All of the following pictures have been taken here at Royal Wood by Myself, Michay Harvey & Debbie Richard.  We hope you enjoy learning the names and descriptions of the numberous flowers, trees & shrubs here at the club.


Kevin Ackerman,
Golf Course Superintendent

Arboricola

The popular variegated arboricola is a South Florida gardener's dream plant - a showy, versatile, easy-care shrub that thrives in sun or shade.

Landscapes in South Florida have become almost overwhelmed with the use of this plant - and with good reason.

It looks good anywhere, no matter what you do to it (well, almost), and takes next-to no care.

"Trinette" is the most commonly grown variegated cultivar. The all green variety grows faster and larger and is included in the 4-6 foot Shrubs section.

Charmingly pretty as an accent, foundation planting, or in a garden bed, this dwarf schefflera can add tropical flair to an otherwise ho-hum landscape. It can be grown to highlight other plants or stand out as star of the show with its bright yellow and green foliage.

  • Plant specs

This well-behaved arboricola plant grows at a moderate pace and can be kept about 2-1/2 to 3 feet tall.  Evergreen and cold tolerant, it does fine in Zone 9B and southward.

Though it will grow in full sun or full shade, arboricola tends to look its best in part sun or part shade.

  • Plant care

Plant with a combination of top soil or organic peat moss and composted cow manure added to the hole.  Variegated arboricola is one of the easiest plants to trim for shape and size.  Just cut off any tall, wayward stems just below the level of other foliage. The rest of the plant's leaves will cover the pruned areas.  No hard pruning is needed.

Fertilize 3 times a year - in spring summer and autumn - with a good quality granular fertilizer.

Water regularly but let the soil dry out between waterings.  Make sure the planting location drains well and doesn't stay wet.

  • Plant spacing

Plant these shrubs about 2 to 2-1/2 feet apart. They can go close to the house - come out 2-1/2 to 3 feet.

Variegated arboricola does fine in a container with the correct amount of water.

Banana Palm Tree


Common names: The Banana Palm is commonly known as Banana Tree, Plantain Tree, and Plantain Palm.  They are from the Musacea family.  This palm tree is native to Southeast Asia.
The Banana Palm ‘Musa SPP’ is a fast-growing palm has large green leaves that measure 4-6ft long and 2ft wide.  Leaves are attached to the trunk by short stems. The Banana Palm has a clustered, cylindrical collection of leaf stalk bases instead of the trunk.
Each palm has around 7-15 oblong leaves with leaf veins running from the mid-rib straight to the outer edge of the leaf.  In the windy conditions leaves tear along the veins creating a feather like look.
Flowers/Fruits:  The inflorescence consists of a long-oval purple bud that grows above the last leaves in an upright position. As the bud opens, clustered white flowers emerge in whorled double rows along the the floral stalk.
Unisexual flowers are followed by deep green fruits that turn yellow or red, depending on the variety, when they ripe.  Fruits range from 3 – 12 inches in length and 1/5 -2 inches in width. Bananas start forming in the summer and ripe till March of the following year.  It takes fruits around 100-120 days to reach harvest maturity after the opening of the flower.  Bananas are editable and have a sweet taste when ripe.
  • Plant Specs

Growth Rate: Moderate to Fast. Musa can get up to 10 – 20 ft tall and 1-5ft wide.
Outdoor/Indoor Use: Both. It is a great houseplant if provided with enough water and light
Cold Tolerance: Banana Palm is cold hardy and can tolerate cold down to 15F. It is great for growing for USDA Zones 8b (15 to 20 F) to 11 (above 40 F).
Light Req: Full sun to Partial shade.
  • Plant Care

Maintenance: Easy.  Apply good quality palm fertilizer  that has continuous release formula twice a year during growing season.
Requires moderate amount of watering, but likes well drained soil.  It prefers acidic soil.
The biggest problem for Banana Tree is Panama wilt. Otherwise it doesn’t require a great deal of maintenance and with proper fertilizing should stay healthy.
Propagation: Banana Tree is propagated by pups.

 

Bird of Paradise

Provide bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) with some afternoon shade to protect it from the hottest part of the day, especially in areas with sultry summers.  A nearby shrub, tree, fence or wall can give the plants shade.

Grow bird of paradise in soil that drains well. Root rot can occur if the soil retains too much water. For a potted plant, use a high-quality potting mix. Outdoors, incorporate 2 or 3 inches of compost into the soil at planting time.

Water bird of paradise regularly with 1 inch of water, one to two times a week to keep the soil slightly moist.  Do not over water. In the fall and winter, allow the top of the soil to dry out between waterings.  If the plant is container-grown, dump out any excess water that seeps into the drainage dish.

Move a container-grown bird of paradise indoors before the first expected frost date in your area. Ideally, move a potted bird of paradise indoors before temperatures drop below 50 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit. On frosty nights, insert three or four tall stakes around an outdoor plant and drape a sheet over the top so it touches the ground but does not touch the plant.  Remove the sheet in the morning.

Fertilize bird of paradise twice a month during active growth in spring and summer.  The rest of the year, fertilize once every one to two months. Use a water-soluble, all-purpose fertilizer, applying the rate recommended on the label.

Monitor a bird of paradise for pests, such as aphids, scale and mites.  If you see a lot of pests, treat before they do significant damage. Insecticidal soaps work well but make sure you apply it to the undersides of the leaves, as insects tend to gather there. Remove plant debris under a bird of paradise to help keep insects at bay.

Bismark Palm

The exquisite silver bismarck palm (Bismarckia nobilis) is one of the most stunning and desired large palm trees in South Florida.  The "nobilis" in its name means noble - a  perfect description of this formal and massive palm.

A silver bismarck needs plenty of space where its bright color and sheer size won't overwhelm the house or landscape. It's too much palm for a smaller property or home - making a small house appear even smaller.

Genetics causes the silvery color to differ on each one. They can be steel-gray to blue-gray to silver-white...and actually have a purple hue when they're very young.

  • Plant specs

The palm itself grows slowly to 30 feet or more...and each thick, fan-shaped frond can reach 10 feet in diameter.  Bismarcks will grow in full sun to part shade but do best in sunniest areas.

These are moderately salt-tolerant palms, drought-tolerant once established. They'll thrive in warmer areas of Zone 9B and anywhere in Zone 10. Once established, bismarcks can handle some cold damage.

  • Plant care

Use top soil or organic peat moss as a soil amendment when you plant.  This is not a self-cleaning palm, but it grows slowly so trimming off old fronds won't be necessary very often.  If the palm sustains some winter cold damage, prune off affected fronds in spring, leaving on as many as possible for the health of the palm.

Apply a granular palm fertilizer 3 times a year - once each in spring, summer and fall.

  • Plant spacing

Choosing a location for a palm that gets this big takes careful planning. You'll need a planting area at least 15 to 20 feet in diameter.

Your young palm may look "small" now, but get it too close to the house, drive, or walkways, and you may lose it eventually.

Bismarcks don't like their root systems disturbed and often won't survive transplanting.

This palm is generally too big to be a good container plant.

Bougainvillea

A tropical landscape showstopper, bougainvillea flaunts its flowers in a magnificent display of color on and off all year.

This is the queen of large flowering shrubs, a fabulous plant that can be grown as a viney shrub or a shrubby vine - or even as a stunning tree.  In all cases, the flower show is spectacular.

Available in a rainbow of color choices - red, pink, purple, white, orange, yellow, and many shades in between - this is one of the best Florida shrubs for year round color...especially in winter, when less things are generally in bloom.  Yes it has thorns. And they can be vicious.  But choosing the right area for planting - and wearing protective clothing and gloves when you handle this plant makes all the difference.

Buy it already trained to tree-form if you want a bougainvillea tree. Grow it as a large, sprawling shrub or give it something to lean on to train as a climber.

The colorful part is actually made up of flower bracts.  The bloom itself is the tiny white blossom in the center of the brilliantly colored bracts.  There are cultivars with variegated leaves, providing even more color interest even when the plant isn't blooming.

The full-size varieties get very large. If you aren't ready to commit to this shrub's size, then consider mid-size or even dwarf varieties.

However, the big "bougies" have the most options for color choices.

To be its beautiful best, this plant needs sun. Lots of sun. All day sun. Can't stress this enough. If you have less than full sun where you want to plant, you'll end up with a big, thorny plant that won't flower much.

  • Plant specs

This plant is a fast grower you can keep somewhere between 6 and 10 feet tall and wide. The plant can grow 20 feet, in case you want to let it grow huge.

Full sun, full sun, full sun.  These are cold hardy plants that do very well in both Zone 9B and Zone 10.  Bougies are drought-tolerant plants once established, and are moderately salt-tolerant as well.

  • Plant care

Add top soil or organic peat moss mixed with composted cow manure to the hole when you plant.  Regular bougainvillea care involves trimming after each bloom cycle and then fertilizing to promote new growth and new flowers.

Trim each branch about 6 or 8 inches from the tip.  Give the plant some fertilizer with bloom booster each time you do this "haircut" to encourage the next set of blossoms.

If you need to, do a hard prune in spring (mid-March or later) after that particular flowering cycle is finished.

These plants like it on the dry side. Water regularly but give the plant plenty of time to dry out between waterings. Never place it in an area that doesn't drain well.

  • Plant spacing

If you grow this plant as a shrub, you'll need plenty of room.  Allow 5 feet at least between it and any walkway or drive.

As a specimen plant in the lawn give yourself enough room to mow between it and other beds.

To grow as a large hedge, place plants 4 or 5 feet apart.  If you want to plant with other shrubs and flowers in a mixed bed, place it 5 feet away from the next plant. This is not only to preserve the nearby plant from being overtaken, but also to give you room to get to it for trimming.

To use as a vine you'll need a support system like lattice against a structure, or a fence or arbor. In this case, you can plant close to whatever it's going to grow on.  These plants do fine in large containers.

Cabbage Palm


Cabbage palm is the state tree of Florida.  Because of its beauty and versatility the cabbage palm is at the top of the list of favorite palms.  It is a large robust palm with a single unbranching trunk that grows to about 50 ft  but may occasionally reach heights of 70 ft. The crown is relatively small being 12-18 ft  in diameter. Like many palms the crown is typically wider when grown in shade and more compact when grown in full sun.

