New to Florida Gardening

Brevard, NC(Zone 7a)

I ran a Community Shade Garden in NYC and now moved to Satellite Beach, FL zone 9B. The differences between the 2 is overwhelming, I want to plant everything in sight and just don't know how to start. I also have the addition problem of moderately salty water as I am 4 blocks from the beach. Can anyone give me some general rules you have learned in Florida gardening. My main interests are in vines, flowers and color, fragrance and constant yearly bloom. Basically I want to grow a tropical paradise. I am not looking for specific plants (although I won't turn down those suggestions), but rather more general rules to follow.

Lee's Summit, MO(Zone 6a)

Welcome Steve!

I was in your situation 5 years ago, moving here from Missouri, zone 5b, to Panama City, Florida - zone 8b. Today, I have a tropical paradise here in zone 8b. It's mostly trial and error. I had to get 'northern' plants out of my head - they simply won't grow here - not enough cold hours to induce dormancy. Now, I have a greenhouse and if I see something I like, I get it. So far, watering hasn't been an issue. Most sprinkler systems use recycled water, so there's no issue with salt in the water. I, too, live very close to the ocean, but it does nothing to affect my gardening.

If you need plants identified in your new yard, post them and we will i.d. them for you if we can. If not, there's an ID forum here on DG - post them and they will get identified - we have a couple of Botanists on that forum.

Gainesville, FL(Zone 9a)

Grew up in Indialantic and altho I went to Mel -Hi, the swim team practiced daily at Satellite. Know it well, probably to well ;-x.

My parents still live on the intercoastal just off the melbourne causeway. Bouganvillia, bird of paradise, hibicus, all the things you would think of grow there. It does freeze once every 5-7 years tho. I cant think of anything that the salt really hurts, Im sure there are things that dont like it tho. Common annuals do well. Just dont plant anything that like dormancy and remember that that the growing season is now, not in the summer, things regroup then. Gingers do well too. Alamanda vines and madevilla vines. Plant some larger things on the east and west to protect some of the more fragile things from the wind off the ocean and river. Alot of that depends on which way your house faces.Also, dont forget thats straight up sand your planting in and maybe some ammending/compost is in order.

Clermont, FL(Zone 9a)

Welcome Steve,
Started a responce and it flipped into cyber space.
I'm originally from Conn. and sure had a lot to learn about gardening here. Like living on a sand pile. I'm in Clermont, central Fl.
After much trial and lots of error I amend my soil every year. I bring up cow manure from our pasture near hay feeding cause it has to be cleaned once a year anyhow. I also use fish emulsion on both veggies and ornamentals. Many people stop by and get a bag or 2 of the manure to add to their gardens. Sand doesn't retain any water. I also have sprinkler system which we put in ourselves after many years. We haven't had a drop of rain since early Nov. or before. Coast seems to get more.
If you could make friends with any rabbitry owners thats the best fertilizer you can get and doesn't burn plants at all.
Good luck with your gardening. I'm sure it will be beautiful. Just takes patience and some work.

Fleming Island, FL(Zone 9a)

Welcome Steve. I recently moved here from MD. Grew up in PA and yes, I can grow anything up there.
My best advice, find a GOOD Nursery. The Ace I have here is just wonderful & the ladies know everything about every plant they carry.

Go with the native plants. They may not be the prettiest ones but they will do well. I'm terrible with remembering names. If the rain stops I'll go read tags & let you know a few that are doing well.

Trumpet vine, Passion Vine, Bleeding Heart Vine all do well for me with very little care. They will freeze back but do come back.

If you want hibiscus, buy the cold hardy varieties. Flowers may not be as spectacular but they will survive the cold snaps.

Gingers also do well.

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 9a)

Compost,compost,compost, and Mulch,mulch,mulch! Also, when you do consider plants, keep salt tolerance in mind. Good luck! Happy Gardening!

