Mimosa — The Wonderful, Awful Weed

June 29, 2009 | By | Comments (134)

When anyone asks me what’s the best time to prune a mimosa, my instinctive response is, “Any time you can find a chainsaw.”

That’s very judgmental of me, I know, but heck, that’s pretty much my job. And mimosa is one of those plants you either love or you hate. I hate it now. But I used to love it.


Why, when I was a kid, at the nadir of sensibility and good taste, I thought mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) was the prettiest tree in the world. Its leaves were like ferns. Its flowers were pink puffballs. And it bloomed in summer, when few other trees did.

A Miracle — My Wife Agrees!

Judy, who notices very few plants,  has fond childhood memories of mimosa too. She remembers climbing up in her neighbors trees to smell the flowers. I think they smell faintly of gardenias — not like my son’s socks, which would actually cause you to faint.

How It all Began

PM1Native to the Middle East and Asia, mimosa was brought to this country in 1785 by the famous French botanist Andre Michaux, who planted it in his botanic garden in Charleston, South Carolina. It grew quickly into a vase-shaped, flat-topped tree, 30 to 40 feet tall, and it loved the Southern climate. The flowers, attractive to butterflies, hummingbirds, and colonial gardeners, ranged in color from nearly red to deep pink to flesh-pink to white. On one road-side near my home, there is a row of them, each a different color. Here’s the usual pink.

WM1And here’s a white one. I really like the white, but I’ve never seen it for sale. The various colors are due to genetic variation, with pink being dominant. Where I live in Alabama, the trees usually start blooming in June and continue for several weeks into July.

So Why Do I Hate Mimosa Now?

Two reasons, First, like most all fast-growing trees, mimosa is notoriously short-lived, subject to many pests, and will die on you in a heartbeat. When people ask me the best way to get rid of a mimosa, I tell them to make it the focal point of their landscape and it will be gone momentarily.

Second, after the flowers fade, the tree grows hundreds of 6-inch long, bean-like, brown seedpods which hang from every branch. The seedpods persist all winter, even after the tree has dropped its leaves. Few trees look as ugly or more forlorn.

But wait! It gets worse! Each of those pods is filled with seeds and each and every one of them germinates somewhere, even in cracks in the pavement. Plant one mimosa in the yard and soon every house in the neighborhood has two or three mimosas. coming up in the fence, the middle of a bush, or by the silver propane tank.

Mimosa adapts to almost any well-drained soil, laughs at heat and drought, and does not mind if you spray-paint the trunk white, hang tires from the branches, or park your pickup on top of its roots. In hort class, we called it a “pioneer species,” because if you disturb the land, remove native vegetation, and open the tree canopy to light, it’s one of the first trees to appear. That’s why you see it growing along just about every highway and country road in the South. Northerners be glad it doesn’t like your cold winters, but with global warming, who knows how much longer you’ll be free?

Not Fooling Me

Recently, a new kind of mimosa was introduced to the gardening world, a purplish-bronze leaf selection called ‘Summer Chocolate.’ The hype over its undeniably pretty foliage and pink flowers was overwhelming. Probably many of you bought one and are enjoying it right now. But not me.

See, any mimosa that flowers is going to produce seeds and lots of them. And if a thousand seedlings come up in my yard, I don’t care if they have green leaves or purple leaves. They need to be eliminated with extreme prejudice.

So my advice about when to prune a mimosa remains the same — whenever you can find a chainsaw.


  1. 6 Trees You Should Never, Ever Plant | Southern Living Blog

    […] “Mimosa — The Wonderful, Awful Weed” […]

    September 27, 2015 at 10:01 am
  2. Joyce

    I have a plant that looks like a mimosa, that grew out of the bottom of my store bought Stevia plant. So far just this summer, after I planted it in the ground, in the hot sun, it has grown two feet, and more, as I speak, and has a trunk that is about one inch thick right now. It is a light green, not the shade of all of our other wild Memosa’s here in N. Alabama. The branches are very strong, and cannot be broken by hand. The insides of the branch are very stringy. It has the Memosa preying leaves, that close when touched, large, and is a light green. It is growing like a monster! Looks like a possible gigantic type of super-sonic Memosa. What part of the country did it come from, and WHAT IS IT?! Should I be afraid? Is it going to attack me? I’m sure it has grown another two inches since I started this message. It is getting gigantic very quickly. LOL (:

    I just have not ever seen anything like this before in this part of the world.. Thank You.