The large leaves have a dull finish and are a medium green, sometimes yellow-green, in color depending on the individual and situation. Each leaf is up to 12 ft long overall including the spineless petioles (leaf stems) which measure about 5-6 ft in length. They are up to 6 ft  in width with drooping leaf segments about 3 ft  long and 2-3 in wide.  These segments are split to about half the width of the leaf and typically slough off tan fibers at the edges.  Cabbage palm leaves are said to be costapalmate meaning that the leaflets are arranged on the stem in a pattern that is midway between palmate (leaflets arranged like the fingers on the palm of your hand) and pinnate (feather shaped).

Unlike the royal palm, the cabbage palm has no crownshaft.  Leaves emerge directly from the trunk which is often covered with old leaf stem bases that are arranged in an interesting criss-cross pattern.  Depending on the individual these may persist to the ground even in very old palms.  Other trees in the same vicinity may shed their leaf attachments or "boots" as they are sometimes called very early in life revealing a rough fibrous brown trunk.  Eventually the trunk will age to gray and the surface will become smooth.

In mid-summer the cabbage palm bears creamy white flowers on a long branched inflorescence that is held completely within the crown. Flowers are followed in late fall or early winter by black spherical fruit that is about one third of an inch in diameter. Inside is a shiny brown seed that is about one quarter of an inch in diameter. Squirrels, raccoon and many other species of mammal and bird enjoy visiting the cabbage palm for dinner feasts of fruit and seed.

Light:   Full sunlight to some shade.  Trunk development is suppressed in heavily shaded specimens.  Moisture: Very adaptable.  Average moisture will do. Tolerates drought, standing water and brackish water. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 10 This is a hardy frost tolerant palm that can survive many degrees below freezing.

Canary Date Palm


Massive and magnificent, the Canary Island date palm rules the landscape with its aristocratic size and beauty.  The palm's huge crown of stiff leaves over a thick trunk is best suited for more formal and spacious landscapes.

This palm sets off a larger, elegant home - especially nice accenting one with Mediterranean-style architecture.  People often call this palm tree "Pineapple Palm."  The base has a fat, pineapple-like shape and a crusty leaf scar pattern, more noticeable while the palm is young.  Ferns often germinate in the "pineapple" part as the trunk forms, adding to the ornamental look.

  • Plant specs

This is a slow grower to 40 feet. Give it plenty of room since the wide-spreading fronds stay low to the ground for many years as the trunk slowly forms.

In spite of its tropical look, a Canary Island date is one of the best cold hardy palms - fine anywhere in Zone 9 and southward.

This palm is moderately salt-tolerant and needs a full sun location. It produces ornamental fruits resembling dates in spring and early summer (they're edible but not very tasty).

  • Plant care

Add top soil or organic peat to the hole when you plant.

Fertilize in spring, summer and fall with a granular palm fertilizer with micronutrients.

This palm can be prone to potassium deficiency - which causes yellowed fronds - but you can apply a fertilizer that's high in potassium to keep it green.

This palm is not self-cleaning, so you'll need to remove browned fronds. But with its slow rate of growth this won't be a regular chore.

Avoid removing horizontal fronds or those above.

Though this palm is drought tolerant once established, make sure it gets watered during dry spells.

  • Plant spacing

This is one VERY BIG palm...you must plan for the palm's eventual massive size. Best to plant well away from the house (at least 10 feet).

If planting more than one, space 10 to 15 feet apart.

Canary's are too big for containers.

 

Coleus - Red Leaf


When it comes to foliage, coleus tops the list. Though it has fallen in and out of favor over the past couple of centuries, this member of the mint family is popular again, and the selection is better than ever.

The variability in patterns is amazing, with solid colors, splashes, blotches, streaks, flecks, margins and veins. Color intensity varies, depending on sunlight, heat sensitivity and other conditions. The term "sun coleus" refers to selections that tolerate more sun. The varieties with dark leaves tend to tolerate more sun, while lighter varieties need more shade to minimize leaf scorch. Morning sun and dappled afternoon shade tends to maintain consistent foliage coloration. Too little light will encourage a weak-stemmed, less vigorous plant without the best color.

Another variable to consider is leaf texture, which includes large, small, twisted, elongated, scalloped, lobed, finger-like, and "duck's foot" — they resemble webbed feet.

Coleus can be grouped into three plant forms: upright, rounded and trailing. Frequent snipping, pinching and trimming can help modify form although the trailing varieties have great value at the edge of a planter or in a hanging basket.

  • Plant Care

Coleus has long been considered a shade plant but the best leaf color is achieved with morning sun and some degree of afternoon shade. Many varieties do well in both shade and part-sun. Some can take quite a bit of sun as long as they are not allowed to dry out. Avoid overly damp soils, which can cause leaf drop and encourage disease. Plant coleus after danger of frost has passed when soil temperatures have warmed sufficiently and evening temperatures are above 60 degrees F. Feed plants regularly with a water-soluble fertilizer, especially if they are growing in containers.  Mix a light application of a balanced organic fertilizer into the soil prior to planting. In midsummer, drench plants with a liquid plant food to stimulate new growth.

To maintain plant form, pinch back every few weeks to prevent flower formation. Pinch just above a set of leaves or branching junction for the best appearance; don't leave a stub. Some gardeners leave the small flowers, but it's best to pinch them off to direct more energy into stem and foliage growth. Coleus left to flower may lose vigor as the plant puts energy into seed production.
 

  • Plant Spacing

Single Plants: 11" each way (minimum)
Rows: 11" with 11" row gap (minimum)

 

 

Coleus Green Leaf


When it comes to foliage, coleus tops the list. Though it has fallen in and out of favor over the past couple of centuries, this member of the mint family is popular again, and the selection is better than ever.

The variability in patterns is amazing, with solid colors, splashes, blotches, streaks, flecks, margins and veins. Color intensity varies, depending on sunlight, heat sensitivity and other conditions. The term "sun coleus" refers to selections that tolerate more sun. The varieties with dark leaves tend to tolerate more sun, while lighter varieties need more shade to minimize leaf scorch. Morning sun and dappled afternoon shade tends to maintain consistent foliage coloration. Too little light will encourage a weak-stemmed, less vigorous plant without the best color.

Another variable to consider is leaf texture, which includes large, small, twisted, elongated, scalloped, lobed, finger-like, and "duck's foot" — they resemble webbed feet.

Coleus can be grouped into three plant forms: upright, rounded and trailing. Frequent snipping, pinching and trimming can help modify form although the trailing varieties have great value at the edge of a planter or in a hanging basket.

  • Plant Care

Coleus has long been considered a shade plant but the best leaf color is achieved with morning sun and some degree of afternoon shade. Many varieties do well in both shade and part-sun. Some can take quite a bit of sun as long as they are not allowed to dry out. Avoid overly damp soils, which can cause leaf drop and encourage disease. Plant coleus after danger of frost has passed when soil temperatures have warmed sufficiently and evening temperatures are above 60 degrees F. Feed plants regularly with a water-soluble fertilizer, especially if they are growing in containers.  Mix a light application of a balanced organic fertilizer into the soil prior to planting. In midsummer, drench plants with a liquid plant food to stimulate new growth.

To maintain plant form, pinch back every few weeks to prevent flower formation. Pinch just above a set of leaves or branching junction for the best appearance; don't leave a stub. Some gardeners leave the small flowers, but it's best to pinch them off to direct more energy into stem and foliage growth. Coleus left to flower may lose vigor as the plant puts energy into seed production.
 

  • Plant Spacing

Single Plants: 11" each way (minimum)
Rows: 11"  with 11" row gap (minimum)

 

 

Crossandra

This heat-loving tropical plant will bring color to your garden or home during warm months. 
Crossandra (Crossandra infundibuliformis), sometimes called firecracker flower, can be used as a houseplant or in the landscape. This tropical flower is easy to grow and will bring attention in any setting.
  • Plant specs

Crossandra is native to India and Sri Lanka, where its blossoms are often combined with jasmine to adorn women's hair.  It is related to the Mexican petunia and the yellow shrimp plant.
This tropical perennial will grow up to 3 feet tall, with glossy, textured leaves that are oval-shaped and can grow up to 5 inches long.
Crossandra has clusters of tubular flowers that are usually salmon, but can also be shades of red, yellow, and pink. There are several new varieties out now with orange flowers, such as 'Florida Sunset' and 'Orange Marmalade.'
They attach to long, upright stems and have five asymmetrical petals that overlap each other, creating an attractive, compact color display. Crossandra's flowers are very delicate and easily damaged by rain. Pollinators such as butterflies and dragonflies are attracted to the colorful blossoms.
Crossandra thrives in warm, humid environments and cannot tolerate cold weather. They perform as perennials in Central and South Florida, but should be used as container or annual plants otherwise. Crossandra plants are slow growing, but make wonderful flowering houseplants if given adequate light.
  • Plant care

This plant is fairly easy to care for and can be purchased at most garden centers. Plant your crossandra in well-drained soil amended with peat or other organic matter. The soil should be kept moist, not soggy, at all times and never allowed to dry out. A balanced fertilizer should be applied every month during the spring and summer, and then every eight weeks in the fall and winter.
Crossandra loves heat and does best in hardiness zones 9-11. While it can tolerate up to four hours of direct sun per day, this shrub can also be grown in partially shaded areas. Crossandra loves humidity and its leaves can be misted regularly if kept indoors.
This plant is propagated by stem cuttings and should be started in the spring for best results.  Check leaves regularly for spider mites and whitefly, although these plants are not commonly affected.

Croton

Crotons are the most popular of South Florida's colorful foliage plants, with brilliantly-colored leaves shot with gold, red, orange, green and even pink. This easy-care shrub features color and low-maintenance for any size yard.

They feature many leaf types and sizes - swirly, narrow ribbons to wide, flat leaves.

Some have fun names like Dreadlocks and Sloppy Painter.  Others are more dignified such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.

We've included all varieties in the Small Shrubs section because most can be kept at 3 feet...though you can let them grow larger if you prefer.

Some cultivars including Gold Dust, Corkscrew, Sloppy Painter, Red Bravo and Stoplight, can get as big as 10 feet tall...these varieties are best kept about 4 to 5 feet.

One of the smallest croton plants is Mammy - a red variety with bright red, yellow and green leaves, or a yellow Mammy with yellow foliage and a bit of green.

The Mammy croton can be maintained about 2 to 2-1/2 feet.

Different varieties can be planted together for a riot of color and a mix of textures, or place several of the same variety to grow together in a "drift."

A benefit of mixing crotons with flowering shrubs is the consistency of color in the landscape, even while other plants are not in bloom.

