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Sulphur, LA (9A)
About 6 years ago I originally planted the newly purchased 5' Happy Tree, ( ~30 feet from a live oak tree) on the fringe of the "live-oak sand knolll", the Happy Tree hardly grew in 2 years. So I moved the tree to a moist location by the pond with full sun and better soil. The tree responded by growing 3 - 5' per year the past 3 years and is now ~20' and has bloomed this past spring/summer. Flower are not very noticeable but the tree is a nice straight form with pretty leaves.. I have noted no insect or disease issues to this date.
I live on the borderline of Zones 8b & 9a (winters like 8b and summers like 9a). The line shown on the USDA Zone map for NE Florida seems to run just about exactly through my back yard. LOL
We had a colder than usual winter last year with temperatures of around 20 F sustained for several hours on several nights. My C. acuminata came through the freezes with no problem. It did drop all its leaves but the thin branches did not die back and it leafed out this spring on old growth.
Based on my limited experience, I think you could probably grow C. acuminata in your area. In your Zone 8a, average winter temperatures according to the USDA map are around 10 - 15 F. You may only have those low temperatures for a few hours during most winters. If you do try to grow C. acuminata, I would suggest draping it with lots of "twinkle lights" (small Christmas tree lights that push into the sockets with two small wires) and throwing a blanket over the tree and the twinkle lights on the coldest nights. Once established and acclimated to your climate, it may come through most winters with little more than leaf drop.