Springtime in Missouri means woods fragrant and colorful with blossoming dogwoods and redbuds. Missouri streets are lined with tidy blooming Bradford pears, and spectacular flowering crabapples are everywhere. Missouri, however, is home to many more flowering trees that brighten its wild places or home gardens from as early as March until the dog days of July.
Reaching a height and width of 20 to 25 feet, saucer magnolia (magnolia x soulangiana) signals the end of winter with its early-spring display of enormous blooms. These fragrant, nine-petaled flowers, up to 10 inches across, open before the trees leaf out. They brighten the streets of St. Louis in eastern Missouri as early as March, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. The outsides of the white petals have a distinctive purple flush. Flowers give way to green seed cones that redden as they age, releasing their seeds to dangle from slender threads. Plant these trees in sunny to partly shady locations with moist, rich, well-drained loam. Avoid exceptionally wet or dry spots and protect them from early spring frosts that can damage their buds. Allow up to five years for the first blooms to appear. These disease-and-pest-resistant trees are highly effective planted as single specimens.
May-blooming green hawthorn (crataegus viridis) reaches between 25 and 35 feet with an equal spread. This hawthorn provides Missouri gardens with four-season interest, and unlike most of its relatives, has very few thorns, if any. Blooming green hawthorn is covered with 2-inch clusters of white flowers that contrast dramatically with its glossy dark green leaves. Crabapple-sized fruit follows the flowers, becoming bright red in the autumn and remaining on the trees all winter. The autumn leaves are scarlet to purple. Green hawthorn can handle drought and urban pollution. It does best in full sun and dry, well-drained soil. It's somewhat susceptible to rust, but far less so than other hawthorn varieties.
Just when Missouri summers are building to their hot and humid July crescendos, fragrant mimosa (albizia julibrissin) blossoms begin to perfume the air. A rapid grower, fragrant mimosa reaches between 25 and 40 feet. Trees have delicate, fern-like leaves up to 20 inches long. Large pink flowerheads attractive to bees appear in midsummer, followed by flat seedpods that stay on the trees until spring. Mimosa drops its leaves with the first autumn frost. These trees thrive in and flower best in sunny or partly shady locations with light, fertile well-drained soil. High summer temperatures don't faze them, but prolonged drought will. Plant them where spent flowers or fallen leaves and seedpods won't be a concern. Mimosa is a vigorous self-sower, so you may have seedlings volunteering each spring.
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