If the mix of hot colors like orange, red and yellow don't appeal to you, check for varieties with pinks and/or purples in their foliage...

...like Mrs. Iceton, Magnificent or Red Corkscrew.

If an all-yellow color works better with your landscaping, there are plenty of these available - including General Padgett, Galaxy and Narrow-leaf Gold Dust.

  • Plant specs

These are slow growers, and most can easily be kept 3 feet (or less for smaller varieties).  You can plant in almost any light - full sun to partial shade - with some types of this plant, like the classic Petra, preferring a bit more shade.

Many (such as Mammy croton) attain their brightest coloring in full sun.  Moderately salt-tolerant, these shrubs do best in Zone 10.

In Zone 9B a croton can be grown in a container and moved inside during winter.

  • Plant care

Add a combination of top soil or organic peat humus and composted cow manure to the hole when you plant.

When shopping for a croton or another foliage plant, always look at lower leaves. These will generally indicate what the overall color and look of the plant will be when it's more mature.

Make sure the area is well-drained...crotons will not put up with "wet feet."

This shrub is moderately drought-tolerant once established, though it does best with regular irrigation schedule that gives it time to dry out between waterings.

Trimming is only needed occasionally to keep the plant's size in check. As with all foliage shrubs, always trim stems - don't cut across leaves.

Fertilize 3 times a year - once each in spring, summer and autumn with a quality granular fertilizer.

  • Plant spacing

Smaller croton varieties can go as close as 2 feet apart. The rest should be placed 2-1/2 to 3 feet apart.  Come away from the house 2 feet or more.

These make excellent container plants, especially nice (and non-messy) in a poolcage.

Crown of Thorns


Crown of thorns likes it hot, dry and sunny - making it a perfect plant for spots where nothing else wants to grow.  One of South Florida's most drought-tolerant plants, it flowers nearly year round.

This is not your grandmother's crown of thorns...newer cultivars feature fuller plants, brighter colors, bigger leaves and flowers than the old-fashioned varieties.  Color choices run the gamut from the typical red to yellow, pink, salmon, and creamy white.

The newer varieties include the Thai Hybrids with the largest leaves and flowers, and smaller plants such as Karolla with its shiny bright green leaves and brilliant red blooms.

Like many succulents, this plant's stems contain a milky sap - avoid the stickiness (and the thorns, too) by wearing gloves anytime you trim.

Thorns are "softer" in the morning, according to one grower, so that's a better time to handle the plant.

  • Plant care

If you place these shrubs correctly, caring for them is a snap.

Water during dry spells or, better yet, run irrigation on a regular basis. Make sure this plant has plenty of drying-out time between waterings.

Crown of thorns that look leafless and leggy have probably not received enough regular water to keep the foliage full. They'll live...they just won't be as pretty.

Fertilize with a good granular fertilizer 3 times a year (spring, summer and fall). You can supplement feedings with bone meal to promote more flowering.

No soil amendments are necessary.

You'll rarely have to trim - but if you see tall thorny stems with no leaves, feel free to cut them way back.  Do this during warmer weather so any new growth won't be damaged by cold.  If necessary, protect these plants from frost with frostcloth or another covering.

  • Plant spacing

Place Thai hybrids or other large varieties 2 feet apart.  Smaller varieties can go as close as 1 to 1-1/2 feet apart.
If you're planting close to the house, come out at least 2-1/2 feet to allow you room to walk safely behind them for siding or window maintenance.
Containers work fine as long as the plants get plenty of sunlight and are allowed to dry out between waterings.

Culsia

Exotic texture and drought tolerance make clusia outstanding and unusual plants for home landscapes.  The foliage is this plant's feature characteristic - leaves are thick and leathery, shaped like fat teardrops or paddles.

Low-maintenance and trouble-free, these plants branch out close to the ground and can get very wide.  They're excellent as hedges, large accent plants, or grow them as a wall of privacy and/or shade.

Their salt-tolerant nature makes them ideal for a seaside home, and the unique foliage adds unique texture to a tropical garden.

These plants rarely flower, other than in the warmest areas. Flowers are pale pink and appear in summer.

  • Plant specs

These salt-tolerant, evergreen shrubs will grow in full sun to part shade.

They're drought tolerant shrubs, moderate to fast growers that do best in Zone 10, though you can keep one in a container in Zone 9B to move indoors during cold weather.

Culsia gets very big - as a shrub you can keep it 8 or 10 feet tall and wide.  As a tree, you may want to let it grow as much as 25 feet.

Though you can trim the guttifera variety to stay about 5 or 6 feet tall, it can be allowed to grow much larger.

 
  • Plant care

Add composted cow manure to the hole when you plant,  You can do just one hard pruning in spring (late March or early April) and let it do its thing from there. (Guttifera does best with a minor trim rather than being cut way back...with a hard pruning it may not grow out into a nice, natural shape.)  Or trim it more often to keep the plant shaped - with branch trimming only, never cut across foliage.

This plant is drought-tolerant once established. For the first year, water on a regular basis (with time for the plant to dry out a bit between waterings).

Once it's mature, you can water just during dry spells, though regular irrigation will keep the shrub prettier and more full.

Fertilize 3 times a year - in spring, summer and fall - with a good granular fertilizer.

  • Plant spacing

Because these shrubs spread out wide, place them about 5 feet apart.  Give nearby shrubs plenty of space so they won't be overtaken.  Come out from the house about 4 feet or more.  These make excellent container plants, especially nice in large pots by the pool or on the patio.

Ficus


Ficus should be used much more but many people don't know this handsome, award-winning shrub that's prized for its low-maintenance qualities.  Many people are in South Florida to retire and relax, and others have busy, working lifestyles, so low maintenance shrubs are always high on the wish list.  Ficus make a wonderful addition to any landscape, working well as a new and different substitute for more typical shrubs like the popular Schillings holly.
Don't let the name "ficus" scare you - this variety won't take over your life or your landscaping.  It's very well-behaved, grows more slowly and is easy to keep small.

Plus it's extremely versatile - growing almost anywhere in sun to part shade as well as being one of the best easy care shrubs South Florida has to offer.
The look of ficus is at home in both a tropical garden or a more formal setting.  This is a wonderful texture plant - deep green glossy leaves look similar to a jade plant, and contrast well with other foliage types and colors.
  • Plant specs

These plants are slow growers, spreading out as they mature, and can easily be kept at 3 feet. They'll handle full sun to partial shade.

Tropical in nature, this shrub grows best in Zone 10.  It's drought- and salt-tolerant.

Parts of the plant contain toxins...the milky sap inside stems can cause skin irritations, so wear gloves when trimming and handling cuttings

  • Plant care

No soil amendments are necessary though the addition of top soil (or organic peat moss) to the planting hole, along with composted cow manure, is beneficial.  Since this ficus grows slowly, you'll only need to trim occasionally for size and shaping.

Water during dry spells, or - better yet - set up a regular watering schedule that allows time for the plant to dry out between waterings.

Fertilizing isn't a necessity but it is recommended you apply a high-quality granular fertilizer in spring, summer, and fall.

 

  • Plant spacing

Since ficus spread out as they grow, you can plant them 2-1/2 to 3 feet apart. Come out from the house 2 to 3 feet.

These make excellent container plants and can even be shaped in bonsai form.

Fire Cracker

Firecracker plant grows in a wild and wispy free-form with cascading fiery red blooms that attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

The tubular flowers, most common in red, resemble a fountain-like burst of fireworks that make this plant showy and appealing.

If ever there was a plant that epitomized the "right plant, right place" rule - this is it. Decide if you really have the space because a firecracker will not be tamed to stay small and compact.  It looks terrible if you try to keep it that way.

Firecrackers need plenty of room for their signature arching form.  But that's not to say you can't control one...just plan ahead so its size works in the area you want to plant.

This is not a good choice for the neat freak who wants a formal, manicured look - though the addition of one of these shrubs can soften and highlight an otherwise well-trimmed landscape.  The fine-textured waterfall of stems with sparkling red flowers has more of a wildflower, cottage garden appeal.

Avoid placing anything directly in front of a firecracker plant.

To best show off its beautiful form, use it at the end of a garden bed, around palm trees, or in front of taller, more upright shrubs such as hibiscus or firespike.

  • Plant specs

Firecrackers are moderate to fast growers to 3 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide. They prefer full to part sun but will grow in part shade (though you won't get as many flowers).

These salt-tolerant shrubs do best in Zone 10, though you can plant in a container in Zone 9B and bring inside during cold weather.

Flowering takes place on and off all year, more during warmer months.

  • Plant care

Add top soil or organic peat humus to the hole when you plant. You can also add composted cow manure to the mix to enrich the soil around the root ball.

Cut back too tall or wayward shoots, if you like, but avoid a hard pruning of the entire plant - it may never grow out of it and recover its original beauty.

If the plant is damaged by cold, trim stems sparingly and let new growth emerge and cover the old (which you can remove later if you like).  Try to leave some flowers on for the regular crowd of hummingbirds.

Fertilize 3 times a year - spring, summer and fall - with a controlled-release fertilizer.  Because this shrub covers a lot of area, controlled release can be used close to the plant without burning it.

Supplement feedings, if you like, with liquid fertilizer to promote heavier bloom.

A firecracker needs regular waterings to thrive and look its best.

If you have to hand water or you're on an irrigation system better timed for drought-tolerant shrubs, plant with water-retention crystals to keep the plant hydrated during dry spells.

  • Plant spacing

Place these shrubs about 3 to 4 feet apart. Come out from the house 3 feet or more.

Plant well away from walkways - preferably 3 to 4 feet - so you won't eventually be stepping on stems and flowers.

Utterly fabulous in containers or planters, firecrackers will drape beautifully over the sides.

Gardenia


One of the flowers that has been adopted to and assimilated well in Florida, is the gardenia. The sub-tropical and humid weather in Florida affords perfect growing.
With the ultimate in fragrant flowers, a gardenia bush is one of South Florida's most beloved plants...though it can be a challenge to grow. These plants flower profusely (more so as they mature) in spring and early summer (usually March through June), and then bloom on and off the rest of the warm months of the year.
Plant where you'll be able to enjoy their heavenly aroma, but, as with all heavily fragrant plants, don't over-do it.
A large hedge of these wonderful shrubs may be too much to bear for some people when the plants are blooming madly.
The luscious scent of gardenias has made them a classic favorite all over the world for corsages and cut flowers, and having one of these fragrant shrubs in the yard is often a dream come true for newcomers to South Florida.

