Wendy's WanderingsWendy Wilber

November 11, 2021

November Color

In Florida there is always color in our landscapes or natural areas. We are, as Ponce de Leon proclaimed us, "La Florida" — the land of flowers. When the rest of the country is leaf peeping we are enjoying the subtropical colors. I had the pleasure to stop into Mounts Botanical Gardens earlier this month for a quick visit only to have my visual senses knocked out by their silk floss tree in full bloom. The silk floss tree aka Ceiba speciosa (formerly Chorisia speciosa) was 40 feet tall and 40 feet wide and so coated in pink flowers that I hardly noticed the beautiful spines covering the trunk. This non-native isn't usually seen in home landscapes due to its size and availability but it looks stunning in a botanical garden.

In Central and North Florida we are seeing color not from just from flowers but from berries. The native beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is in full purple/magenta color in November and is favored by the catbirds in my neighborhood as a food source. The Dahoon hollies (Ilex cassine) are so loaded with red berries this year it is hard to know if the color is coming from flowers or berries from a distance. The resident birds will feed on these until the migratory cedar waxwings come to strip them later in the season. On the roadsides the Florida asters (Symphyotrichum dumosum) are heavy with lavender daisy flowers. It is a pollinator-friendly wildflower that also will perform well in your Florida-Friendly landscape.

Sasanqua camellias are starting their show this month. Sasanquas are much earlier to bloom than Camellia japonica plants and can do better in sunny areas. Some of the cultivars that I have been admiring lately are 'Sparkling Burgundy' and the 'Shi Shi Gashira'. 'Shi Shi Gashira' has hot pink semi-double blooms with golden centers and make nice cut flowers to bring inside. Fun fact: "shi shi gashira" means "lion's head" in Japanese.

Another November favorite is a bloom that you smell before you see. It is the tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans). This olive relative does not have particularly showy blooms but their strong fragrance fills backyards with an intoxicating smell of "Juicy Fruit" gum. If kept pruned and fertilized they make a beautiful evergreen accent shrub. This Florida-Friendly selection can be grown throughout the state and they do best in partial shade especially when given a break from the hot afternoon sun.

There are many November bloomers to enjoy in our landscapes and public gardens; luckily the weather gives us the opportunity to get out and enjoy them. If you are looking for other blooming ideas or to share Florida flowering plant information, visit this infographic on the UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions website.

-- Wendy Wilber

A very large tree so covered in pink flowers no leaves are visible

Silk floss tree in Mounts Botanical Gardens, West Palm Beach. Photo: Wendy Wilber, UF/IFAS.

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