Name: Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia).
Plant type: deciduous tree.
Height: 8–15m with great age.
Foliage: compound leaf 30–40cm long comprised of hundreds of leaflets, creating a fern-like appearance. Each leaflet is oval-shaped with a distinct point at the tip, around 10mm long by 4mm wide. Foliage is a bright, shiny green, slightly paler beneath. Turns bright yellow in late winter to early spring before falling.
Climate: tropical, sub-tropical, warm temperate and sheltered, and warm positions in cool temperate. Established plants can tolerate temperatures around –3˚C.
Soil: prefers deep, rich, well-drained soil but is adaptable to most soil types, provided drainage is good.
Position: full sun; protect from cold or drying winds and from frost, especially while young.
Flowering and fruiting: flowers from late October to early December, generally on bare wood before new leaves appear. Flowers are mauve to deep purple, tubular, around 3–5 cm long and carried in large panicles on branch ends. The tree can be completely covered in blooms. Last season’s seed pods will become ripe as the new season’s flowers appear. Seed pod is a rounded, flattened disc-like shape. It’s brown and woody when ripe, and contains multiple papery seeds.
Feeding: annual application of controlled-release fertiliser in early spring.
Watering: reliable moisture while young and establishing; quite dry-tolerant once established, but may need additional watering in extended dry periods.
The jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia) is originally from tropical South America, and for generations has been a beautiful fixture around much of the country.
They’re an elegant tree with a relatively short trunk and a broad, spreading canopy. It’s not unusual to a see a jacaranda wider than it is tall. Jacaranda will most often grow to less than 8m tall, although it can reach 12–15m under ideal conditions, taking 20+ years to do so.
Jacaranda tree foliage is a lush green with a soft, almost fern-like appearance due to the dozens of tiny leaflets that make up each compound leaf. The leaves thin-out over winter before turning a buttery golden colour and falling completely in late winter to early spring. The leaves then reshoot at the same time as, or slightly after, flowering.
Most commercially available jacaranda trees will be grafted plants. This assures you a particular flower colour, and also quick flowering. Avoid seed-grown plants, as they will be quite variable in their flower colours, and can also be poor at flowering, which you’ll likely only find out once you’ve invested years in getting them established.
For decades, the jacaranda was a favourite of councils for street and park planting because, apart from being a gorgeous tree, it is very hardy, and requires little maintenance once established.
A jacaranda is the perfect choice if you’re after a hardy tree that puts on a truly spectacular flowering display, but also if you are looking for a spreading shade tree that still allows nice levels of winter sun to flow through.
In the longer term they are an excellent choice for a family garden, as they become great trees for climbing and hanging swings from.
When planting any tree, always think about the range of potential issues, from clogging drains to lifting pavers to blocking views. There are a couple of special considerations with the jacaranda that relate to its leaf and flower fall, and to a lesser extent the woody seed pods the tree drops:
Jacaranda will perform best in warm to tropical areas of the country. However, if protected from cold winds and frost, it can grow well, albeit slowly, in some cooler zones. Select a spot that’s not exposed to heavy winds. Jacaranda likes well-drained, rich soil, but can tolerate most soil types, provided they are not too sandy or waterlogged. If your soil is sandy or in need of a boost, just blend a quality compost or planting mix through with the soil at planting time.
Feed with a balanced controlled-release fertiliser at planting time, and then annually after flowering.
Additional watering should only be required until the young tree establishes. See our tree planting guide for the easy steps for planting a tree.
As the tree grows, prune off side shoots and aim to have just one strong, central shoot. Once the tree has around 2–3m of clear trunk, allow the canopy to shoot and develop naturally.
Avoid any further pruning, as the jacaranda has an unusual response to trimming of main branches once it is established. It will reshoot very vigorously from around the cut area, but the shoots will not follow the typical spreading, semi-horizontal growth habit. Instead, they will rocket skyward, potentially ruining the form of the spreading canopy.
Jacaranda is generally only raised by the home gardener from seed. Collect seed as it comes ripe in October to November. Fill pots or trays with quality seed-raising mix, lightly cover seeds with the mix and keep moist. The seeds germinate quite readily, though the resulting plants may be variable in their flowering.
Commercially seed-grown plants are most often used for root understock for grafting.
In mid-spring, suitable cuttings can be grafted onto one-year-old seedling understock.
The jacaranda is one of the most trouble-free trees you can plant. Just be aware of the following:
Lilly pilly: an extremely popular native plant, with a distinctly tropical look and glossy mid-green adult leaves.
Frangipani: this small tree is known for its tropical appearance and richly fragrant and vibrantly coloured flowers.
Crepe myrtle: with a size to suit any space, a handsome canopy of foliage and an awesome summer flowering display, the crepe myrtle deserves everyone’s attention.
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