Flamingo Boxelder MapleAcer negundo ‘Flamingo'
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Acer negundo ‘Flamingo'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The ‘Flamingo’ Boxelder is one of the brightest variegated trees available. The leaves are boldly bordered and splashed with white, and the new leaves are bright pink. It can be grown as a small shade tree with a trunk, or kept as a vibrant large shrub by annual trimming. Either way it will brighten up the dullest corner, or make a knock-out specimen on your lawn. This very tough tree grows almost anywhere, and brings light and flash wherever it is grown. Plant it on the edges of woodlands for a colorful effect.
Full sun is best for the Flamingo Boxelder, but some afternoon shade will protect it from scorching when grown in the hottest zones. It grows in all types of soil, from dry and poor to wet clay, and it shrugs off any pests or diseases. Trim in late winter as needed. Once established it has good drought resistance and needs no special care.
While ‘plenty of green’ is usually our suggestion for an attractive garden, sometimes you just have to let go and bring your exuberance for life out in the open. A great way to do that, with a plant that is tough and very easy to grow, is by planting a flamingo on your lawn. No, not one of those plastic ones, but the ‘Flamingo’ Boxelder, one of the brightest variegated trees around, and one of the easiest to grow. You can grow it as an eye-catching lawn tree, or as an explosive firework of a shrub, but either way this is a plant guaranteed to wake up your garden. The new growth is vibrant pink, changing to sparkling white and green, and ending with a burst of yellow in fall. Forget green for once, and go with the razzamatazz of color that is the ‘Flamingo’ Boxelder – what a party of a plant.
The ‘Flamingo’ Boxelder is a striking variegated, small, deciduous tree or large shrub, which is fast-growing and tough. It develops rapidly into a trunk with a broad crown, reaching between 15 and 30 feet in height and spread, and adding a couple of feet of growth, when young. It does not grow as vigorously as the wild boxelder tree does. Young bark remains green for several years, and the bark on the trunk is gray-brown, developing deep cracks and plates with age.
Although it is a type of maple, it doesn’t have typical ‘maple’ leaves. Instead, the leaves are divided into 3, or sometimes 5 leaflets, with one central leaflet and the others beneath in pairs along a stem. Each leaflet is a pointed oval about 4 inches long and 2½ inches across, with an irregular serrated edge. The leaflets are variegated, with a broad edge of white and a light-green central zone. The variegation is irregular, sometimes neat around the leaf, other times half the leaf or more can be white. New leaves are flushed with bright pink, which is especially pronounced on the white parts of the leaf. In fall the leaves turn a more-or-less uniform bright yellow color. This is a male tree, so it doesn’t produce any maple keys, which can be a nuisance with other forms of boxelder.
There are at least two distinct ways to grow the Flamingo Boxelder in your garden. It can be grown as a small tree, with one or several trunks, and this way it makes an exciting and vibrant lawn specimen, or filling in the back of a shrub bed. It can also be grown with regular hard trimming and kept as a rounded, bushy shrub around 6 feet tall and broad. This way it fits well into shrub beds, or fills an awkward space in the angle of a wall or corner of a fence. It also adds a wonderful touch of brightness to the edges of natural woods – perfectly natural as it is a form of a widespread native tree.
The ‘Flamingo’ Boxelder is not quite as hardy as the common boxelder, but it is hardy in zone 4, and in all zones except for zone 9, where winters are not cold enough for it to develop properly.
Grow the ‘Flamingo’ Boxelder in full sun in cooler areas, and with some afternoon shade in the hottest zones. This will protect against summer scorching of the variegated leaves, but avoid more than a little shade. This tough tree will grow in almost any soil, both wet and dry, including clay and poor soils – it will grow almost anywhere.
Avoid planting too close to the house, as the presence of boxelder bugs – which don’t harm the tree – can lead to them moving indoors. Other pests or diseases rarely have any serious impact on this tough and hardy tree. Some shaping when young will give it a good crown if grown as a tree. To grow it as a shrub, trim hard in spring back to a low framework of main branches – it will rapidly sprout and become bushy. Remove any plain-green branches that might appear, as these are more vigorous and can grow rapidly, spoiling the beauty of the tree.
Boxelder, Acer negundo, is called that because settlers thought its pale wood resembled the wood of the true boxwood (Buxus), while the leaf arrangement was like elder (Sambucus). It is a tree native to North America, growing in every American state except Alaska and Hawaii, as well as up into central Canada, where it is called Manitoba maple. It is often found in swampy areas, on the banks of rivers and streams, and in woods. Once relatively rare, our growing it in gardens has made it more common in natural areas than it once was. The seeds of female trees are valuable food for birds and squirrels. Forms with variegated leaves have arisen several times, and the variety called ‘Flamingo’ first appeared in 1976, following its earlier discovery in the Netherlands.
The strong pink coloring on the new growth, and the absence of seeds make the ‘Flamingo’ Boxelder a unique variety of this tree, and a very desirable one. Grow it as a small shade tree, or as a shrub, whichever you do it will brighten your garden like nothing else can, and do it with ease, even in difficult conditions. This plant is always in heavy demand, so our stock will go soon – order your garden party right away.