi-deciduous. In some cases, if the weather's very dry it can be a deciduous tree. So it will drop leaves just before flowering. And as it flowers, initially, you're going to see in many cases the tree's going to be covered with flowers and minimum leaves. This gives it a spectacular effect. So you get a lot of flowers with minimum leaves that won't obscure the flowers. So you get a lot of bang out of this tree at this time of year and every year at about this time of year. Enjoy it while it lasts, but it'll be back next year.
Can you predict when the trees are going to bloom each year?
That actually depends on how hot or cold it is. And if we have a cold winter, it will bloom a little later. If we have a very warm winter, we'll have an earlier or normal bloom. This has been an average winter, more or less, except for the rains. We've had a lot of rains, so we've had a pretty good bloom this year.
We're in the peak of the bloom, correct?
We're about at the peak, although there are a few trees that are a little past their bloom at this point. So we have the next few days and then it'll all be done until next year.
Do you find a lot of people know about the tree, other than how beautiful it is when it blooms once a year?
I think for most trees, it's the look that counts. Once people see the tree and are impressed by it, they really want to know where they can buy this tree and how long it flowers for. And when they do sell these plants in the stores, they make sure that they're in bloom. And I would suggest get a plant in bloom if you're gonna get a flowering trees. But the yellow tabebuia is a reliable flowering tree, so it's recommended.
As usual, make sure that you don't plant this tree or any trees two or three feet away from your house or driveway. That's not going to work. Just take it back a little, at least 10 feet or so, maybe a little bit more, in order to allow it to do a little bit of spreading. This particular tree doesn't spread a lot. It has a more upright growth. So you can more or less put it in a relatively small space. It'll make a great specimen and stand out once a year, if not all year.