But there are important things to know about growing gardenias before you run out and buy one. This is not meant to deter you. These shrubs are not impossible to grow...they're just picky about certain aspects of their environment.
So the more you know about gardenia care, the better prepared you'll be to grow them successfully to enjoy for many years to come.  For acid loving plants like these (and azaleas, as well), placement is the key to success.

 
Gardenia bushes cannot take alkalinity in the soil without incurring nutritional problems.  They need to be planted away from concrete foundations and walkways where concrete will leach into the soil. Areas with a pH  7 or above (often from shell or natural limestone) will make it a struggle for you keep the plant happy and healthy. You may want to have the area where you want to plant tested for pH before you purchase a gardenia.  The ideal pH for these shrubs is between 5 and 6.5.   And don't even think of planting a gardenia near the beach - it's extremely salt sensitive.
  • Plant specs

These shrubs vary in size by variety.  Most are larger plants, like the popular Miami Supreme, that can be kept about 4 to 5 feet tall by 4 feet wide, though some dwarf gardenias are available that only grow to about 2 feet.  Some cultivars like Veitchii are full-size shrubs that have smaller blossoms and leaves.
 
You can also grow gardenias in tree form (buy one already trained) and let them get 8 to 10 feet, if you want.
They're generally fast growers that take full sun to partial shade, and do best in Zone 10.  They are evergreen unless winter is harsh, causing the plant to drop some leaves.
  • Plant care

Add top soil (or organic peat moss) mixed with composted cow manure to the hole when you plant. Handle the rootball gently during planting.

Trim back after the heaviest bloom period is over.
Water on a regular basis...letting the plant dry out a bit between waterings. Avoid keeping it too wet or letting it go too dry. This can cause flower buds to drop, yellow leaves or fungus and insect problems.
Fertilize twice a year with granular fertilizer specially formulated for gardenias and azaleas - with numbers like 7-0-8. Apply after the heavy spring/summer bloom and again in fall before October 1st.
During the time when using granular is a no-no, your plant might show nutritional-deficiency signs of overall yellowing. Apply EME (Essential Minor Elements).
  • Plant spacing

Most varieties will grow big and fat so place them 3 feet apart, though dwarf varieties can go 2 feet apart.
Come out from the house 2-1/2 to 3 feet. If placing along a walkway (non-concrete) come in 3 feet.  By a doorway, place 3 feet away to allow for future growth.
A gardenia bush does fine in a large container - as long as you can get the hang of when to water.

Geranium


Planting South Florida annuals is a nearly year-round tradition to brighten up the landscape...the trick is knowing which ones to plant when.

South Florida has 2 basic annual seasons - winter and summer - with different plants for each one.

Although the annuals are the same ones you may have planted for summers up North, certain ones do best here in winter's cooler temperatures - a climate similar to a Northern spring and early summer.


In typical year:  Spring - April through early May - Summer - mid-May through early October - Autumn - mid-October through early December - Winter - mid-December through March.

Geranium's need part shade to full sun (more shade in warmer weather).

Ginger


Variegated ginger - sometimes called "shell ginger" - dominates the tropical shade garden with striped green and yellow leaves and a wide-spreading habit.  This handsome and impressive plant takes center stage anywhere it's planted.  It works as a surround for trees or palms, a filler for a corner bed, or an anchor plant for a mixed garden.
Especially valuable is the fact that this ginger can give color and impact to a shaded area.

The name shell ginger refers to the flowers that appear (infrequently) in warm weather, looking like strands of tiny white seashells.  The flowers are lightly fragrant and the leaves themselves have a tangy fresh aroma.
These plants are often seen growing in flat-out full sun but they prefer a bit of afternoon shade to keep the leaves from browning.  You can trim off the tallest stalks to keep this ginger a bit lower in size.  There are other ginger varieties, and one well worth mentioning is butterfly ginger.  It's a smaller plant overall that produces lusciously-scented white flowers that intensify their fragrance after dark.  This green-leaved plant only grows about 3 feet tall, prefers part shade, and should be grown near the lanai or porch so you can appreciate the wonderful smell of the blossoms.
  • Plant specs

This ginger is a moderate grower that can reach heights of 3 to 6 feet, and grows 5 to 8 feet wide.
These are moderately salt-tolerant plants that do best in part sun to part shade. Too much sun will burn the leaves and the leaves will fold up to try to protect themselves from the blast of sunshine.
Variegated ginger is moderately drought tolerant once established, and easy care as long as you've planned well for the plant's eventual size.  This plant does best in Zone 10.  However, in Zone 9B you can either grow it in a container to bring indoors during cold weather - or plant in a protected area.  

It may die back in winter but usually sends up new shoots as weather warms up again.
  • Plant care

Add composted cow manure and top soil (or organic peat moss) to the hole when you plant.  Choose a well-drained area or this plant won't do well.  No trimming is needed other than to do a warm-weather pruning for size and/or to remove a dead leaf now and then.  Although these plants don't mind dry conditions, they'll look their best with regular irrigation timed so that the soil has a chance to dry out between waterings.

Fertilize 3 times a year - in spring, summer, and fall - with a top quality granular fertilizer.
  • Plant spacing

These beautiful plants have a massive spread, so give them plenty of room to spread their wings.  Place them 4 to 5 feet apart and allow at least 4 feet between a ginger and the nearest shrub.  If planting around a palm, come out about 3 feet.  Come out from the house 3 feet, and in from walks and drives 5 feet if you can.

Ginger will grow in a large container.
 

Honeysuckle

Everyone recognizes that lovely fragrance of a honeysuckle plant and the sweet taste of its nectar.  Honeysuckles are heat-tolerant and wildly attractive in any garden.  A honeysuckle plant is a great addition to any landscape and will draw abundant wildlife with its sweet, yellow to bright-red blossoms.

Honeysuckles (Lonicera spp.) belong to a large family that consists of hardy shrubs and vines that grow in almost every state in America. There are over 180 different varieties of honeysuckle.  Some are deciduous and some, in warmer regions, are evergreen. Because of their versatility and abundance, growing and caring for honeysuckle vines is easy.

  • Plant Specs

While honeysuckles prefer full sun, they will tolerate some shade.  The honeysuckle plant is also tolerant of different soil types, though it helps to grow the vine in well-draining soil amended with organic matter.

Honeysuckles can be grown as ground cover in suitable areas but most do best with some type of support, either along a fence or on a trellis. They can also be grown in containers.

  • Using a Fence or Trellis – Honeysuckles take well to a sturdy fence, post or trellis and will gladly cover even a very large trellis in a short amount of time. As the plant matures, it has a tendency to shade the lower portion of the vine, which causes the bottom to become woody and unattractive. Therefore, you should thin out the top half of the vine during the dormant season to keep it healthy. If you wish, allow your honeysuckle vine to cover an arbor. This is a great way to provide a shady spot in a sunny landscape.
  • Containers – Many varieties of honeysuckle perform well in containers as long as they receive regular water and an application of 10-10-10 plant food at the beginning of the growing season. Provide a trellis for your container vine or allow it to hang in a basket.
  • Plant Care

Other than occasional watering, honeysuckle vine care is not difficult; however, pruning is a good practice.  Vine species of honeysuckle can become invasive as a ground cover, if not controlled, and require clipping to tame. Therefore, a regular shearing and shaping will keep this beauty within its boundaries.  Pruning honeysuckle vine is generally done in the fall or winter, when the honeysuckle plant is dormant.  If your honeysuckle vine has been left untamed, don’t worry about giving it a good heavy prune. The vine will pop back up again in the spring.  If you wish to use honeysuckle vines for erosion control, you will not need to prune them.

With annual pruning, honeysuckle vine care is not a problem.  The plant will happily return each year, providing an abundance of blooms and sweet nectar for both you and wildlife.

Iris - African

African Iris (Dietes vegeta) - also known as "Butterfly Iris" - is probably the best known in South Florida landscapes.  Its thin, willowy, upright leaves grow in a clump that forms a grass-like mound about 2-1/2 feet tall.

This plant blooms on and off all year with bright white flowers dabbed with lavender and gold. Another lesser-used variety has small, soft yellow flowers with a purplish-red center.

  • Plant specs

These plants will grow in full sun but seem happiest in part sun to part shade. Growth rate is moderate.  Heights vary by variety, averaging 2 to 3 feet tall.  Though these plants will spread they don't do it in a hurry, so you can remove any shoots that are going places where you don't want them.  Though they like a good bit of moisture, it's best to place them in a well-drained area

  • Plant care

Add top soil or organic peat moss to the hole when you plant.  Because this plant does best with plenty of water, you may want to add water-retention crystals when planting, especially if other plants nearby like it more dry.

Trimming is usually necessary to remove any browned leaves and spent flower stems. Cut these as close to the ground as you can.  Avoid a complete cutting back of the plant, however.  You can also deadhead if you like, especially with the walking variety to limit its spread.  Water is very important - they need a regular drink and don't mind "wet feet" occasionally.

Fertilize 3 times a year - in spring, summer, and fall - with a good quality granular fertilizer.  You might like to supplement feedings with bone meal and/or liquid fertilizer for year-round bloomers like African and blackberry iris.

  • Plant spacing

Place these plants about 2-1/2 feet apart.  Come out from the house 2 feet. When planting along a walk or drive, come in 3 feet to allow for future spread.

You can grow this plant in a container, though it'll really come into its own when planted in the ground.

Iris - Walking


Walking Iris (Neomarica spp.) is so named because, as the flower stalk gradually leans low to the ground, it roots and "walks."  These plants come in flower colors of yellow, white and blue. Especially beautiful is the lavender-blue and white blossom of the cultivar called Apostle Iris.
They bloom on and off during warm months, growing to about 3 feet tall. This plant is similar in looks to African Iris, but with wider leaves
  • Plant specs

These plants will grow in full sun but seem happiest in part sun to part shade. Growth rate is moderate.  Heights vary by variety, averaging 2 to 3 feet tall.   Walking Iris prefer the warmth of Zone 10.

Though these plants will spread they don't do it in a hurry, so you can remove any shoots that are going places where you don't want them.  Though they like a good bit of moisture, it's best to place them in a well-drained area (the exception is Blue Flag, which can handle very wet soils).
  • Plant care

Add top soil or organic peat moss to the hole when you plant.  Because this plant does best with plenty of water, you may want to add water-retention crystals when planting, especially if other plants nearby like it more dry.

