Over the past several weeks I have been struck by this summer’s exceptionally spectacular display of blooms on mimosa trees. These puffy fragrant flowers, which have been said to resemble a cheerleader’s pom poms, appear in clusters of color ranging from shocking pink to white depending on the cultivar. The long stamens look like threads or optic fibers and are often tipped in yellow. Mimosas bloom from late April to early July.
Imported from China in 1745, Albizia Julibrissin has an American range throughout the country’s southern half from Florida to California. It is also called the silk tree or powder puff tree, and sometimes “the sleeping tree” because the feathery, fern-like leaves slowly close at night or during periods of rain. Mimosas have a smooth gray or pale brown bark and fruit that appears as straw colored pods. These trees can have single or multiple trunks.
Mimosas are favored by some home gardeners because they grow quickly (2 to 3 feet a year), are adaptable to almost every soil type and sunlight situation and are drought tolerant. Mature trees can reach 20 to 40 feet in height and grow nearly as wide, giving a graceful, spreading silhouette.Their open canopy provides dappled shade, ideal for backyard decks and patios where they will attract hummingbirds, butterflies and honeybees. Mimosas look tropical and exotic, but are in fact quite hardy, if not long lived; the average life span is only 10 to 20 years. Another consideration when choosing a mimosa for the home landscape is the litter created by spent blooms, fallen seed pods and the tree’s characteristic weak, brittle wood.
Mimosa trees are strong competitors, rapidly spreading along roadsides and occupying vacant lots and disturbed areas. In the wild mimosas form thickets which prevent sunlight from reaching native plants. These traits have prompted some places to outlaw mimosas as an invasive species. However, they may be legally purchased in South Carolina and if you are looking for a small to medium ornamental tree, mimosas will quickly put on quite a show.