Gardeners in south Florida can choose from flowering trees that are hardy no where else in Florida, or in the continental U. S. except for a small area in southern California. South Florida's climate is close to the sub-tropical and tropical areas of other continents, and so provides these plants with a tropical oasis of their own.
Peacock flower (Delonix regia) also known as royal poinciana, flamboyant tree or flame tree is a native of Madagascar. It grows from 30 to 40 feet tall and will greater in width. The peacock flower tree produces flame-red flowers in the spring that grow in clusters from four to five inches across and has lacy leaves that grow from 12 to 20 inches long. The flowers give way to dark brown seed pods that grow as long as 24 inches and two inches wide. Peacock flower grows fast at a rate of about five feet a year. It can take a wide range of soil types as long as the soil is well drained. This tree needs full sun, and will not survive if temperatures get below 45 F. It can take as long as ten years before the first flowers appear. Plant the peacock flower as a specimen tree in front of larger palms. It tolerates salt, so you can plant it near the ocean or the gulf. The tree has shallow roots, making it difficult to grow other plants under it. Seedlings will sprout all around the tree after the seed pods drop off.
Tamarind ( Tamarindus indica), a native of Africa, is a large tree that grows from 50 to 90 feet tall and produces green feather-like leaves that grow to about ten inches long. It produces yellow flowers with purple or red veins that are about one inch across and give way to cinnamon-colored seed pods that grow from two to six inches long. The Tamarind tree can be grown along the Florida coast, but away from the sandy beaches. It requires full sun.The pulp from the seed pods is used in cooking and is an ingredient in Worcestershire sauce.
African tuliptree (Spathodea campanulata) is also known as flame of the forest, fountaintree, fireball, Gabon tulip tree and fire tree. It is native to the rainforests of Equatorial Africa. This tree grows as tall as 80 feet and produces leaves that are one- to two-feet long. The leaves are a bronze color when they first appear and become deep green. The orange-scarlet flowers resemble tulips with yellow edges and gold throats. The flowers give way to five- to ten-inch-long seed pods, each one containing about 500 seeds. African tuliptree is not a tree for the seashore and needs protection from wind and frost. Although the African tuliptree loves rich soil with plenty of moisture and full sun, which brings out the best in the tree, it can take any kind of soil as long as long it is fertilized, and will survive in shade. The wood of the African tuliptree does not burn easily, which is why it was the wood of choice for blacksmith’s bellows. The tree fits well into tropical gardens and is tall enough to provide plenty of shade in a large yard.