Tropical Style

6 Unsung Spring-Blooming Trees

Flowering cherry, flowering crab apple, flowering plum: all spring-blooming trees you are bound to understand and adore. How do you not? I’d never be so callous as to diss those billowy, cheery signs of spring, however I am always on the search for something… well, different. You understand? Cherry blossoms are great and all, but cherry trees are not right for every website, and if yours is one of these, a menagerie of other arboreal spring bloomers exists to choose from. Listed below are a couple.

Pam Bycraft

Texas mountain laurel (Calia secundiflora or Sophora secundiflora, zones 8 to 10) is a familiar site in spring in the Lone Star State, but regrettably not so much out it — surprising, since blue-flowering trees are scarce. Another of its surprises is its own odor, which some liken to fruit punch. Texas mountain laurel is evergreen, grows slowly enough that it will not overwhelm your other garden plants and prefers full sun. A real Texan, it weathers drought with no problem and grows to 15 feet tall and wide.

Great Design Plant: Texas Mountain Laurel

Who wouldn’t love a tree with blossoms like wild crimson firecrackers? Hummingbirds sure do. Red buckeye (Aesculus pavia, zones 4 to 8) is a native of the Southeast with spring blossoms neither you nor the birds will probably forget. It tops out at 15 feet tall and broad, and grows well in full sun to part shade and in average to damp soil.

Photo from Magnus Manske via Wikimedia Commons

One tree you’ll find on virtually every list of underrated trees is shadblow (Amelanchier species — that one is Amelanchier x grandiflora, zones 4 to 9). Many species exist, and most you’ll find at nurseries are native to North America. Shadblow is a certain indication of spring in the Northeast, with billowy white blossoms similar to those of fruit trees, and it creates edible fruit too. (Get it before the birds do.) In addition to this, most shads have fabulous fall color, from red-purple to red-orange. Most grow to 25 feet tall and wide, though some could grow taller, and they favor average to damp soil.

Photo by BlueCanoe via Wikimedia Commons

I have fond childhood memories of the native fringe tree, however I have to confess, I think the Chinese fringe tree (Chionanthus retusus, zones 5 to 9), is a much better plant all around. It blossoms larger, brighter and much more billowy, and its leaves are a cleaner, darker green. It adds great gold autumn color, and it’s an all-season showstopper. Chinese fringe adapts nicely to demanding sites of all kinds, as long as they are not too droughty. It prefers full sun to part shade and reaches 20 feet in height and width.

Photo by Dalgial via Wikimedia Commons

Another graceful all-season star is fragrant snowbell (Styrax obassia, zones 5 to 8). You may see how it blossoms in spring, but what you might not really be able to tell is how colossal the shrub’s leaves are. They’re enormous! It adds a surprisingly tropical presence for such a rugged shrub, and its sleek, grey bark is beautiful as well. Fragrant snowbell thrives in ordinary garden conditions in full sun to part shade, and it tops out at 30 feet wide and tall.

Photo by SB_Johnny via Wikimedia Commons

Ultimately, another native Southwestern stunner: Mexican buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa, zones 7 to 9), a drought-resistant little tree with flirty pink-purple blossoms in spring and striking arrowhead-shape foliage during the growing season which turns a pretty yellow in autumn. Its blossoms remind me of miniature hibiscus, and it grows to 25 feet high and 8 feet wide. As its name implies, its huge seed pods are reminiscent of unrelated buckeye.

Photo by Stan Shebs Wikimedia Commons
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