Experts tackle readers’ garden questions.
Q: I am looking for a plant as a screen from neighbors and came upon the included. Can you tell me the name of this plant and if it will be safe to plant in close proximity to my fence? Can it be planted in a planter? Also, is it a plant that can be purchased locally?
Sheila Himada, Sacramento
Bee garden writer Debbie Arrington: That’s a jacaranda tree (Jacaranda mimosifolia), a very popular street tree in Southern California and many other areas with relatively warm winters. While its delicate foliage is attractive, it’s jacaranda’s distinctive lavender-blue flowers that earns it so many fans.
Native to South and Central America, jacaranda (also known as “fern tree”) grows rapidly and can get fairly big (up to 60 feet tall), but usually stays in the 20- to 25-foot range. It could be shaped to co-exist with the fence, but a planter would be too restrictive of its roots.
Until well established, jacaranda trees are very frost sensitive and can be damaged by winter temperatures that linger under 28 degrees. On cold nights, a young jacaranda may need frost protection.
Deciduous and drought tolerant, jacaranda produce massive clouds of blue trumpet-like flowers in early spring before its first leaves appear. Those blooms can last up to eight weeks. But when they fall, they create quite a slippery purple mess underneath.
Jacaranda also produce unusual hard seed pods that split open and look like twin 3-inch wooden discs. (They’re popular with crafters.)
Because it loses all its leaves and is bare two or three months a year, jacaranda may not be the ideal privacy screen. But when it flowers, you and your neighbor will enjoy quite a show.
Most local nurseries don’t stock jacaranda trees year round because of their frost tenderness. They’re easier to find in the Bay Area. But any local nursery should be able to order you one.
The Bee’s Debbie Arrington is a consulting rosarian and lifelong gardener.
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