Trimming is usually necessary to remove any browned leaves and spent flower stems. Cut these as close to the ground as you can.  Avoid a complete cutting back of the plant, however.  You can also deadhead if you like, especially with the walking variety to limit its spread.  Water is very important - they need a regular drink and don't mind "wet feet" occasionally.

Fertilize 3 times a year - in spring, summer, and fall - with a good quality granular fertilizer. You might like to supplement feedings with bone meal and/or liquid fertilizer for year-round bloomers.
  • Plant spacing

Place these plants about 2-1/2 feet apart.  Come out from the house 2 feet.  When planting along a walk or drive, come in 3 feet to allow for future spread.

You can grow this plant in a container, though it'll really come into its own when planted in the ground.

Iris - Yellow

The Yellow Iris is a striking plant that makes a great accents for their foliage alone, but  have exquisite flowers as well.

The unique way that most plants of this type flower is to send up a shoot that looks just like a leaf.

Then a bud appears on the side near the top, opening into a delicate and colorful blossom.

The classic upright foliage fans out and complements other textures and plant growth patterns. Some have wider leaves, others are more narrow.

  • Plant care

Add top soil or organic peat moss to the hole when you plant.  Because this plant does best with plenty of water, you may want to add water-retention crystals when planting, especially if other plants nearby like it more dry.

Trimming is usually necessary to remove any browned leaves and spent flower stems. Cut these as close to the ground as you can.  Avoid a complete cutting back of the plant, however.  You can also deadhead if you like, especially with the walking variety to limit its spread.  Water is very important - they need a regular drink and don't mind "wet feet" occasionally.

Fertilize 3 times a year - in spring, summer, and fall - with a good quality granular fertilizer. You might like to supplement feedings with bone meal and/or liquid fertilizer for year-round bloomers.
  • Plant spacing

Place these plants about 2-1/2 feet apart.  Come out from the house 2 feet.  When planting along a walk or drive, come in 3 feet to allow for future spread.

You can grow this plant in a container, though it'll really come into its own when planted in the ground.

Ixora Nora

Ixora and maui ixora, the smaller varieties of this lushly flowering shrub, have taken South Florida by storm. Gorgeous flowers most of the year, easy care, compact size - what's not to like?  You see them everywhere...and for good reason.

These plants are dependable bloomers, love the sun, and fit nicely into any size landscape.

Often planted in groups or rows for maximum color, ixoras work well with informal gardens, tropical beds, or more formal and manicured landscape designs.

Clustered blooms that attract butterflies come in a variety of colors, with the texture and shape of a fat, coconut-covered cookie.

These plants bloom heavily during warm months, and then off and on through cooler weather.  The dwarf variety has small leaves like box-wood and blossoms cover almost the entire plant.

Maui has larger leaves, a more free-form shrub shape, and is decorated with eye-catching flowers.

  • Plant specs

These evergreen plants need full to partial sun to produce the most flowers.

They thrive in Zone 10, though extra-cold winters can cause them to drop leaves.

The dwarf red ixora is the hardier of this smallest variety...other colors such as pink, white and orange are more cold sensitive.

Maui's colors are red or yellow, both with an orangey tint.

This shrub is a moderate grower and can be kept about 2-1/2 to 3 feet tall.

The dwarf grows more slowly and can be kept 2 feet or less.

  • Plant care

Add top soil or organic peat humus to the hole when you plant. An addition of composted cow manure to the mix is beneficial as well.

Trim to shape as needed. Avoid pruning the dwarf shrub too hard, since it will take a long time to grow out of the pruning. Maui can be cut back in spring (late March or early April) to promote fuller, bushier plants.

Fertilize in spring, summer and fall with a quality granular fertilizer. Water on a regular basis, but don't keep the area overly wet.

  • Plant spacing

Place dwarf ixoras about 2 to 2-1/2 feet apart. Maui can go 2-1/2 to 3 feet apart. Come out from the house at least 2 feet on both.  An ixora shrub will do fine in a container.

Juniper

Easy going junipers have attractive, needle-like foliage that branches out in a horizontal growth pattern, making them one shrub you'll almost never need to trim.

These are supremely simple-to-grow plants that don't get too tall, spread wide, and are often used for low-maintenance groundcover plants.

Their silvery or blue-green color fades to more of a soft green as the plants mature, and they play an effective, understudy role in landscaping - often surrounding a focal point such as a showy palm or small flowering tree.

  • Plant Specs

These plants do best in full to partial sun.  They're cold hardy, thriving anywhere in South Florida, as well as being drought tolerant once established.  The rate of growth is slow for these low-growing, wide-spreading shrubs that only grow a foot or two tall.
 

  • Plant Care

Plant with a combination of top soil (or organic peat moss) and cow manure added to the hole.  Fertilize 3 times a year - in spring, summer and autumn - with a top-quality granular fertilizer.  No trimming is needed - but if you do, cut branches rather than across needles.  Regular water with time to dry out between waterings is ideal.

  • Plant spacing

Parsonii should be placed 3 feet apart. Smaller varieties can go in at 2-1/2 feet apart. Come out from the house at least 2 feet.  This plant will work in a container with good light and correct watering.

 

Magnolia


The magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ tree is the sweetest of all South Florida's small flowering trees - compact, hardy, and wonderfully fragrant.  The exquisite magnolia flower is said to produce nature's strongest perfume.  Just one blossom can fill a house with its heady scent.

Little Gem magnolia tree blooms while very young, unusual in a magnolia, with a longer bloom season as well.
Bronze-toned leaves provide a striking contrast to the creamy white blossoms and to other greenery in the landscape.
It can be planted almost anywhere there's sunshine - even fairly close to the house. And its compact, upright form makes it an excellent specimen tree for a small yard.
  • Plant specs

The Little Gem magnolia tree grows slowly to about 15 to 20 feet.  It's a very cold-hardy tree and does well in all of South Florida (though it actually prefers cooler areas), and further north as well.

The tree produces a heavy bloom in spring and then blooms on and off the rest of the year (more in warm months).
  • Plant care

Add a combination of composted cow manure and either top soil or organic peat humus to the hole when you plant.
Magnolias are evergreen, prefer a regular watering, and should be fertilized 3 times a year - spring, summer and fall - with a good granular fertilizer. You can supplement feedings with bone meal to promote heavier bloom.
Trimming isn't necessary other than any minor shaping snips you'd like to do.
Fallen leaves of the Little Gem magnolia tree are not the mess that the big magnolias are famous for, though you will have some leaves to pick up now and then.
 
  • Plant spacing

Come out at least 5 feet or more from the house.  If you're planting a row of dwarf magnolias, place them 6 feet apart...or, for a privacy screen, 4 feet apart is fine.
For planting along a fence, position the tree about 4 feet out.


Though fine in a container while it's young, Little Gem (like most other plants) prefers to have its feet on (or rather, in) the ground.

Mammy Croton

Crotons are the most popular of South Florida's colorful foliage plants, with brilliantly-colored leaves shot with gold, red, orange, green and even pink. This easy-care shrub features color and low-maintenance for any size yard.

They feature many leaf types and sizes - swirly, narrow ribbons to wide, flat leaves.

Some have fun names like Dreadlocks and Sloppy Painter.  Others are more dignified such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.

We've included all varieties in the Small Shrubs section because most can be kept at 3 feet...though you can let them grow larger if you prefer.

Some cultivars including Gold Dust, Corkscrew, Sloppy Painter, Red Bravo and Stoplight, can get as big as 10 feet tall...these varieties are best kept about 4 to 5 feet.

One of the smallest croton plants is Mammy - a red variety with bright red, yellow and green leaves, or a yellow Mammy with yellow foliage and a bit of green.

The Mammy croton can be maintained about 2 to 2-1/2 feet.

Different varieties can be planted together for a riot of color and a mix of textures, or place several of the same variety to grow together in a "drift."

A benefit of mixing crotons with flowering shrubs is the consistency of color in the landscape, even while other plants are not in bloom.

If the mix of hot colors like orange, red and yellow don't appeal to you, check for varieties with pinks and/or purples in their foliage...

...like Mrs. Iceton, Magnificent or Red Corkscrew.

If an all-yellow color works better with your landscaping, there are plenty of these available - including General Padgett, Galaxy and Narrow-leaf Gold Dust.

  • Plant specs

These are slow growers, and most can easily be kept 3 feet (or less for smaller varieties).  You can plant in almost any light - full sun to partial shade - with some types of this plant, like the classic Petra, preferring a bit more shade.

Many (such as Mammy croton) attain their brightest coloring in full sun.  Moderately salt-tolerant, these shrubs do best in Zone 10.

In Zone 9B a croton can be grown in a container and moved inside during winter.

  • Plant care

Add a combination of top soil or organic peat humus and composted cow manure to the hole when you plant.

When shopping for a croton or another foliage plant, always look at lower leaves. These will generally indicate what the overall color and look of the plant will be when it's more mature.

Make sure the area is well-drained...crotons will not put up with "wet feet."

This shrub is moderately drought-tolerant once established, though it does best with regular irrigation schedule that gives it time to dry out between waterings.

Trimming is only needed occasionally to keep the plant's size in check. As with all foliage shrubs, always trim stems - don't cut across leaves.

Fertilize 3 times a year - once each in spring, summer and autumn with a quality granular fertilizer.

  • Plant spacing

Smaller croton varieties can go as close as 2 feet apart. The rest should be placed 2-1/2 to 3 feet apart.  Come away from the house 2 feet or more.

These make excellent container plants, especially nice (and non-messy) in a poolcage.

Mexican Petunia

Dwarf Mexican petunia - sometimes called dwarf ruella - is a hardy little groundcover with cottage-garden appeal that blooms all year in warm, sunny locations.  Usually seen with bright violet flowers, this plant is also available with white or pink blossoms.

You can plant just one variety for a drift of color, or, if all three work with your color scheme, they can be mixed in a garden bed for a very showy effect.

Low growing groundcovers like this one look great when planted in a bed near the entry, as front-of-the-border plants along the foundation, in a mixed bed or surrounding shrubs.

The leaves have a somewhat grassy look, and flowers cluster around the center of each plant and attract butterflies.

The ("Mexican Petunia") is very popular as one of South Florida's prettiest purple flowering plants.   But some homeowners fear it will get away from them since it re-seeds and spreads.

The dwarf ruella is somewhat more tame. Though

it also sends seeds out to sprout in surprising places, the groundcover's wayward seedlings can be mowed over in the lawn, removed from garden beds and sprayed with a herbicide when they spring up from cracks in the sidewalk.

