A view from an airplane over a city with lots of jacaranda trees in bloom is no less than stunning. As you look down on the forest of green, billowing lavender blue-violet flowers grace the jacaranda canopies in the spring. Jacaranda grows 25 to 40 feet tall and 45 to 60 feet wide when mature, but only in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone 9b and warmer. Used as a street or park tree in Southern California, Hawaii and the southern half of Florida, jacaranda grows best with minimal but precise pruning maintenance.
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Schedule pruning of jacaranda trees for mid- to late winter, when the tree is dormant without many leaves. In parts of the U.S. where jacarandas grow, pruning time may occur anytime from late January to the end of February. Warm, wet winters prevent leaves from dropping away and can diminish the flowering display later in the spring. Jacaranda trees are weak-wooded and thin-barked. Any pruning done needs to be light and minimal. Otherwise, many suckering watersprout shoots can develop from the pruning wounds, especially during the spring and summer.
What to Prune
Focus pruning maintenance on a jacaranda to remove dead or diseased wood, or to improve its structural integrity. Dead wood may be removed at any time of year, but if trees are tall, it's best to use an arborist who can also address any structural issues in the late winter. Remove any vertical suckering sprouts in the canopy. Avoid over-trimming, as more wounds lead to more suckers from pruning wounds, especially on large branches or the trunk.
When considering a jacaranda tree to plant, only purchase saplings with one main central trunk. Avoid specimens with lots of narrow forks and tightly spaced branches. These trees will require a good deal of pruning to improve their strength and long-term integrity, especially in a wind-prone region. A single-trunked jacaranda will develop a stronger habit, especially if poorly positioned branches are removed when it's young. Even with proper pruning and annual maintenance, expect a jacaranda tree to sustain damage in strong tropical storms.
Creating any pruning wound on the jacaranda, regardless of the tree's age or size, always leads to unsightly vertical suckers. Minimal pruning on well-structured trees diminishes suckering, but follow-up pruning every four to eight weeks in the summer is needed to remove suckers. In small trees, cutting off suckers before they get large and ruin the branching silhouette of the jacaranda may be done on a ladder with hand pruners, or an extension pole. Large trees may need suckers removed every late winter when the arborist conducts his annual structural evaluation.