The Genus Handroanthus
This is a medium-sized genus of shrubs and trees native to warm areas of North America and South America. These colorful flowering trees are cultivated in warm regions around the world. At least, three species grow as far north as zone 9a in the Coastal Southeast. The genus Handroanthus was separated from the genus Tabebuia on the basis of DNA studies. One reference states that the species of Handroanthus have hairs on the surfaces of their leaves while Tabebuia leaves are smooth.
The Bignoniaceae family contains shrubs, vines and trees that range around the world. It includes cross vine (Bignonia,) trumpet creeper (Campsis,) catalpa (Catalpa,) jacaranda (Jacaranda) and yellow elder (Tecoma.)
Handroanthus chrysotrichus (syn. Tabebuia chrysotricha)
golden trumpet tree
This is a small tree to about twenty-five feet tall. Compared to the other yellow-flowered species in our area, H. umbellatus, this tree is a little taller, has deeper yellow flowers and has rusty-red hairs on its new flower buds and leaves. It grows well in a well-drained site in sun. Reportedly, it has some salt tolerance. This species has not been trialed for long in upper zone 9a. It may benefit from a some protection from cold winter winds.
This plant is available in central Florida nurseries. It is propagated by seeds and semi-hardwood cuttings.
This plant struggled and died in my northern zone 9a garden. It survived a winter low in the mid-20’s at the University of North Florida (middle zone 9a) and flowered the following spring. Typically, it flowers in February.
Handroanthus impetiginosus (syn. Tabebuia impetiginosa)
ipe, pink trumpet tree
This is a medium-sized tree to about twenty-five feet tall. It is deciduous for a short time in spring when the large, trumpet-shaped, pink flowers appear. Its leaflets are lightly fuzzy and have small teeth along the margins. It grows best in a sunny, well-drained site with some protection from winter winds.
This plant is available in central Florida nurseries but is difficult to find further north. It is propagated by seeds and semi-hardwood cuttings.
The young plant in my northern zone 9a garden has experienced three winters with lows in the upper teens in the past ten years. After a decade, this scrawny, little survivor is nothing more than a curiosity. A few miles south, plants at the Jacksonville Zoo and the University of North Florida have grown to tree size. They tolerate winter lows in the low to mid-20’s F without difficulty. They flower in late March to mid-April depending on the spring temperatures. It seems to have moderate salt tolerance.
Handroanthus umbellatus (syn. Tabebuia umbellata)
yellow trumpet tree
This is a small tree to about twenty feet tall. It drops its leaves in spring just before it is covered with bright yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers. Its leaves are smooth with entire margins. It grows best in a sunny, well-drained site with some cold protection.
This plant is uncommon in central Florida nurseries, and almost unknown further north. It can be grown easily from seeds. Reportedly, it is propagated, also, by air-layers.
A plant struggled for a few years in my upper zone 9a garden before dying. Plants grow slowly but well in UNF’s middle zone 9a landscape. Matt Encinosa says that in middle zone 9a, his plant flowers in late February to mid-April depending on the spring temperatures. New leaves appear in shortly after flowering.
hybrid trumpet tree
This is a relatively new hybrid that should grow to about twenty-five feet tall. The plant in the image is the result of a cross that Matt Encinosa and I made between two of the cold hardiest species, H. impetiginosus and H. umbellatus. Our plant has the habit and vigor of H. impetiginosus but the flowers open yellow before fading to pink. Its leaves are glossy with a serrated margin. The new leaves of this particular plant are dark burgundy in color (see photo below.)
This cross has been made by a few people around Florida and can be found in a few central Florida nurseries. This hybrid should be propagated by semi-hardwood cuttings or layers.
My plant has grown for four years in a sunny, well-drained site in middle zone 9a. It survives winter lows of 25 degrees F with no apparent damage.