These chores can be more work than you want to do. If you're more of an armchair gardener, then this groundcover may not be the one for you.

  • Plant specs

Dwarf Mexican petunia will grow in full sun to partial shade (though you'll get the most flowers in more sun).  These plants are cold hardy.  In Zone 9B they may die back in winter but usually bounce back in spring.  Even in Zone 10, some leaves may turn a reddish color during winter's cold snaps.

Dwarf Mexican petunia is salt tolerant and grows to about 10 inches tall.

Spent flowers turn to a tan mush that can dry on the foliage and take a while to disappear.

  • Plant care

Though it's often described as drought-tolerant, this groundcover prefers regular water, and can even handle "wet feet" in areas that are slow to drain.

Additionally, you can add topsoil or organic peat humus to each hole before placing the plant to help the roots absorb water.

Trimming is generally not necessary, though a full bed may require that you "clean house" after several years.

If you see lots of leggy shoots fighting each other for sunlight, remove many of the old and leave newer plants to fill in.

Fertilize twice a year - in spring and late summer - with a quality controlled-release fertilizer.

  • Plant spacing

Place these plants 2 to 2-1/2 feet apart. Ditto for spacing among or in front of shrubs.  Come in from walks and drives about a foot.

Dwarf Mexican petunia will grow in a container, nice surrounding a taller plant.

 

Muhley Grass

This versatile grass is a plant superstar, putting on a fabulous show each fall even if it receives little care during the year.

Muhly grass is naturally found in Florida's pine flatwoods, coastal uplands and even along its highways, but these days it’s also a popular choice in home and commercial landscapes.

  • Plant Specs

Known scientifically as Muhlenbergia capillaris, this easy-to-grow ornamental grass produces clumps that can reach 2 to 3 feet tall and up to 3 feet wide when mature.

In fall, muhly grass produces fluffy pink to purple flower stalks that can reach up to 5 feet tall and give the plant a distinctive and attractive appearance. A lovely white-flowering form is also available.

Garden designers often plant muhly grass in large groups for a stunning visual effect, especially when the flowers are backlit in the late afternoon.

Muhly grass looks good in the garden even after the flower stalks fade, thanks to its slender, dark green foliage.

  • Plant Care

Muhly grass can be grown throughout Florida and is often used in borders or in mass plantings for a beautiful, drift-like effect. They should be spaced 24 to 36 inches apart.

Like most ornamental grasses, muhly grass will perform best if it’s planted in a sunny area. Water new plants until they are established. After that, they’ll have good drought tolerance.

Plants can be cut back to the ground in late winter before the spring flush of foliage appears. You can also give the plants an application of fertilizer as they begin to grow rapidly in spring.

As the plants age, they can be lifted in early spring and divided to create new plants.
 

  • Plant Spacing

Full Sun/Part Shade, Height: 2.5′, Spacing/Spread: 2′-3′

 

Oak Tree


The ultimate in trees for shade, the live oak tree ‘Quercus Virginiana’ has been immortalized as the classic symbol of the South - big, beautiful, and romantically draped in Spanish moss.  No plant has quite the "presence" of this magnificent tree. It can survive for centuries.  It provides shelter and food for birds and squirrels. It even adds monetary value to your home.

A single live oak can add up to $30,000 value to a property, according to University of Florida botanist Francis Putz.  He also states having one planted near a house can help save it from hurricane damage by acting as a windbreak.  These trees are very wind-resistant, even during hurricanes.

These oaks are some of the most commonly planted large shade trees in Florida.  One live oak tree can grow a broad-spreading canopy of arching, horizontal branches that can cover half a football field - including the sidelines and some of the stands.

Beautiful at every stage of its long life, a live oak's silvery gray branches on young trees mature to unbelievably long, thick ones from an immense trunk.  The wood itself is dense and heavy, ideal for everything from firewood to ship building.  During the War of 1812, cannon balls bounced off the sides of the USS Constitution, giving the ship the nickname of "Old Ironsides." The ship was built from live oak wood.  In fact the Navy used to grow its own forests of live oaks.

Sometimes called Southern live oak, it's a wonderful wildlife habitat, though it takes quite a while to begin producing acorns...usually 20 years or more.

Many people complain of live oaks as being very messy trees. They're right, once the tree is mature.  It drops leaves that are small and hard to rake. Spanish moss is decorative on the tree but falls in big furball clumps onto the ground.  The tiny yellow flowers in spring can cover everything beneath the tree with a light dusting of yellow.  Some acorns sprout - often planted by squirrels burying food for "later" - and are so well-rooted they can be difficult to pull out.
But young trees are much less messy than older ones - and the work involved is really a small price to pay for the shade, character, landscape beauty and value, not to mention the protection from winds that oaks provide.
These trees support more than just wildlife...they also are home to epiphytes (air plants) besides Spanish moss - things like night-blooming cereus and staghorn fern.
  • Plant specs

A live oak tree is a moderate grower to 60 feet (though not likely in our lifetime) with a very wide-spreading crown.
It needs full sun and room to spread its wings, as well as a well-drained planting location.
Oaks are cold hardy, fine in any Florida planting zone. They're considered semi-deciduous, meaning they push out old growth to make way for new...but we would call it evergreen since it never goes completely or even noticeably bare.
They are considered "deer-resistant" - though there are no guarantees.
  • Plant care

Add top soil to the hole when you plant.  Trimming is unnecessary for a young live oak tree but watering is. These trees must have regular irrigation to grow strong root systems that will support this large a tree.

Fertilize 3 times a year - in spring, summer and autumn - with a top quality granular fertilizer.
  • Plant spacing

 Plant at least 15 feet from the house, more (and then some) if you can.  Come away from a walk or drive 10 feet or more so roots don't cause problems.  Avoid placing near other big trees that will shade it.  Do not plant too near an uncaged pool due to leaf litter.

Oleander

This ornamental flowering tree starts life as an oleander shrub, which can be left to grow large with a trimmed-up base as it becomes a multi-trunk tree.  Or you can buy one trained to a single trunk for a more classic tree-like appearance.

Yellow oleander tree

Sometimes called "Lucky Nut" (but don't eat the nuts!), this plant can be grown as a small tree of about 12 to 15 feet.

It's a cousin of nerium oleander, and blooms throughout warm months. Botanical name is  Cascabela thevetia - previously thevetia peruviana.

Bright, showy flowers in shades of white, pink and red are most common, appearing on and off all year, more in warmer months.

Oleanders don't take a lot of care - other than regular maintenance and a good spring pruning - if they're planted in the right location.  They make a good choice as an easy-care tree for a small yard or as an accent for larger landscapes.

Unfortunately, the oleander plant has developed a reputation as a plant to avoid for two reasons:

  • The plant is TOXIC if ingested - as are quite a few common South Florida landscape plants, including crotons.
  • Oleanders attract particularly nasty caterpillars that can defoliate it in no time flat.

The toxins most commonly cause skin irritations from trimming and handling cuttings.  Not everyone is affected by this, but wearing good garden gloves and protective eyewear should keep you from having any adverse effects, even if you have sensitive skin.

Avoid planting where young children, pets or livestock would come in contact.  If there's a chance a child or animal will ingest leaves, stems or any part of an oleander, oleander poisoning is no small matter.  Always place it in an area where this scenario can't occur.

You can outsmart the nerium caterpillars by placing the tree far enough away from any structure so that the caterpillars have nowhere nearby to cocoon.  That's their M.O. - eat, then cocoon. The more convenient the cocooning spot, the more likely it is that they'll feed on your oleander.

  • Plant specs

An oleander tree is a fast grower that can reach as much as 15 feet tall.  It's best kept fat and bushy around 6 to 8 feet tall, with a wide crown.

These plants are cold hardy - fine anywhere in South Florida including all of Zone 9. They are moderately salt-tolerant and moderately drought-tolerant once established.

The oleander is evergreen and blooms on and off all year, with heaviest flowering during warmer months.

  • Plant care

Plant in full to partial sun in an area that drains well.  Add top soil to the hole when you plant - and adding composted cow manure as well will get your oleander tree off to a great start.

Do a heavy pruning in spring (late March to early April) to encourage strong stems and bushy growth. Snip off new shoots around the base occasionally to keep the look of a tree.

If caterpillars attack your oleander, spray with thuracide, a natural bacterial product. Even if most of the leaves have been munched off, trim the tree back and it should flush out again.

Regular watering is best, though oleander trees prefer to dry out between waterings.

Fertilize three times a year - once each in spring, summer and autumn - with a quality granular fertilizer. You can supplement feedings with bone meal to promote heavier bloom.

  • Plant spacing

Plant well away from structures to discourage caterpillars, preferably 10 to 12 feet or more from the house, fence, or anything else where caterpillars can cocoon.

If you're planting several trees, they can go as close as 6 feet apart, or, for a more formal look, place them 10 to 12 feet apart.

Oleander trees will grow in large containers while young but at some point you'll need to transfer the tree to a place in the yard.

Orange Gegier


 Believed to be a native of the Florida Keys, the lovely geiger tree blooms during warm weather with frilly flower clusters in vivid orange, yellow or white.
The orange geiger (Cordia sebestena) is the most well-known, with showy, deep orange flowers that contrast nicely against the tree's coarse green leaves.  Many consider it the most beautiful of Florida native trees,

Actually, no one knows for sure if the geiger is a Florida native or if it was introduced long ago from Cuba or elsewhere.
It was named in the 1830's by John James Audubon (of bird painting fame) after John Geiger (a harbor pilot who salvaged sunken treasure off the coast of Key West) with whom Audubon stayed and painted.  Geiger's Key West home, which featured a beautiful geiger tree in the front yard, later became Audubon House and Tropical Gardens.

There's even a small island (Geiger Key) named after it.  Whether you choose the orange, white (Cordia boissieri) or yellow-flowering geiger (Cordia lutea), these trees will put on a glorious show of color and work in just about any size yard.  The orange variety is a hummingbird attracter.

The geiger is low-maintenance as long as it's planted in a frost-free area sheltered from winter winds. Its high salt tolerance makes it a perfect small flowering tree for homes on or near the beach.
  • Plant specs

A geiger tree grows at a moderate pace to 15 to 20 feet - the white geiger only gets about 10 to 15 feet. It prefers a full to partial sun location, though it will grow in part shade.
These trees can grow as multi-trunk specimens, but it's best to buy a single-trunk tree so it will grow stronger.
Geigers don't like the cold. If the area where you live gets frost, don't plant a geiger tree. Frost can damage and even kill it - established ones might stand a chance of recovery but young trees will die.