    August 7, 2015 at 8:09 pm
  3. Penny

    Surely no shrub/woody vine is more aggressive than Chinese Wisteria, which can be “killed” to below the soil line and the remainder hacked to pieces with an axe…and still the last of the roots recover enough to travel under the soil to pop up 75 feet away in another person’s yard, year after year! And all that before they ever mature enough to bloom….

    August 6, 2015 at 1:11 pm
  4. Steve Bender


    Those tales you’ve heard are all true, so keep an eye out. By the way, there is a very beautiful rose named ‘Peggy Martin.’ Check it out.

    June 6, 2015 at 4:01 pm
  5. Peggy Martin

    I have a small one about two feet tall given to me by a friend. I am really concerned now that it isn’t good to have it. I had heard tales about the roots giving problems to driveway, sidewalks and sewer lines. I really don’t see how it could be any worse that the oak trees and maple trees that come up all in my flower beds and yard from the neighbors house. I do think its a tropical looking tree and may keep it for a few years to see how it does. Thanks

    June 1, 2015 at 11:17 am
  6. Steve Bender


    My guess is that it’s not fully cold-hardy in your area and dies back to the ground every winter.

    June 6, 2015 at 3:59 pm
  7. Dave

    My tree is about three years old, it Grows about five feet a year. The problem is , all the branches / trunks die every year ,and it starts from ground zero every year. Does anyone know why this happens?

    May 31, 2015 at 9:59 pm
  8. Steve Bender


    Provided that your tree gets plenty of sun, my guess is it’s just not old enough.

    May 31, 2015 at 6:43 am
  9. Sharon Stevenson

    My Mimosa is three years old and about five feet tall. It has never bloomed. Any suggestions?

    May 28, 2015 at 8:08 am
  10. Joanne Gonzales

    I too grew up with one, it’s still in the front yard here in Texas. It’s been in our family for 36+ years and started showing signs of decay 5 yrs ago. So I don’t know why you complain they die quickly. I like it because it feeds the butterflies, hummingbirds and bees here in Texas & uses little water. It has been home to white winged doves and we grew 50lbs of sweet potatoes under it every year for 3 yrs & we didn’t know they were there. For me it’s worth it to feed the humingbirds, bees and butterflies since these are tough times for them. The fact that it was bendable for most of it’s life helped when the worst hurricanes we had broke a lot of trees in half & blew away metal storage units around the neighborhood. But that’s just us I guess.

    April 5, 2015 at 4:24 am
  11. Steve Bender


    I would guess the problem is white flux, which can be caused by either fungi or bacteria feeding on the sap. It generally doesn’t kill the tree, but unfortunately, there is little you can do to stop it other than cutting down the tree.

    February 19, 2015 at 3:40 pm
  12. twyla gee

    I love my Mimosa tree. It does remind me of childhood and the scent is my favorite. I wish it wasn’t considered a “trash tree.” They don’t handle pesticides very well and they are becoming less and less visible on the roadways. Makes me sad.

    February 9, 2015 at 4:55 am
  13. Brenda

    My tree has cracks and was losing sap,look like i poured white paint on it, any suggestions,i live right outside of ft.worth tx

    February 8, 2015 at 11:25 am
  14. Jeni

    Was thinking of getting some for my yard, however, after reading your story I have decided to forget about. I understand what your saying about the childhood memories of the sweet Aroma the flowers had. The fern I remember putting in between my two fingers while I took one finger on bottom and rub up or down and all the little green pieces of fern would all come right off, simultaneously! All you would have was a small piece of stem left. I know everyone seemed to have one, they are few and far between, I hardly see them in my state of Maryland. Maybe due to what your experienced with them, others found the same scenario on their property. I know my dad worked on a farm as a young boy said he would not grow them due to the mess they become.
    Your article was a good read, thank you!

