How to Care for a Gumbo Limbo

The National Champion Gumbo Limbo
The Champion Gumbo Limbo Tree

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Caring For a Gumbo Limbo Tree

Gumbo Limbo trees are a soft wood tropical climate tree native to Southern Florida and the Caribbean. They exist only in temperate tropical climates and do not usually grow further north than the Southern Tampa bay region of Florida. The prolific trees can grow either from a seed or by directly planting a branch of the tree into the ground. Here are some guidelines for planting a Gumbo Limbo from a clipping or branch:

  1. Select the perfect spot! Gumbo Limbos grow fast and large so pick a spot at least 15-20 feet away from a structure or public walkways or roads.
  2. They love the sun! Gumbo Limbos prefer direct sunlight or can grow in partial shade.
  3. Stabilize it. When planting dig a deep enough hole to bury at least a quarter of the branch or clipping. This will provide stability as the new tree puts out roots.
  4. Limit Water. Gumbo Limbos are drought resistant and are adapted to Florida’s climate. Water occasionally as it starts to take root and grow. Once it starts to gain height only water it in times of extreme drought. Try to plant it away from irrigation or sprinklers. If that is impossible then make sure it has time to dry out between watering.
  5. For best results fertilize it 2 to 3 times a year with a granular fertilizer at the change or the seasons.
  6. They are Floridian! These trees are native to Florida and its environment. They require little care or maintenance if planted in its native soil.
  7. Beware! They grow fast. Gumbo Limbo trees can reach heights of 30-40 feet with a canopy of 60 feet. They achieve this size relatively quickly with an average life span for the tree is about 100 years. Roots match the size of the canopy so If you do not want a large root ring then trimming the canopy will be necessary.
  8. Do not worry if the leaves from your clipping fall off. The leaves will all drop off the clipping until it puts out its roots. You will start to notice growth from the new Gumbo Limbo after a few weeks to a month.

Gumbo Limbos go by many names the West Indian Birch, the Turpentine Tree, the Living Fence Post, and the Tourist Tree because the bark turns red and peels in direct sunlight. In cold weather the Gumbo Limbo will lose its leaves but they do grow back in the spring usually accompanied by its berry like seeds.

Last updated: November 9, 2017

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