They are originally from parts of Central and South America, and their seeds were thought to have been brought back by sea captains, with Sir James Martin’s name cropping up in connection with them. They can appear any time from April through August (most often May), and the blooms are sometimes present before the fresh, new, light green leaves. The name jacaranda comes from the South American language Guarani and it means 'fragrant', and the tree represents wisdom, rebirth, wealth and good luck.
Some jacaranda trees can tolerate occasional cold weather days but generally, this species does not thrive in climates with frequent freezing temperatures. It prefers heat and humidity but is vulnerable to trunk scald in areas with constant high temperatures.
Growing 5-15 m tall, its main distinguishing feature is its spectacular lavender-blue blooms which has led to its popularity as an ornamental tree. Jacaranda mimosifolia is fast growing and resprouts easily if damaged. Its flowers are a beautiful, lavender blue, are tubular measuring 2.5 cm long, and appear in dense 15 - 25 cm terminal clusters, with often the entire tree in flower – and with the ground beneath turning blue as the flowers fall off.
The fern-like foliage usually allows diffuse light to pass through, so growing grass under the tree is possible, but be aware that the tree can have significant surface roots, disturbing sidewalks or nearby structures. Jacaranda leaves, seed pods and particularly the flowers, can create a lot of litter when they drop, so be forewarned and forearmed. This messy habit makes the tree a poor choice near pools, driveways, and patios because of cleanup maintenance, and if the debris isn't swept up quickly, it can rot and result in a slimy, slippery mess.
In general, jacaranda trees are a good choice for large outdoor areas in warm climates. They are resistant to pests and diseases and are moderately drought-tolerant (though they require watering during extended dry periods).
Though jacaranda trees can be grown indoors, they typically will not flower and must be planted outdoors eventually, so are not good for long-term container planting. Unfortunately, when grown indoors, jacarandas they can attract aphids and whiteflies.
All parts of this popular ornamental shrub are poisonous, especially the attractive berries, and produces dry round brown pods, around 2.5cm - 7.5cm wide in late summer. They can be harvested for replanting - pick them directly from the tree when they are dry, but bear in mind that not all pods contain seeds, and if you are thinking of planting your own, read on to the end.
Types of Jacaranda Tree
There are several notable varieties of jacaranda, some grow up to over 12m tall, some dwarf sized at only 3m, some have white flowers rather than purple, some with dark, almost maroon, blossoms. Amongst these are 'Alba' or 'White Christmas' – a full-size tree with a similar habit and care needs; grows tall with lush foliage of white blooms. 'Bonsai Blue' is a Dwarf cultivar with deep purple blooms, and ‘Maroon’, another dwarf variety that grows 3m to 7.6m tall, with dark maroon-purple blooms.
How to grow jacaranda from seed
Do you fancy having a go at growing your own tree? Firstly, soak the seeds in water for 24 hours, then place the seeds on a bed of potting soil in seedling containers or pots. Cover with a thin layer of potting soil and keep the soil moist. The seeds should sprout in two to eight weeks. Wait eight months before you transplant the seedlings into a moderately well-draining sandy soil, as water-logged soil can lead to root rot.
If successful, you’re going to need lots of space for them to thrive and flourish, making them not the best choice for a small backyard or as a fence-side planting - your neighbours won’t be impressed - but for now, sit back and wait for 20 years for your tree!
Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man.
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