Trees for Small Gardens

Portlandia grandiflora

Hamelia cuprea- Bahama Firebush
Sabinea carinalis- Caribwood

Caesalpinia pulcherrima- Dwarf Poinciana

Cordia boissieri- White geiger

Cassia bahamensis-Bahama Cassia

Cassia afrofistula- Dwarf Cassia

Senna polyphylla- Twin Senna or Desert Cassia

Guiacum sanctum- Lignum Vitae Tree
 In previous blogs, I raved about large-statured trees like Royal Poincianas and Silk Floss Trees. There is such a major selection of trees available throughout the country that there are trees for every sized property and for every climate. In Miami, the selection is remarkable for its diversity. The Tropical Flowering Tree Society ( http://www.tfts.org/) is based in Miami, and has been responsible for introducing over a hundred species of new trees into the local area. The corridor on both sides of US Highway 1 in South Miami and Coral Gables is well stocked with interesting trees, a brilliant educational and marketing move to show off  new and interesting  species to thousands of drivers every day.

There are good plant choices for every size garden, for every climate and any budget. Some of the more compact trees are pictured here, including the king of all native trees, the Lignum Vitae, arguably one of the slowest growing of all trees. Resplendent with cobalt flowers draped over deep green shiny leaves, Lignum Vitae grows in solid coral rock with minimal care.This Florida native is found in the Florida Keys and into the Caribbean. It needs only a very sunny area and great drainage. The trees pictured above all do well in well-drained areas, with little additional irrigation in the short winter days. Many trees in the Legume and Coffee plant families can be found in rocky Caribbean habitats, most of which will grow well here.

The only criteria for growing many small trees is good soil drainage and at least 6 hours of direct sunshine. Many of these small trees grow in clusters naturally and support each other by having their crowns grow together. Therefore, when planting a single tree it would be wise to stake trees for 18 months to allow them to build a strong root system. Even then, some of the more common species, like Senna polyphylla and Senna surattensis, and Tabebuia caraiba  are notorious for blowing over in thunderstorms, even as mature trees. In such cases, a strong metal stake driven 2 feet into the ground right next to the tree will help. Loosely attach fabric tie wraps to the tree trunk in 2 or 3 places on the stake, and the tree will have the extra support it needs.

One of the best tactics for growing these trees is to start with a small tree and let it grow into its environment. The vigor of youth in a small potted tree is sometimes better than having a large field-grown tree try to recover its root system. This is especially true in the genus Tabebuia. For condo and townhome owners, there are small-statured trees suitable for container growing, and with a large enough container, you can even grow shade trees ! There are numerous options, so use your imagination and experiment a little.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens


  1. Hi Craig,

    I have a tree in my garden which I have been told is either Tabebuia caraiba or chrysotricha.

    We'd like to move it to a different part of the garden, possibly into a very large pot.

    Can you tell me anything about it's root system that would help me, ie is it easy to re-locate?
    It is currently about 9ft at it's tallest point, but still very "skinny".
    We're in Durban, south africa.

    Any assistance appreciated :-)

  2. Hello EastCoastJac- regarding Tabebuias, they have slightly different root systems for the 2 different species. T. caraiba has a very shallow root and brittle system, and needs to have the roots trimmed back ( also called root-pruning) about 2 months before moving the tree. I would suggest you do this as the plant starts to grow new leaves at the onset of the rainy season, whenever that is in your area. The tree moves easily, and recovers completely. It should be staked into place for 18 months, since the roots are slow to re-generate, and need some time to get a good hold on the soil or rock.

    T. chrysotricha is a much more slender species, with a very hard wood and a very smooth dark brown trunk, different than the deeply grooved and furrowed cork-like bark of T. caraiba. You can also tell the differenc in the species by their leaves: caraiba has a silvery-grey leaf, much like some Eucalyptus, chrysotricha has a fuzzy-felty leaf, and is solid dark green.

