School is in session and Labor Day is fast approaching. What do these two events bring to mind? Changing temperatures and Ah, the glorious colors of Fall! Oh wait, this is Florida. No changing leaves of orange, red and yellow. No brisk evenings requiring fuzzy sweaters and warm cider. Nope. None of that here in Florida. What we do have is sunshine, sandy beaches, sweet iced tea and lots of tropical flora that is as resplendent in its variety as any of the Fall foliage seen in northern climes.
Florida’s temperate climate is conducive to almost year round gardening. This makes it possible to enjoy all of the seasonal colors some of us may be used to seeing at this time of year. A Florida native plant, Firebush (hamelia patens), is quite colorful and blooms practically year round. Butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to the tubular red-orange flowers. There is also a dwarf variety that has more yellow in it than the native firebush which is found at most nurseries. As a native plant, firebush is relatively drought tolerant once established and does best with no pruning, allowing the plant to take its natural shape. If it should die back in the Winter, it is a fast grower and will quickly show regrowth in early Spring.
Nature’s yellow can be seen aplenty in Hernando county as Autumn draws near. Beautiful yellow milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) is another drought tolerant plant seen in many Fall gardens. Hernando County gardeners know that if you want monarchs then you need their favorite for laying eggs. And you need plenty of it! A few monarch larva can eat through a good sized patch of milkweed in relatively short time.
In addition to the many colorful flowering plant varieties, greenery can add texture and a bright green backdrop to showcase the vivid colors of the Fall garden. Variegated Pittosporum is sometimes a good choice to give the eye a relaxing break from the vibrant colors and as a border between plant beds. This plant has become quite popular as it needs little pruning and is quite hardy.
Another great attractor of butterflies and hummingbirds is a pretty green plant with bright red tubular flowers called Firespike (Odontonema strictum). It is also very hardy, growing best in shade, and comes back in early Spring if it is hit by frost. Firespike grows to approximately 4-6 feet and needs little to no care in order to thrive.
As Labor Day comes then passes and Halloween draws near, Hernando county residents can still enjoy the warm reds and oranges of Autumn. Indeed, Floridians are very blessed with a climate that allows for so much outdoor activity and enjoying of nature’s beauty.