When the blooms of summer begin to fade, it is time to set out annuals and prune back perennials to create a new flush of color for the winter months.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on August 31, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
The climate in Florida allows its gardeners to enjoy blooms all year long. In most parts of Florida, gardeners can have blooming plants throughout the year. While gardeners to the north are mulching their flower beds and preparing their plants for the long winter sleep, gardeners in the sunshine state are preparing for another colorful bloom season.
This does not just happen. It takes a bit of preparation to have blooms all year long. Choosing the right plants for your zone and creating an area in the garden for plants to thrive will ensure success.
There are a few key points to keep in mind if you want healthy blooming plants in the ‘off season'.
Soil should be built up with organic matter which will add and help retain the nutrients plants need to produce blooms.
Providing plants with a slow-release fertilizer or a weekly dousing to the roots from an organic compost tea mixture will make your plants very happy and they will reward you with many colorful blooms to enjoy.
Regular watering is essential because winter is the dry season in the sunshine state. Long time gardeners already know, from about November through April, rainfall is sparse, which makes soaker hoses and sprinklers a must have. Using a soaker hose is much more efficient than using a sprinkler. Water from a soaker hose goes directly to the roots of the plants without evaporating like the spray that comes from a sprinkler. I especially recommend the soaker hose here in Florida.
There may already be many plants in the garden that can be given new life in order to continue their bloom through the winter. One such plant is the petunia (Petunia integrifolia). If it is looking a bit ragged, the branches can be clipped back, giving the plant a new start. After being pruned, the plant will be much healthier. It will then be ready to bloom into winter.
A few plants that will bloom into late fall and some that will bloom right through the winter are listed below.
Cheddar Pink (Dianthus gratianopolitanus)
Photo courtesy of DG member staceysmom
Considered a perennial plant that can be grown from seeds and also from stem cuttings rooted in sandy soil. Dianthus can become ‘leggy' and fall over but can be trimmed back or better yet, allow them to sprawl over the front of flower bed borders. Grow in full sun for best blooms. Bloom is pink from mid spring into early fall and in some cases, into winter.
Chickabiddy (Asarina scandens)
Photo courtesy of DG member poppysue
This is a lovely vine for full sun gardens with blooms of blue, lavender and white. The blooms show well from early spring until first frost in the Florida garden. It can be grown from seeds found in seed pods allowed to dry on the vine. It is also easily rooted from cuttings.
Corsican Pansy (Viola corsica)
Photo courtesy of DG member Todd_Boland
The Corsican pansy is a perennial that will grow from seeds. Once plants are established, tubers will form allowing the gardener the fun job of dividing them for new plants. The purple blooms put on the best show when the air is cool. For this reason, it is the perfect plant for the Florida winter garden. Plants grow to about a foot tall in full sun or partial shade.
Diascia (Diascia rigescens)
Photo courtesy of DG member KMAC
A perennial that grows to about 1 ½ foot tall in full sun and blooms a fantastic pink color from summer through fall. Diascia can also be found blooming in white, coral, orange and lavender. Stem cuttings are easily rooted.
English Marigold (Calendula officinalis)
Photo courtesy of DG member 22cold
An annual with, seemingly, never-ending blooms of orange and yellow from spring till first frost. Can grow to be two ft. tall and does well in containers. Seeds are prolific re-seeders dropping onto the ground where dozens of seedlings will pop up in the spring.
Photo courtesy of DG member htop
Firespike is considered a tropical or tender perennial. Bright red blooms stand out on this plant all through the year. It is only hampered by extreme freezes in the latter part of winter, so cover it up if you are expecting a hard freeze. The plant likes to be in full sun but will tolerate a bit of dappled shade. It can be grown from seed and rooted cuttings. Allow plenty of room for it to grow because it can get to four feet tall.
Johnny Jump-up (Viola cornuta)
Photo courtesy of DG member DaylilySLP
A perennial with small, purple and yellow blooms that grows about one foot tall. Blooms right through winter unless a hard freeze kills it back to the ground. This is an old fashioned favorite that likes sun to partial shade and does not like to be over watered.
Nemesia (Nemesia strumosa)
Photo courtesy of DG member Weezingreens
Considered an annual in colder climates, perennial in warmer zones, it is a great little plant for rock gardens. Red and white bicolor blooms really stand out in the winter garden. Foliage is evergreen in warmer zones and adds interest even when not blooming. Full sun to partial shade with regular watering produces the best blooms. Grow from seeds planted after all danger of frost has passed.
Wild Petunia (Petunia integrifolia)
Photo courtesy of DG member poppysue
Considered an annual or tender perennial and can be grown from seeds. Allow seeds to dry on plant before collecting. Grows into a nice loose, mound shape in full sun but will tolerate some shade. Blooms repeatedly from spring through winter if kept deadheaded, watered and fertilized. Blooms are various shades of purple.
There are many more plants that can be added for winter color, from hanging baskets to shrubs and trees and every size in between.
Enduring the heat and humidity in the sunshine state is made a bit more bearable once you realize you can have colorful gardens most of the year.
Flower garden photograph at top right is courtesy of RayWal65 at Morguefile.
Information provided is from my own experience or as listed by members in Dave's Garden Plant Files.
About Jacqueline Cross
I'm a native Floridian...feet planted in the shifting sands of northwest FL. but my heart strings are tightly knotted to the hills of Tennessee.
I live with my poodle, Minnie Pearl, Zsa Zsa the cat who runs the whole show and a new addition, Kitty Belle.
I'm a writer, gardener, quilter, cross stitcher, soapmaker and nature lover. Mother to 3 wonderful daughters & Nana to 6 perfect grandchildren.
I also write for Suite101.com and was promoted to Feature Writer in the vegetable gardens section in 2008.