The blooming plants that greet Florida's late-year visitors are one of the best rewards for escaping colder climates. Florida remains the Sunshine State even as the year is fading. Its landscapes remain vibrant with colorful fall and winter flowers. Plants that suffer in the steamy, hot summers find new life as the state's weather cools. Tidy ground covers and shrubs, cheery annuals and graceful perennials all combine in a dazzling show.
Carolina yellow jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), a late winter- to early spring-bloomer, stands 6 inches high. Spreading over the ground, it creates a mat of glossy, deep green foliage. Purple or yellow winter tones make its leaves a striking backdrop for fragrant clusters of waxy, golden-yellow trumpet flowers. The blooms give way to eye-catching, bright red berries. Jessamines' only drawback is that ingesting its flowers, roots or leaves may be toxic, cautions the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Crimson-eyed rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) is a hardy hibiscus shrub popular through central and northern Florida. Rapidly growing and cold-tolerant, it blooms from spring until late fall. This mallow handles full sun and partial shade. It brightens gardens with large, white or pink red-centered flowers. The shrub grows in any soil except a very dry one and handles Florida's sometimes-torrential rains without flinching, say the University of Florida Extension's specialist and professor Gary W. Knox and associate professor Rick Schoellhorn. Crimson-eyed rose mallow succeeds as a specimen planting, in hedges or as the focal point for a large container display.
Frosty nights are rare in Florida. Fall and winter-blooming annuals, however, must survive the occasional brief dip below freezing and extended periods of nights of temperatures between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Snapdragons and petunias both qualify, advises Henry County Extension Service horticulture agent Gene McAvoy.
Snapdragons (Antirrhinum magus) have multiple-stemmed clusters of solid or bi-colored, two-lipped blooms -- in both pastel and bright shades -- above lance-shaped green leaves. Petunias (Petunia spp) provide non-stop bloom in every shade but orange, brown or black. Bushy or trailing plants have single, trumpet-shaped or double, peony-like flowers. Their fragrance and color will be most noticeable near windows and along walkways.
Many of Florida’s hardy or tender perennials provide fall and winter color. Tender perennials, pentas bloom throughout the year with adequate frost protection. Standing 2- to 4- feet high, they are sun-loving, shrubby plants with clusters of tubular, white, lavender, pink or red flowers. Like penta, lion's ear (Leonotis leonurus) is a tender perennial performing well in sunny locations across the state. Three- to 6-feet high and up to 3 feet wide, lion’s ear has aromatic green foliage. Tubular, bright orange flowers encircle the length of its stems from fall to spring.
- Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Carolina Yellow Jessamine
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Hardy Hibiscus for Florida Landscapes
- University of Florida Cooperative Extension Hendry County Horticultural News: Annual Flowers Fit Well in any Landscape
- "Orlando Sentinel"; Colorful Plants Add Bright Spot To Any Landscape; Sylvester A. Rose; September 1988
- Photo Credit petunia flower. image by Martin Garnham from Fotolia.com