They do best in Zone 10B, or warmer regions of Zone 10A, especially if placed in an area out of the wind. They're evergreen but temps below 40 degrees may cause some leaf drop.
Geigers are drought-tolerant once established, as well as salt-tolerant.
  • Plant care

No soil amendments are needed for this tree.  Water regularly after planting, and during dry spells once it's established.
Cut it back in spring (late March or early April) to keep it the size you want, and trim branch ends anytime during warm weather to promote bushiness.
Fertilize three times a year - once each in spring, summer and autumn - with a good quality granular fertilizer. Supplement feedings with bone meal to promote heavy bloom.
  • Plant spacing

The geiger tree should be place no closer than 10 feet from the house to let the crown fill out nicely.  If you're planting a row of these trees, space them 6 to 8 feet apart.
Geigers will work in containers or planters while young.

Ornamental Peanut

A relative of the edible peanut, this plant blankets the earth with flat-as-a-pancake foliage topped with tiny yellow flowers that appear on and off all year.

The dense foliage of mature plants will crowd out most weeds.

Of all South Florida's low growing groundcovers, this one probably takes the least care...and still looks fabulous. This plant is durable, tenacious and long-lived.

It can work not only as a complete lawn replacement but also in hard to mow areas like a small strip of lawn by a driveway.

These groundcover plants thrive on easements or surround tall palms or upright trees.

They can help prevent soil erosion on an embankment (place along the top so the plants grow downhill).

As a deep border for a garden bed, perennial peanut creates a formal look, and it can also fill in around landscape boulders.

It's not necessary to do so but you can mow this plant once it's mature. Set the mower blade for 3 or 4 inches, low enough to just nip the tops of plants and encourage new growth and more flowers.

Infrequent foot traffic isn't a problem, but for higher foot traffic areas, add stepping stones or a pathway.
 

  • Plant specs

These ground cover plants are moderate growers that do best in full to part sun. They'll grow in part shade but the coverage won't be as thick.

Zone 10 is best, though in areas of Zone 9B that border Zone 10A established plants may come back in spring from a chilly winter. (There is a rhizomatous version of this plant that is cold hardy - it's often grown as a turf replacement and even for cattle feed in North Florida and other areas of the South.)

  • Plant care

Add top soil or organic peat humus to the hole when you plant.

Edging the planting area is the only trimming required - just to keep things neat and tidy.  As the plants become established, open areas of ground often sprout with weeds. Pull them by hand or mow over them, setting the blade so it hits the weeds but not the ground cover.

Once these plants are well-established, they're drought tolerant enough to need water just during dry spells.  However, they'll do best with well-timed regular irrigation. Be sure to allow enough time between waterings for the soil to dry out.

Fertilize one time during growing season (late spring or early summer) with a quality controlled release fertilizer.

  • Plant spacing

Place plants about 2 to 3 feet apart. Come in from walks and drives at least 2 feet.

Perennial peanut is best suited to grow in the ground, rather than in a container

Oyster Plant


Just can't get enough purple in your landscape?  Then Oyster Plant is the groundcover for you.
Even the stems of this plant are purple, with velvety purple leaves and small, light lavender flowers.
These plants add striking color to the landscape and look great against any flower or foliage color.
You do have to pay attention to this plant. The meandering habit can cause it to wander into places where it's not wanted.
 
Better to confine it to a limited area and keep it in bounds (as well as full and lush) with regular edging.
Once mature, the plant can act as a drift of deep purple the height of a small shrub (about a foot and a half), as groundcover surrounding a specimen plant, or as a showy garden accent.  The floppy, delicate stems break very easily when you handle this plant, but no worries - new sprouts will soon take their place. Broken stems root very easily in water or potting soil or by just popping them back in the ground.
  • Plant specs

Oyster plant grows to about 1 to 1-1/2 feet tall.  It will grow in full sun to part shade, keeping its best color in more sun.
These groundcover plants are cold tolerant. They need the warmth of Zone 10 to stay pretty year round, but can be grown in Zone 9B - though they may die back in winter they'll come back just fine when the weather warms up in spring.
The growth rate is moderate...though once the plants are well established, edging may become a regular chore especially in areas where stems spill out over a walk.
  • Plant care

Add top soil or organic peat moss to the hole when you plant, if the area is very dry.  Trimming is usually needed along the edge of the bed.  Water on a regular basis, but don't keep the area overly wet. Once the Oyster plant is well established it's considered drought-tolerant, but if it gets no irrigation during dry weather the plant can look sparse and unkempt.
Fertilize twice a year - in spring and late summer - with a quality controlled-release fertilizer.
  • Plant spacing

Place these plants about 2 feet apart, and about 1-1/2 to 2 feet from other plants.  Come in from walks and drives at least 2 feet, more if you can, to keep from having to edge as often.
This groundcover will grow in a container, especially pretty cascading from a hanging basket.

Pintas - Perfectly Pink

Pentas
(Pentas lanceolata)

Great butterfly and hummingbird attractors that do best in part sun to part shade.  Dwarf varieties are the ones to buy since they only get about 2 feet tall and come in pinks, purples, red and white.
These small flowering perennials bloom on and off all year for bright spots of color in a home landscape.

  • Plant Care

Pentas require regular water but don't like being kept overly wet.

Pentas - Red

Pentas
(Pentas lanceolata)

Great butterfly and hummingbird attractors that do best in part sun to part shade.  Dwarf varieties are the ones to buy since they only get about 2 feet tall and come in pinks, purples, red and white.
These small flowering perennials bloom on and off all year for bright spots of color in a home landscape.

  • Plant Care

Pentas require regular water but don't like being kept overly wet.
 

Pinwheel Jasmine


White flowers shaped like pinwheels decorate pinwheel jasmine, a charming, airy shrub that will bloom anywhere - even in partial shade.  Jasmine plants are usually thought to be fragrance plants, but this beautiful jasmine has no fragrance.
However, its delicate look, dark green leaves and bright white blooms work well in any landscape.
White goes well with other colors in the garden and can draw attention to a focal point.  And white-flowering shrubs like this one make great plants for shadier areas that have little or no color.
  • Plant specs

This shrub can take full sun but seems to prefer part sun to partial shade, and will bloom on and off all year no matter what kind of light it gets.
Considered moderately cold tolerant, it does best in Zone 10 and warmer areas of Zone 9B.  Plant in areas sheltered from winter winds and and protect it against frost.
A moderate grower, it can grow to 5 feet - though you can easily keep it 3 feet tall. The plant branches outward, spreading 4 to 5 feet across, and will drape to the ground.

 
  • Plant care

Amend the soil by adding composted cow manure and top soil (or organic peat moss) to the hole when you plant.
Trim occasionally to shape - no hard pruning is necessary.
Though this shrub is considered evergreen it may thin or even defoliate in colder winters...usually bouncing back in spring.
 
Fertilize in spring, summer and autumn with a god granular fertilizer, adding supplemental feedings of bone meal and/or liquid fertilizer for heavier bloom.
Water regularly but give the plant time to dry out a bit between waterings.
  • Plant spacing

Because this shrub grows wide, you can plant 3 feet or more apart. Come out from the house 2-1/2 to 3 feet to give it room to branch out.
Pinwheels will grow in containers with the right light and moisture.


 

Purple Pentas

Pentas
(Pentas lanceolata)

Great butterfly and hummingbird attractors that do best in part sun to part shade. Dwarf varieties are the ones to buy since they only get about 2 feet tall and come in pinks, purples, red and white.

South Florida perennials are the "icing on the cake" of pretty landscaping, as they live several years or longer with cyclical bursts of flowers. The small, flowering perennials in this section have bloom colors of yellow, white, pink, purple, blue and more - and many attract butterflies.

Many people confuse the definition of perennial with that of annual.  Perennials last several years...usually 3 or more. Annuals are meant to last one year or season.  Perennials may live only a year, if they must deal with adverse conditions such as insufficient irrigation.  Most aren't cold hardy, though they usually bounce back from a normal winter's cold snaps.

Perennials, unlike annuals, won't give you constant flower color, because they go through cycles of bloom - and generally flower less often during our cooler months. But interplanting perennials with seasonal annuals can create year-round garden color.
 

  • Plant care

Generally low-growing, they need little trimming, though most benefit from a "haircut" now and then.

Best cutting time is during warm weather right after the plant has completed a bloom cycle.  This promotes new growth and then new flowers.

An after-winter cutting back (in late March or early April) helps the plant flush out again.  You may want to deadhead (cut off spent flowers/flower stems) occasionally for some varieties.  Regular watering and fertilization helps them thrive and flower often.

Red Sister


Cordylines and dracaenas have fabulous foliage for dramatic color and provide height and a look of the tropics to South Florida gardens.  These colorful foliage plants come in almost endless varieties and provide colors like pink, cream, bronze, lime-green, and red to areas with some shade.  Though they're in different plant families, both are easy-care plants

They look very similar and have almost identical landscape uses, so we've grouped them together here.
To learn the name of each pictured on this page - as on all photos on this site - run your cursor over the photo.  Cordyline plants are typically lumped together and called "ti plants."  The most popular and commonly grown is "Red Sister" cordyline, with its brilliant fuschia new growth and bronze-magenta leaves.

Ti is correctly pronounced "tee," though most of us fall into the habit of saying "tie" simply because everyone seems to do so.  Cordylines show off their best color during cooler weather...a real boon for snowbirds.  They're considered a good luck plant in Hawaii where every property seems to have at least one ti plant. 

Dracaenas, like cordylines, have the benefit of shapeliness - they fit nicely into narrow spaces - and enough height to set off a tropical garden.  They're also considered to be deer-resistant.  Dracaena marginata, the most well-known of this group, has spiky green leaves rimmed with red.  It's a very popular houseplant in northern climates. 

Here in South Florida this plant adds architectural interest against a blank wall or makes a unique accent by an entryway.
These plants - both cordylines and dracaenas - do flower...some more noticeably than others.
One, the "Corn Plant" (dracaena fragrans) has extremely fragrant flowers, though the blooms don't look like flowers, more like a bunch of knots on a rope.

