The best shrubs to turn into 'trees'

teka2rjleffel(z10FL)July 26, 2010

I want a shrub (don't want a big tree) that I can cut the lower branches and use as a tree to underplant. Katkin I know you have done this as have others. Which work best and grow fast? Thanks


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bigpaulie1972(9B Melbourne FL)

Ligustrum, Podacarpus, Sea Grape, Bougainvillea.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 8:41AM
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One of my favorites for this is Tecoma stans (Yellow Bells). You'll have to stake it, but it really is a beautiful little 'tree'.

~ Robin

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 9:16AM
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Brugmansia, Plumeria, Caesalpinia pulcherrima, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis etc

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 9:56AM
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Jatropha, crape myrtle, yellow elder

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 10:15AM
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Nancy, I've found most any large shrub can be made a tree. I am currently doing ixorias. They need support at first and I use rebar I get at HD. Look for a shrub with one straight branch to be the leader and cut the others off. Then keep it pruned to make a trunk. Hibiscus of any kind make a good tree. But I've done sweet almond, angel's trumpets, Tocamas, conferate rose, dombeyas, even woody vines like alamandas.

The only one I didn't think worked well was copperplants, they just seemed to leaf out too quickly.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 11:10AM
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I am trying the Clerodendrum vines thomsonae and the bleeding heart variety. Yup i learned that from Katkin lol.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 11:38AM
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Jatropha really has two types, the tree type and the shrub type. I've never had luck trying to train the shrub type into a tree, as it keeps getting shoots around the bottom. The tree type, though, is very easy, and grows to small tree size quickly. The only problem is that it is not cold hardy.

Loquat also grows quickly, is cold hardy and evergreen, and has the added advantage of having fruit. Another plant that also has fruit and is evergreen is Surinam Cherry.

Don't know where you are, but if you are anywhere close to me, I have a 3 foot tall surinam cherry plant you can have.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 11:39AM
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My favorite bush into a tree is Golden Dewdrop. The purple flowers are an awesome color and growing it as a tree keeps everyone guessing what it is.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 2:07PM
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Crotons grow into small trees and you can grow them as single leader if you want. But the real question is how tall do you want your tree to get? A small tree is usually one that stays shorter than 15' (some say 20', but what's five feet between gardeners?)

I've had great success with Lonchocarpus violaceus - commonly called "Lancepod". Even the older ones used as street trees in South Miami have rarely gone over 20'. They'll need some water to get established, but with a spread equal to their height, it's a great tree to build a small canopy.

Several nurseries are selling Vitex trifolia "Purpurea" - aka "Arabian Lilac". This is most commonly grown in the landscape as a shrub, but I just planted 6 of them as single leader trees. They also max out at around 15' with a 20' spread.

The other consideration is what you want to put in or on the tree. If you're going to attach orchids, you want a rough bark. Both of these work well toward that end.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 7:56PM
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I have both of the trees Ricky mentioned and they make lovely trees. Vitex blooms in the spring and the lancepod blooms purple flowers in the fall. I also have the varieagated vitex, to me, it's pretty even when it's not blooming with the varieagated leaves. ;o)

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 7:05AM
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I started this varigated vitex from a cutting about 3 years ago and it makes a great little tree. It was full of flowers when we moved in June and I sure hated to leave it behind!

And here it is 2 years ago to the left of the cannas. It grew so quickly that the cannas quit growing in the shade it created.

I agree with Katkin that the flowers are a bonus, but I love this plant all year.

Anyways, Nancy - I hope you will let us know what you decide to grow!


    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 11:55AM
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I sure hope the new owners like that vitex tree, it is shaped beautiful. :o)

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 1:24PM
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Try bottlebrush and pineapple guava! They look great with multiple trunks too.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 6:07PM
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A Bottlebrush - Callistemon viminallis or Callistemon citrinus - as a multiple trunk tree? Please, post a picture.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 8:28PM
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I'm becoming a broken record on this one because I love this tree so much, but I gotta mention dwarf ponciana (aka pride of barbados) as a lovely little tree. Longer bloom season than the Royal ponciana, fast growing but doesn't get big. I bought mine four years ago at a charity plant sale for $3. It was a foot high. It's 15 feet now, and spreading nicely - actually throwing some shade.
It did take some work the first year to control the shoots coming up, but once it realized I was serious about it being a tree, it acquiesced. I'm still trying to convince the golden dewdrop and a hibiscus that I am similarly serious.
And the great advantage of a tree that is doing what I want without much work from me? Well, there's not much work for me. But I was also able to leave the dwarf ponciana alone enough this year that my cardinal pair found it worthy of a nest. I also see lots of different butterflies and even the occasional hummer.
Lemme know if you want seeds. It will be awhile before they're trees.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 7:55PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

fawnridge, here is my multi-trunked bottlebrush. (Please pardon my dog, Spencer, over on the right. He thought he had his privacy.)


    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 11:12PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

After seeing them this spring, my vote is for loropetalum. I plant to replace the bottlebrush, shown above, with a standardized loropetalum. Absolutely gorgeous!


    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 11:19PM
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Carol, we're in z9a also. Now my wife has seen those two flowering shrubs and might have to buy some.

Probably should stop showing her this forum....

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 7:37AM
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I hope you keep the bottlebrush somewhere in your yard, it is beautiful.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 8:24AM
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Randy Ritchie

Loving this discussion, and the photos. That multi-trunked bottlebrush is really pretty, Carol. Susie, I love the variegated Vitex tree. Just beautiful. Thanks for the photo. I had a Vitex in Savannah, sent to me by Trudy. Loved it, and hated to leave it when we moved to Washingston state. Now that we're in Fort Lauderdale, wondering if they can survive this far South? Anybody know?


    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 10:28AM
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eric_9b(z9b Orlando)

Cocculus laurifolius- Himalayan Snailseed

Viburnum odoratissimum var. awabuki- Mirrorleaf Viburnum

Podocarpus macrophyllus, the form with longer leaves, most in the nursery trade is the var. maki and is shrubbier

Conocarpus erectus var. sericeus- Silver Buttonwood

Aglaia odorata- Chinese Perfume Bush

Tibouchina granulosa

Calliandra haematocephala- Powderpuff

Hibiscus schizopetalus- Weeping Hibiscus

Clerodendrum quadriculare

Hamelia cuprea

Erythrina herbacea- Coralbean

Tabernaemontana divaricata 'Grandiflora'

Thevetia peruviana

Illicium parvifolia

Viburnum obovatum

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 11:09AM
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katie_9b(Zone 9 Orlando)

I have two bottlebrush tree's in our front yard. They where here when we moved in so i don't know how old they are or what types. One is quite large and weepy/wispy looking, the bee's absolutely LOVE that tree... it often sounds like it's humming with an electrical current. The other one isn't nearly as large, bushy foilage but definately not weepy like the other. If the rain takes a break i'll run out and snap some pics.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 12:02PM
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