Trumpet trees are loved for their dazzling display of blossoms that burst forth ahead of their leaves in spring. Traditionally known as Tabebuia, some of these trees are now recognized with a different botanical name. The common name refers to the elongated flowers that resemble a trumpet.
In 2007, a molecular phylogenetic study found that the genus Tabebuia was polyphyletic — meaning it represented a group of organisms that did not share a recent common ancestor. When a group is discovered to be polyphyletic, the organisms are reclassified to reflect a more accurate grouping. Accordingly, some popular Trumpet trees have remained in the genus Tabebuia, while others are now in the genus Handroanthus.
Tabebuia heterophylla is known by some as pink trumpet tree. This tree grows at a moderate rate and will reach a height of 20 to 30 feet with a spread of 12 to 25 feet. T. heterophylla is partly deciduous and produces eye-catching pink to white blooms in spring and summer. It can be grown in Central and South Florida.
Tabebuia pallida is known more commonly as Cuban pink trumpet tree or white trumpet tree. This tree has delicate, very pale pink to white flowers. T. pallida gets quite tall—reaching 30 to 40 feet—and can be grown in Central and South Florida.
Tabebuia aurea (formerly T. caraiba) is an excellent tree for South Florida that produces cheerful yellow flowers in the winter and spring after the tree's leaves drop. With a moderate growth rate, this tree reaches 15 to 25 feet tall and spreads 10 to 15 feet wide.
Handroanthus chrysanthus (formerly Tabebuia chrysotricha), is commonly called golden trumpet tree. This fast growing tree is great for Central and South Florida. Reaching a height of 25 to 35 feet tall with a spread of 25 to 35 feet, H. chrysanthus has brilliant yellow flowers that bloom in the spring just after the foliage drops away. Read more about the golden trumpet tree.
Handroanthus impetiginosus (formerly Tabebuia impetiginosa) is known as pink trumpet tree by some, or purple trumpet tree by others. H. impetiginosus is both slower growing and smaller than many of the other trumpet trees commonly grown in Florida, reaching only about 12 to 18 feet tall and spreading 10 to 15 feet wide. For those wanting a small tree for their landscape, H. impetiginosus with its pinkish-purple springtime flowers could be the perfect choice.
Handroanthus umbellatus (formerly Tabebuia umbellate) is sometimes referred to as yellow trumpet tree. This tree may perform better for people who want to try growing trumpet tree a bit farther north. H. umbellatus does well in USDA Hardiness Zones 8B to 11. With a height and spread of 25 to 30 feet, this large tree can brighten up the landscape in late winter with its sunny yellow flowers.
Handroanthus heptaphyllus (formerly Tabebuia heptaphylla) is also called pink trumpet tree—a great example of how common names can confuse people. This tree is great for South Florida. Reaching 20 to 30 feet tall and spreading 15 to 25 feet wide, H. heptaphyllus is another option for those in South Florida looking for showy pink blooms.
Handroanthus serratifolius (formerly Tabebuia serratifolia) also goes by the common name of yellow trumpet tree. This tree reaches about 25 to 40 feet tall and produces abundant yellow flowers.
Believe it or not, this isn't an exhaustive list of those Tabebuia trees that have been moved into the Handroanthus genus, just some of the more commonly grown ones in Florida.
While the names may have changed, much is still the same. These Florida-friendly plants grow best in full sun and make a stunning addition to landscapes in Central and South Florida. North Florida residents should contact their local county Extension office to see which species have proven more cold tolerant.
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- Grose, S. and Olmstead, R. (2007). Taxonomic Revisions in the Polyphyletic Genus Tabebuia s. l. (Bignoniaceae). Systematic Botany, 32(3), 660-670.