The smell is intensely sweet, especially at dusk.  The most common complaint about cordylines is that eventually they can grow tall and leggy, with thin bare trunks (called "canes") and foliage only on top.
To encourage a fuller look at varying levels, prune during warm summer weather.  To do this, cut off a cane at a lower height and it will usually sprout a new "head" or two from the sides of the cut.  Rather than chopping off the heads of all the canes at once, cut the tallest one first.  After it sprouts new growth, do the next tallest one. This way some foliage is visible while you're pruning the plant.  Plant each cutting back into the ground near the base of the original plant (or start it in a container) - most will root and grow. 
 
In some cases, the openess of bare canes can create an interesting silhouette.  But if you prefer to camouflage them, use cordylines and dracaenas as backdrop plants or use low spreading plants to hide a bit of the legginess.
  • Plant specs

Heights vary by variety but most of these plants are slow growers.  Zone 10 is best but in Zone 9B keep them in containers to move inside during cold weather.  Bright shade works fine for all, though some can take more sun than others...morning sun, preferably.  You often see ti plants doing fine in sunny areas, but they can become brown-edged and raggedy, so give yours afternoon shade.

Plant in an area protected from wind so the foliage doesn't become shredded and unattractive.
  • Plant care

Add top soil or organic peat humus to the hole when you plant, especially if the area is very sandy and dry.
Trimming is totally unnecessary, other than pruning in summer, if you like, to control height and/or encourage fuller growth.
These plants don't like to stay wet, so give them regular irrigation with time to dry out a bit between waterings. 
Dracaenas are a bit more drought-tolerant but, with either plant, too-infrequent waterings will cause the tips of the leaves to turn brown.   Fertilize twice a year (spring and fall) with a good quality granular fertilizer. Don't over-fertilize these plants.
  • Plant spacing

You can plant groupings of most of these plants very close together for upright plants. A few exceptions are Song of India and Black Magic.  Song of India dracaena (dracaena reflexa)  - pictured at left - has a swirling, meandering habit, but dracaena marginata, corn plant dracaena and others grow straight up.

Black Magic cordyline - pictured just above - grows in a large swirly pattern and can grow 8 feet tall or more. This one needs some elbow room to look its best, so place it at least 3 feet from the nearest plant.
Depending on variety, these plants can be placed as close as 2 feet from the house. Come in from walks and drives 3 feet to allow for future growth.

Both cordylines and dracaenas make excellent container plants. Dracaenas do fine as houseplants as well.
 

Royal Palm


The huge, gorgeous royal palm tree is thought of by many as the world's most beautiful palm.  This big beauty is the classic South Florida palm tree and a Florida native.
Smooth trunks of gray to gray-white are topped with bright green crownshafts and long, luxurious, full fronds.
Soaring to heights 80 feet tall, this giant palm tree is one of the most sought-after landscape palms for elegant South Florida homes.
Because of their eventual mammoth size, royals are best used in larger landscapes with bigger houses so they fit the scale of their surroundings.
The fruit this palm produces in fall and winter is a good food source for birds.
  •  Plant specs

A royal palm grows at a moderate speed up to 80 feet. It will take partial shade but is happiest in a full sun location in Zone 10B and warmer areas of 10A.  This is a moderately salt-tolerant palm, and it's moderately drought-tolerant as well, once it's established, though it will benefit from regular watering.
Royals are self-cleaning - dropping old fronds on their own.
  • Plant care

Plant with top soil or organic peat moss as a soil amendment in the hole.
Fertilize with a good quality granular palm fertilizer containing micronutrients - do this in spring, summer and fall.
The self-cleaning habit means you'll never have to shinny up the trunk of a royal to remove dead fronds.
The mammoth size of the fronds and stems, though, makes a good case for planting well away from the house or any walkways...when a dead frond drops, it sounds like a loud crack of thunder - and then a crash as the heavy frond hits the ground.
Water on a regular basis with enough time between waterings for the palm to dry out a bit.
  • Plant spacing

Plant royals no closer to the house than 8 feet to allow room for the fronds to spread out and not be damaged by touching walls.  You want to come out with enough distance that falling fronds don't damage anything (including people) underneath.  Space these palms 8 to 10 feet apart when planting in a row.
This palm is too big for growing in a container.

Royal Poinciana Tree


Majestic size and fabulous color make the royal poinciana tree ‘Delonix regia’ a classic symbol of living in South Florida.  'Regia' means regal, royal or magnificent - all perfect descriptive terms for the poinciana.
This lovely tree is decorated in summer with rich orange-red flowers on its umbrella-shaped crown of fine-textured leaves.

With its wide-reaching canopy, this tree is way too big for smaller properties and can overwhelm even a medium-sized yard.  It's best planted in a large expanse of lawn with no garden bed beneath, since the poinciana's root system is superficial rather than deep. This means it will compete with (and win out over) nearby plants for water and nutrients.
  • Plant specs

Poincianas are fast-growing trees, reaching heights of 40 to 50 feet. It can grow even wider than its height, so plan accordingly when you choose a place to plant.
Tropical in nature, these red-flowering trees do best in Zone 10, beginning to flower at age 4 or 5.


They are deciduous (though thankfully our winters are short), and produce seed pods which won't become a nuisance since seeds take years to germinate.  Plant in a well-drained area in full sun for ideal fullness and flowering.   The showy poinciana flowers appear in late spring through mid-summer.
  • Plant care

Add top soil or organic peat moss to the hole when you plant. You may also want to add in composted cow manure for soil enrichment.  No trimming is necessary unless you need to remove low hanging branches.

Water on a regular basis with time to dry out between waterings.  Fertilize in spring, summer and autumn with a good quality granular fertilizer.
  • Plant spacing

Plant at least 20 feet (more would be even better) from the house to accommodate the broad-spreading canopy of this tree.

Sunpatiens Impatiens

Sunpatiens - full sun (winter) to part shade
South Florida perennials are the "icing on the cake" of pretty landscaping, as they live several years or longer with cyclical bursts of flowers. The small, flowering perennials in this section have bloom colors of yellow, white, pink, purple, blue and more - and many attract butterflies.
Many people confuse the definition of perennial with that of annual.  Perennials last several years...usually 3 or more. Annuals are meant to last one year or season.  Perennials may live only a year, if they must deal with adverse conditions such as insufficient irrigation.  Most aren't cold hardy, though they usually bounce back from a normal winter's cold snaps.

Perennials, unlike annuals, won't give you constant flower color, because they go through cycles of bloom - and generally flower less often during our cooler months. But interplanting perennials with seasonal annuals can create year-round garden color.
 

  • Plant care

    Generally low-growing, they need little trimming, though most benefit from a "haircut" now and then.  Best cutting time is during warm weather right after the plant has completed a bloom cycle.  This promotes new growth and then new flowers.

    An after-winter cutting back (in late March or early April) helps the plant flush out again.  You may want to deadhead (cut off spent flowers/flower stems) occasionally for some varieties.  Regular watering and fertilization helps them thrive and flower often.

Tabebuia Tree


The showy tabebuia tree announces springtime in South Florida, with varieties that flower in pink, lavender-pink, and golden yellow.
The four most commonly planted tabebuias are outstanding trees for adding color and beauty to home landscapes.
  • Tabebuia impetiginosa - 'Ipe' (or 'Purple Trumpet Tree')
  • Tabebuia chrysotricha - 'Gold Tree' (or 'Gold Trumpet Tree')
  • Tabebuia heterophylla - 'Pink Trumpet Tree'
  • Tabebuia caraiba - 'Silver Trumpet Tree'
These highly ornamental trees grow between 20 and 30 feet and make great single specimen trees for medium-sized yards as well as pretty accents in larger properties.  Not overly large, a tabebuia planted near a deck or patio can create welcome summertime shade for these outdoor areas.
Each tabebuia tree has its own special qualities, differing in flower color, growth speed, bark, cold tolerance, and leaf color.  All are deciduous - losing their leaves in winter - though during warmer winters they may shed leaves later in the season just before flowering.  Tabebuias prefer a sunny location.  They develop seed pods but these won't create a nuisance by littering the ground and sprouting everywhere.
  • Plant specs

Tabebuia ipe is usually just called "Ipe" (rhymes with "hippie") and grows at a slow to moderate pace to 20 to 25 feet.
It's moderately cold tolerant, doing best in Zone 10 and warmer areas of Zone 9B.  The ipe tree has a smooth gray trunk and produces lavish pinkish-purple blooms in early spring.
  • Plant care

Add top soil (or organic peat moss) to the hole when you plant.  You may also want to add in composted cow manure to enrich the soil around the tree's roots.  Trimming isn't necessary unless you need to remove any too-low branches.
Tabebuias can be somewhat drought-tolerant once established, but they do best with a regular irrigation schedule allowing time between waterings for the soil to dry out a bit.
Fertilize 3 times a year (in spring, summer and autumn) with a quality granular fertilizer.
  • Plant spacing

Plant 15 feet from the house. Come in from walks and drives 8 to 10 feet (or more).  If you're planting tabebuias in a row, space them at least 10 to 12 feet apart.
You can grow this tree in a large container while it's young.

Weeping Bottlebush

For a tall and pretty hedge, Red Cluster bottlebrush bush is made to order - with dense foliage, fast growth habit, and bright scarlet blooms.
These red flowering shrubs are among the best in hedge shrubs for South Florida.  They grow fast, and their dense foliage  stays full to the ground. They're also versatile enough to work as accents or even as small flowering trees.
This attractive plant blooms on and off all year, more in warmer months.  Each fuzzy red flower resembling (what else) a bottle brush attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, making this plant a good choice for a butterfly garden.
Honeybees love the blossoms as well. Though the bees are busy doing their job, many people are afraid of them so don't place this plant right next to a door or too close to a walkway.
  • Plant specs

These plants do best in full to partial sun.  They're cold hardy, thriving anywhere in South Florida, as well as being drought tolerant once established.  The rate of growth is slow for these low-growing, wide-spreading shrubs that only grow a foot or two tall.  These plants are considered deer-resistant (but we make no promises).
  • Plant care

Plant with a combination of top soil (or organic peat moss) and cow manure added to the hole.  Fertilize 3 times a year - in spring, summer and autumn - with a top-quality granular fertilizer.  No trimming is needed - but if you do, cut branches rather than across needles.
Regular water with time to dry out between waterings is ideal.
If you do nothing else, at least water these shrubs during dry spells to avoid spider mites, which love feasting on too-dry, stressed plants.
  • Plant spacing

Parsonii should be placed 3 feet apart. Smaller varieties can go in at 2-1/2 feet apart. Come out from the house at least 2 feet.  This plant will work in a container with good light and correct watering.