Fast-growing shade trees bring a quick sense of satisfaction to the gardener. They provide not only quick shade but fast-growing flowers, keeping pace with regular garden flowers. There are fast-growing shade trees for all parts of Florida, even the hottest zones where you might think only palm trees could flourish. Shade trees compliment the palm trees and add a different prospective to a Florida garden.
Red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) grows from 8 to 30 feet tall and produces purple-green leaves that measure 5 to 10 inches across, red tube-shaped flowers that grow on spikes that are 4 to 10 inches long and a fruit that looks like a chestnut and is 2 to 3 inches in diameter. It is a fast-growing tree with seeds that germinate as soon as they open and seedlings that produce flowers in just two or three years. The red buckeye likes a rich, moist soil and does its best in full sun, but can grow in partial or full shade, though it will not produce as many flowers. The tree is hardy in all of Florida and is one of the first flowers to appear in the spring, making it a favorite for hummingbirds and the first butterflies of the season. The seeds of the red buckeye are poisonous to humans.
Silk Floss Tree
The silk floss tree (Chorisia speciosa) is also known as the kapok, floss silk tree and the ceiba del brasil. The tree is a native of Brazil and Argentina and grows to between 30 and 60 feet tall. It produces pale green leaves that drop off before the appearance of the flowers in the fall. The flowers are pale pink, rose, purple or burgundy at the tips and ivory near the base. The tree needs full sun and well-drained soil. It should not be planted in a lawn as the grass will compete with it for nutrients. It can be grown in central and southern Florida and grows from 3 to 5 feet a year.
American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) is also known as buttonwood and American planetree. The tree grows up to 100 feet tall with a trunk that has a diameter of up to 10 feet. It produces deciduous leaves that grow from 4 to 8 inches long and the same in width and small flowers that grow in ½-inch-wide clusters. When the flowers are done, the tree produces green fruit that turns brown. American sycamore is native to the entire Eastern Seaboard as far south as northern Florida. The tree likes full sun and partial shade and a soil that is well drained, but constantly moist. It can take a soil that is wet, but it is not the best situation. It can be grown in northern and central Florida and in places where it has a lot of room. Small properties are not a good choice and American sycamores should not be planted near a building or near water or sewer lines as the roots will break them in their search for water. The American sycamore can grow as much as 80 feet in less than 20 years.