Winter Springs, FL(Zone 9b)

Hi Steve, You'll love gardening in Central Florida, although our weather conditions can be from one extreme to the other for vegetable gardening, but if you're into flowers, like I am, you'll find a ton of things that do well here, especially vines. I agree with native plants, they do the best, or what I call semi native, or naturalized plants plants.Of course there are some to watch out for that can be very invasive in our climate. This website is nice for information on plants that do well in Florida:

And of course Dave's Garden has lots of Florida gardeners that are always willing to help you out.

Orlando, FL(Zone 9b)

hi Steve, welcome to Florida! everyone's given you great advice and help, and they are all such a big help for my learning. i was just curious about where in NY you were, i am also from the city and i agree, when you come to Florida all the plants are so tempting you just want to get them all!

Brevard, NC(Zone 7a)

Thanks everyone for all your wonderful and informative feedback. To answer some of your questions... I am from Manhattan, East Village and ran The Creative Little Garden on 6th st it was a shade garden nestled between 2 buildings and regretfully now has no leader or gardener, so it's fate next spring is unknown.

I did start a small garden here several years ago, basically planted some hibiscus, gingers, plumeria, firecrackers, palms, crotons and bougainvillea with no compost and no attention. It was then left to nature and does quite well, so it affirmed my thoughts that plants here don't require much attention. I have started a larger garden here by first buying vines (some at Home Depot, some at Lowes and some at Rockledge Gardens) such as bleeding heart, jasmine, mandevilla, bougainvillea, garlic vine and cape honeysuckle and am training them with fishing wire on my wooden fences. I have been advised against this by a few people as they claim they will eventually destroy the fence, my hope is that I will cut them back so they dont get unruly, but I want a wall of color and I can be very determined. Next I'm building a stone water feature, (copying one I saw at McKee Gardens) a waterfall with a small pond and then will start planting around that feature. I will amend the soil for plants that require it and then start planting, I hope to get this all done by the spring.

I'm in love with hibiscus as they seem to be in bloom all the time and the colors are bright and the flowers are huge. I'm looking into some mail orders for some speciality plants.

Again thanks for your comments, suggestions and experience.


This message was edited Dec 30, 2012 10:10 AM

Gainesville, FL(Zone 9a)

Steve, sure hope you got to spend you first Christmas in FL. Was it not just beautiful. The bouganvillia(sp) are at their best this time of the year. The river was glass, and the sun shining. Even got a little jet ski in.
It sounds like you are going to have a really great garden, hope you can post some pictures. Hope someone picks up where you left off in NY.
You are right on point about some plants not needing amending. They tend to make leaves, not flowers.

Indian Harbour Beach, FL(Zone 10a)

Welcome Steve. I live in Indian Harbour Beach also. I've been gardening, passionately, for a few years now and love to share ideas and plants. I usually have my gardens on tours a few times a year (for various garden clubs). I do a lot of container gardening (mostly to avoid those nematodes !).
Drop me a D-email and we can get in touch perhaps. BTW, I am a Master Gardener and do keep busy with the volunteer work that it involves to keeping up with the required hours.

Thumbnail by orchid923
Clermont, FL(Zone 9a)

If you are interested in ponding and fish visit us on the water gardens forum. We are koi and goldfish fans. Also some just have bog gardens for plants. Very interesting and we help each other solve our ponnding problems and fish deseases as needed.
Just worked on removing some Carolina jasmine from my chain link fence across front yard and what a mess. I let it go to many years and really had some hard pruning to do. I took it pretty close to the ground but I'm sure it will come back. Just hope a cold snap doesn't kill it. I use landscape blankets. Have 1 250 yard piece but that doesn't cover enerything but do my most prized plants and others get old quilts.

I must not garden right cause I don't find my garden self sustaiining. I mulch and amend soil every year and week often.
Also, deadhead plants that require it. I don't work anymore so my gardens are my job now. Ponds also have filters that require cleaning at least once a month to maintain water quality. I like to see bottom and fish. I'm very partial to butterfly or long fin fish. I do have some straight sided but prefer the others.
On water garden forum on thread called New Pond In Progress are some pics of us bldg. latest pond last July. Not the thing to do in the heat but we managed and fish are enjoying it now. Also my old pond is on there and it is smaller.
Enjoy, Bonnie

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