    January 22, 2015 at 10:40 pm
  15. Steve Bender


    So a cup of tea brewed with the leaves of mimosa will get rid of the headache the mimosa caused by growing in the first place? Cool!

    November 5, 2014 at 3:42 pm
  16. Laura

    You need to take a look at the medicinal uses of the Mimosa. It vertually gets rid of all your allergies just by drinking a cup of tea brewed from the leaves and also helps with depression and stress without any side effects.

    November 4, 2014 at 9:42 am
  17. Em

    We love our mimosas, and don’t seem to have a problem with overgrowth, nor do we see a lot of them anywhere-the occasional one growing along the side of the road in our various travels across Texas but not near enough to be considered a nuisance. Maybe they’re being crowded out by another invasive species-the Chinese tallow. Now there’s a tree worthy of hate in our opinion!

    October 13, 2014 at 11:33 am
  18. Ned Stevens

    I totally agree with the chainsaw. we have millions of these things stupid things growing in our grass and beds and I couldn’t figure out where they’re coming from until I saw the neighbors tree on the edge of our yard. Fortunately it’s near the fence and it will soon be a pile of mulch!

    September 10, 2014 at 8:18 am
  19. Steve Bender


    I would not plant a mimosa anywhere near water or sewer lines.

    August 21, 2014 at 2:16 pm
  20. Lorra

    I’d like to know about the root system on the Mimosa. Do the roots grow deep and spread out? I would love to have one but I’m cautious because of our city sewer lines. Please help!


    August 19, 2014 at 2:54 pm
  21. marie

    ha! well, i dont know then :)

    August 11, 2014 at 11:04 am
  22. Steve Bender


    But what if I’m depressed because my yard is filled with mimosas?

    August 11, 2014 at 9:22 am
  23. marie

    It might be pure coincidence, but I find it interesting that a tree that heals disturbed land also can heal a disturbed heart. In China the peeled, dried bark of mimosa, called “collective happiness bark” in Chinese, is used as an uplifting remedy for an irritable-type of depression accompanied by insomnia, poor memory, grief and anger. In Chinese medicine this type of depression is diagnosed as a shen disturbance, a shock or trauma to the spiritual aspect of someone’s heart.

    Current research has validated the traditional Chinese remedy of mimosa bark, showing that it relieves anxiety and has an antidepressant-like effect. Other studies have found that mimosa foliage and flowers contain antioxidants that inhibit the oxidation of the bad LDL cholesterol, decreasing the danger associated with high LDL cholesterol, which would make a lot of people happy.

    The bark is boiled and steeped in water. For a milder effect, one also can use the flowers and leaves. The tea should not be drunk during pregnancy or if one is taking prescribed antidepressants. Also, because mimosas grow in disturbed soil, do be careful not to use any part of a tree growing near railroad tracks because it could have absorbed a considerable amount of toxins.

    • Holli Richey lives in Athens and has a master’s degree in herbal medicine. Visit her blog at hollirichey.wordpress.com, or e-mail her at herichey@gmail.com

    August 7, 2014 at 3:37 pm
  24. Steve Bender


    As I said, mimosa isn’t the weedy pest in arid parts of the West Coast that it is here in the rainy Southeast.

    July 31, 2014 at 12:44 pm
  25. Tom R. Smith

    I live in the Tehachapi area in California. We are up over 4000′, so though warm and dry in the summer we do get freezing temps and some snow in the winter months. With that in mind the mimosa tree has worked wonderfully for myself up here. I think because of the winter temps that can come and go all the way through May it has reduced the reproduction problems mentioned here. The amount of shade area you get with one tree is a wonderful thing and slows down the natural weeds that abound in the area that we must abate for the fire season. They never need any major pruning and their growth pattern naturally umbrellas out maximizing the shade value.

    July 20, 2014 at 7:14 pm

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s