Seeing Red: Flowers, Foliage, and Berries
When you talk about adding color to the landscape, flowers are the first thing many people think of. And there are quite a few great red flowering options for Florida landscapes. But there are plants that can bring color to the garden in other forms, such as foliage and berries. The following list includes many, but not all, excellent red options for the Florida landscape.
Annual Flowers and Foliage
Coleus is a heat-tolerant and durable annual, prized for its colorful foliage. While it can be found in shades of green, pink, red, and maroon, there are many red options to bring vibrant color to both sunny and shaded areas of your landscape during the summer.
Zinnias are great for bringing a pop of red to your cool-season garden. These plants work well in Florida gardens with full sun, and can actually be found in varieties producing a vivid range of almost every color except blue. Zinnias are perfect for the gardener on a budget, as they can be started inexpensively from seed.
Salvia is a great transition from annual to perennial plants since there are both types of salvias. These plants attract butterflies and hummingbirds with tubular flowers which also perform quite well when cut and placed in a vase. Annual salvia plants are warm-season bloomers while perennials will bloom year-round if not killed back by frost or freezes.
Perennial Flowers and Foliage
If you prefer a longer-lasting splash of red, there are plenty of perennials to choose from. Many of these are hummingbird and butterfly favorites as both are attracted to red color.
Firespike is a flowering shrub that blooms throughout the year in South Florida and during fall and winter in North and Central Florida. This is a particular favorite of hummingbirds and attracts several species of butterflies as well. Though it does best in full sun, firespike will bloom in partial shade.
Firebush is a perennial or semi-woody shrub. Gardeners love firebush because it produces flowers from late spring until the first frost, and the bright red flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies, including the zebra longwing and gulf fritillary butterflies. Song birds also like to feed on the berries.
Firecracker plant does justice to its fiery name, producing an explosion of red, tubular flowers. Popular with hummingbirds and butterflies, this plant blooms year-round. Its soft, narrow leaves add a delicate texture to the landscape. Firecracker plant is relatively pest-free and somewhat drought tolerant, although it will flower better with regular irrigation.
Turk’s cap mallow is a hibiscus relative that has (typically) red flowers during the summer — another hummingbird favorite. A distinguishing feature of the flowers is that they resemble hibiscus blooms that never quite open, giving them another name, sleepy mallow.
Begonias can provide tropical flair to your garden. On top of that, they really shine in the shade. Wax begonias, cane begonias, and rhizomatous begonias do best in the landscape and come in many forms and colors, including quite a few red options.
Pentas thrive in the summer heat and serve well in mass plantings or containers, giving you a range of planting options. Red is just one of the colors these butterfly and hummingbird favorites can be found in.
Coral bean is a native plant that features red tubular flowers on tall stalks intermittently spring through fall. Seed pods appear in autumn and eventually split open to reveal another touch of red—shiny, scarlet seeds. While these seeds are very pretty, they are also very poisonous, so this may not be the plant for you if pets or children spend time in your landscape.
Cigar flower blooms almost nonstop from summer to fall with narrow red or deep orange flowers. This plant gets its common name from the look of the flowers which some say resemble lit cigars. It can grow up to 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide.
Hurricane lilies offer something a little different in terms of flowers, as these blooms appear completely on their own without foliage surrounding them. While leaves are present in fall and winter, they die back in the summer heat; the flowers appear in later just as hurricane season heats up.
Gerberas are plants that the rest of the country grows as annuals, but here we can enjoy these daisy-like flowers practically all year. The long-lasting flowers sits on a leafless stem about 6 inches above the plant's foliage and come in numerous hues other than red, including yellow, white, pink, lavender, and orange. Gerberas are ideal for cut-flower gardens in Central and South Florida, and do well in containers as well, especially in areas where prolonged freezes are likely, where they can be over-wintered indoors.
Soap aloe is a tough, Florida-Friendly plant that adds interest with its bold succulent leaves and flowers that bloom during the warmer months. Blossoms on soap aloe can be red, yellow, or orange, and attract hummingbirds.
Shrimp plant is a Florida-friendly tropical loved by hummingbirds and butterflies. Easy to grow, this plant can reach 2 to 6 feet tall and is notable for its drooping flowers that resemble the crustacean.
Caladiums bring not red flowers but foliage to your landscape. With stunning leaves that have unique patterns and vibrant colors these plants are great for adding life to shady areas of your landscape. ‘Red flash’ can add some great red color to your garden.
Sweetspire 'Henry’s Garnet' is a shrub with glossy burgundy-green leaves that typically turn an even deeper shade of burgundy in the fall. This is an improved version of Florida native sweetspire that's also known for its sweet-smelling spring flowers.
The most traditional way of adding a pop of red to your landscape is with berries. Firethorn (also called pyrancantha) brings the red to your winter garden with berries that are not only attractive, but serve as an important food source for wildlife. This thorny shrub performs best in north and central parts of Florida, and will thrive when planted in well-drained soil and full sun.
Simpson’s stopper offers red to orange colored berries at a different time of year, from late summer to early fall. The dense canopy created by this native shrub also provides protection for birds that come to feed on the small fruits. Some avian visitors you might see include buntings, cardinals, blue jays, and mockingbirds.
Yaupon holly also brings winter berries to your landscape. It should be noted that this native evergreen shrub is dioecious, meaning if you are hoping for berries be sure you select a female plant. The cultivar ‘Jewel’ is well known for its production of berries.
Selecting the right red for you landscape is more a matter of narrowing down the choices. Remember, a well-planned landscape provides interest all year. But with so many options available, "seeing red" is possible in every season.