What Are Specimen Trees, and Why Plant Them?

GrowingTree Care

Adding a focal point will elevate your landscape’s appeal, and a specimen tree may fit the bill. A specimen tree is any tree planted as a stand-alone landscape feature. Choose a unique tree that will make a statement, like one with long-lasting blooms or an interesting shape.

Want to enhance your landscape with a focal point? A specimen tree may be the answer. A specimen tree is not a specific species of tree but is any tree planted as a stand-alone feature. The word “specimen” originates from the Latin word specere, meaning “to look at.”

With the right placement, a specimen tree does not have to be spectacular to be effective. However, to really make a statement, a specimen tree should be distinctive in shape, color, or foliage. Choose a unique tree that you think is worth featuring, like one with long-lasting flowers or an interesting profile. 

The following are some suggestions to help you decide where to plant a specimen tree and which trees to consider as specimen candidates.

Where Should I Place a Specimen Tree?

Since a specimen tree serves as both a landscape feature and a focal point, great placement is key! Follow these steps to choose a good planting spot.

  1. Think about the areas in your landscaping where a point of interest will work well.
  1. Ask how a specimen tree will benefit your property in addition to its function as a focal point. Will it provide screening, separation, intimacy, shade? A tree in an entryway or a corner bed of a house will not only complement a home; it may also shade nearby plants or the home itself. 
  1. Consider the amenities of possible planting locations. What is the soil like? Does the spot receive any shade from your home? Is it accessible to irrigation? Answering these questions will help in selecting the best tree for a space. 
  1. Imagine your tree of choice in every season. If you like a tree that flowers in the spring but is unimpressive for the rest of the year, you might choose something different for the center of your front yard.

Five Super Specimen Trees

Now for the fun part: choosing a specimen tree! We recommend choosing something you love to look at, whether it is a tree with gorgeous flowers, a unique trunk, or an attractive shape. 

Here are some of our favorites:

Frangipani

Frangipani, or Plumeria, is a beautiful tropical tree. Most Plumerias lose their leaves every year, but there is one that does not: Plumeria pudica. This evergreen variety blooms for months. 

Crape Myrtle

Also called the “lilac of the South,” the crape myrtle is a popular specimen tree choice. It thrives in Florida’s tropical climate, its blooms last up to 100 days, and even when it loses its leaves, the tree boasts an attractive bark.

Weeping Willow

The stunning weeping willow performs well in Central and North Florida. These wistful trees are captivating to look at and also make excellent screens.

Flame Tree

Also known as royal poinciana, this magnificent tree will grow up to 40 feet tall with a canopy of 40 to 60 feet across. It makes a wonderful specimen tree for large landscapes and doubles as an outstanding shade tree.

Magnolia

The Southern Magnolia is native to Florida and is another striking tree that fills out spacious landscapes. It will reach 30 to 90 feet tall and grows thick, evergreen foliage and huge white flowers in the spring and summer seasons.

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