Numerous tropical, non-native plants grow in Florida's outdoor garden landscapes, especially on the peninsula. If winters aren't riddled with subfreezing temperatures, tropical plant species prosper, and many recover from the cold and regrow in spring. A few species of tropical flowering shrubs that have green leaves with purple undersides grow in southern Florida, in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 10 and 11.
Fast-growing and reaching 8 to 20 feet tall and 6 to 12 feet wide, shooting star (Clerodendrum quadriloculare) or starbust clerodendrum bears long, oval green leaves with glossy purple-burgundy undersides. It sends up suckering stems from its roots, eventually creating a small thicket. During March and April in Florida the branch tips bear a dome-shaped cluster of burgundy-purple tubular flowers. At the tip of each flower tube white, curling petals open. Usually evergreen, drought or cold winter temperatures cause leaf drop. In frosty areas in USDA Zone 9, the stems may be killed but this plant rejuvenates from dormant buds lower on the woody stems or from the underground roots.
Variegated Shooting Star
Cultivar 'Brandonii' is a variegated leaf selection of shooting star. It reaches the same mature size and flowers in the same manner as the wild species form. The primary difference is the ornate color pattern on the leaves. While the leaf underside is the familiar glossy burgundy-purple, the upper leaf surface is a blend of green, pink, creamy pale yellow and white.
An invasive weed in the frost-free parts of southern Florida, oyster plant (Tradescantia spathacea) is a fleshy-leaved perennial that sprouts from seed and leaf segments to create a thick groundcover. Leaf undersides look a satiny purplish burgundy. In the bases of leaves on the plant stem, tiny white blossoms held in purplish bracts (modified leaves) occur anytime of year the temperatures are warm. Oyster plant, also called Moses-in-the-boat, grows 12 to 18 inches tall and 12 to 24 inches wide.
In the warmest areas of coastal southern Florida where no frosts occur, gardeners who love rare and unusual tropical plants grow the false bromeliad (Cochliostema odoratissimum) in their collections. In fall and winter months a short-branched cluster of fragrant lavender-blue to purple-violet flowers rise from the base of the leaves. The long, sword-shaped leaves are green with undersides streaked with purple-burgundy. False bromeliad grows 5 to 6 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide, and is herbaceous.
- Learn2Grow: Clerodendrum quadriloculare
- Learn2Grow: Tradescantia spathacea
- National Tropical Botanical Garden: Cochliostemma odoratissimum
- "Tropical Flowering Plants"; Kirsten Albrecht Llamas; 2003
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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