    T. chrysotricha has a shallow root system also, but is much more solid and wiry than caraiba, and much slower to establish than caraiba. I would also recommend root-pruning the tree, but would suggest that this be done 90-100 days before moving the tree, and keeping the tree solidly staked to avoiding movement while the roots re-generate. This tree can take 2 or more years to really establish wellafter moving. The flowers on both species are worth the effort !!

    Good luck with your growing,

    best regards,

    Craig Morell
    Pinecrest Gardens

  3. #1>Jatropha integerrima 'Compacta' Tree {grown as tree} -

    Year-round constant Bloomer. (Red...but there's also a Pink variety!)
    Jatropha_Standard_Form.jpg 450×600 pixels

    #2>Firebush Tree (Hamelia patens) {can be grown as tree} -

    Year-Round constant Bloomer. (Red/Orange)

    #3>Ixora 'Super King' {can be grown as tree}-

    Spring-Fall bloomer (year-round if warm winter). (red)

    #4>Euphorbia punicea-
    Spring-Fall Bloomer. (Red)
    Euphorbia-Punicea.jpg 540×720 pixels

    #5>Turks Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus)-

    Fall-Spring bloomer. (Red) Link2Pic:

    #6>Giant Star Potato Tree (SOLANUM MACRANTHUM)-

    Year-round constant Bloomer. (Purple/Blue/White)

    #7>Chenille Tree (Acalypha hispida)-

    Spring-Fall Bloomer (year-round in warm winters). (Red) Link2Pic:

    #8>Mussaenda 'Double Red'-

    Spring-Fall Bloomer. (Red) Link2Pic:

    #9>Rondeletia odorata-

    Blooms Year-Round. (Orange)

    #10>Dombeya "Seminole' Tree-

    Fall-Spring off/on bloomer. (Pink) Link2Pic:

    #11>Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis 'Anderson Crepe'- Continuous year-round bloomer.

    (Pink) Link2Pic:

    #12>Hibiscus 'Seminole'-
    Flowers on/off year round. (pink)
    Plant: 'Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis Seminole Pink' | learn2grow.com

    #13>Hibiscus 'Danty white'-
    Flowers year-round. (white)
    Dainty White Hibiscus - Almost Eden

    #14>Bougainvillea tree-

    Off/On Blooming usually Fall-Spring. (Purple/Pink/Red/White) Link2Pic:
    www.worldisround.com/ articles/334596/photo14.htm

    #15>Uncarina grandidieri-

    Blooms Spring-Fall. (Yellow) Link2Pic:

    #16>Aloyia virgata-

    Almost year-round blooming. (White)

    #17>Pink Powder Puff (Calliandra emarginata)- Flowers on/off year-round. (Pink)


    #18>Yellow Orchid Tree (Bauhinia tomentosa)- Blooms off/on year round. (Yellow)


    #19>Iochroma cyanea-

    Blooms year-round. (Purple)
    Link2Pic: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/showimage/256096/

    #20>Tecoma stans is junk...

    Tecoma 'Gold Star' is a vastly superior cultivar!
    Blooms spring-fall off/on (mostly on). (yellow)

    #21>Canary tree (Abutilon chitenendii, Bakeridesia integerrima)- Blooms

    winter/spring. (Yellow)

    #22>Cestrum newelii-

    Blooms year-round? (Wine-Red)

    #23>Polygala myrtifolia-

    Blooms year-round. (purple)

    #24>Brugmansia 'Inca Sun'-

    New Cultivar that Blooms more then any other angel trumpet. (Yellow)

    #25>Tabebuia 'Carib Queen'-
    Blooms on/off year-round (or) spring-fall. (deep dark pink)
    1) Tabebuia 'Carib Queen' , Maroon Trumpet
    2) Richard Lyons' Nursery - ----Tabebuia sp.---- 'Carib Queen' (Tabebuia Carib Queen)

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.