Mimosa trees in the Lawrence area are in full glory right now with their unrivaled fluffy, fragrant pink blossoms.
These delicate flowers, held above ferny compound leaves, are the main reason gardeners are tempted to add mimosas to their own gardens. Those who lust for mimosa’s beauty, however, should know the tree is absent from recommended planting lists for this area for good reason: Mimosa is susceptible to a plethora of insect and disease problems, has some difficulty with winter hardiness and re-seeds to the point of invasiveness just a short distance south of here.
If you wish to plant a mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) despite its problems, keep a few things in mind:
• Look for a variety that is described as cold-tolerant. One variety that has been around for awhile and is known to perform well in this area is Rosea or E.H. Wilson (for the explorer who brought this variety to the U.S. from Korea).
There are also some local selections, such as “Brian’s Choice,” that are reportedly available in the Kansas City area. Your favorite local garden center may be able to get it for you or may know about additional regionally-produced selections. Mimosa is also sometimes referred to as silk tree.
• Ease of removal. Picture the tree in 20 years, at a mature size of 20 to 30 feet tall. It will have a broad, spreading canopy by then. If the tree is in an open area or near a road or drive, it will be easier to remove than if it is near a fence or building or tucked away in an enclosed back yard.
• Avoid planting mimosa in a landscape bed with loose soil or in an area where it can easily re-seed. In the lawn, mimosa seedlings can be mowed and kept at bay. Mulch should still be applied in a circle radiating out from the trunk to reduce weed competition and conserve water.
• Bear with the insect and disease problems. Mimosa webworm may defoliate the tree in some years, but leave it untouched in others. When branches die back from disease, remove them to help the tree wall off the decay more quickly. In times of drought, water the tree to reduce stress and lessen its susceptibility to pests.
With good planning and a little TLC, a mimosa tree can be expected to thrill you with its blossoms for a good 10 to 20 years. Or you can just enjoy the others in the neighborhood.
— Jennifer Smith is a former horticulture extension agent for K-State Research and Extension and horticulturist for Lawrence Parks and Recreation. She is the host of “The Garden Show” and has been a gardener since childhood. Send your gardening questions and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.