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September 13th, 2023

Royal poinciana: Queen of summer

by R.S. Walsh

Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia) lives up to its name which means regal, royal or magnificent – all perfect descriptive terms for the royal poinciana. We know it summer when we see this tree burst into bloom. This lovely tree is decorated in summer with large clusters of rich orange-red flowers on its umbrella-shaped crown of fine-textured leaves.

Driving into the older Fort Myers neighborhoods you will suddenly notice many of these majestic trees in full bloom. Any other time of year you would probably drive right past them without noticing. These mature trees are an architectural wonder with their pale grey, far reaching branches which create an umbrella shape that can shade a large area, while their tiny leaf structure gives them a lacy, rather bare appearance. They are also deciduous in the winter months which are thankfully short, probably to gather its strength for the flower show it puts on in the warm summer months.

The royal poinciana has been immortalized by many Florida artists and was a favorite subject of the Florida Highwaymen, a group of painters that painted many of the iconic scenes we still associate with the Old Florida style, when life was simpler and the natural beauty of our landscape was celebrated.

Poincianas are fast growing and can reach heights of 40 feet or more. They will usually grow wider that they are tall when given the room, creating the shape it’s known for. They look best planted as a specimen tree by themselves in a large expanse of lawn to accommodate both its size and root system. Make sure you are at least 20 feet of so from the house and about that distance from any driveways or walkways so the roots don’t become a problem. Plant in well-drained soil in full sun to assure the ideal space for both flowering and a full spreading canopy. Trim only low hanging branches on this tree if you desire. Water on a regular basis and fertilize three times per year with a quality fertilizer for our area. And most of all, enjoy this spectacular flowering tree in your own yard.

This column is a joint effort by all at In The Garden, a Sanibel garden center located at 3889 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel, Florida.

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