By Jackie Carroll
If your garden could use a touch of the tropics or a little Asian flair, consider growing chocolate mimosa (Albizia julibrissin ‘Summer Chocolate’). They have an umbrella-shaped canopy with leaves that change from green to dark red, and by late summer they are reddish-bronze or chocolaty brown.
Growing Chocolate Mimosa
The showiest feature of chocolate mimosas are the flowers that bloom in late summer. They are all stamens and fuzz, and look like pink powder puffs. The 1 ½ -inch flowers bloom in clusters at the tips of the branches. In late summer the flowers are replaced by bean-like seed pods.
These lovely trees may sound perfect for your garden, but you should think twice before planting chocolate mimosa trees. Mimosas have escaped cultivation in many areas to become an invasive species. They spread from seeds and form dense stands that shade and out compete valuable native plants. They can do so much damage to wild areas that the Plant Conservation Alliance has added them to their “Least Wanted” list. Contact your cooperative extension agent to find out more about the status of summer chocolate mimosa in your area.
Care of Chocolate Mimosa
The care of chocolate mimosa is easy. The plants are rated for U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 10 where they grow very quickly to a height of 20 feet with a spread of 15 feet. Give the tree a location with full sun and moist but well-drained soil.
Water newly planted chocolate mimosa trees regularly to keep the soil moist. Apply the water slowly, allowing the moisture to sink deep into the soil to encourage a deep root system. Once established, the tree only needs occasional watering in the absence of rain.
Fertilize annually in spring with a complete and balanced fertilizer.
Chocolate mimosa trees almost never need pruning.
Make removal of the seed pods a part of your chocolate mimosa tree care routine. If allowed to mature and take root, chocolate mimosas can become a weedy nuisance. The seed pods are about 6 inches long and straw-colored. They resemble beans, and each pod contains several bean-like seeds. They mature in late summer or early fall. Summer chocolate mimosa trees are protected by a patent, so you should not try to propagate them.