Plant of the Month

Every month we feature a plant that we think deserves a spotlight in Florida-Friendly gardening.

2022

A large bunch of big carrots freshly pulled from the groundSeptember

Carrots – A healthy vegetable that's easy to grow and doesn’t require a lot of room, carrots are fun to grow, especially with children. The most important thing about planting root vegetables is the soil; it should be loose and free of rocks or roots. Carrots can be planted August to March in North and Central Florida and from September to March in South Florida.


Bright pink trumpet shaped flowerAugust

Crinums – Crinum lilies are a hallmark of the Southern landscape and have been cherished and cultivated by Florida gardeners for years. Several species of Crinum and dozens of varieties allow you to find the right look for your landscape, with plants ranging in height from 13 inches to 6 feet tall depending on the species.


Green papaya fruits hanging on the trunk-like stalk of a papaya plantJuly

Papaya – Papaya is a tropical tree-like plant native to Central America. The ripe fruit is soft, juicy, and sweet, like a mango or melon. Commercially, papaya are usually grown in South Florida. With care, however, gardeners throughout Florida can enjoy papayas in their home landscape, too.


Fuzzy green fruit pod that resembles a string of beadsJune

Necklace Pod – A charming choice for pollinator-friendly landscapes, this native shrub features graceful foliage and bright yellow blooms that attract butterflies all year long. Necklace pod is also a perfect coastal plant — highly salt and drought tolerant. It's well suited for USDA Hardiness Zones 9b-11.


Pale green pear-shaped vegetableMay

Chayote – A heat-loving, tropical vegetable, chayote is perfect for Florida's steamy summers. It is closely related to melons and squashes. Chayote vines climb and require support, such as a trellis or an arbor. The fruit have a texture similar to mature zucchini. Chayote can be planted throughout the state.


Pale green orchid flowerApril

Florida Butterfly Orchid – One of the showiest native species, the Florida butterfly orchid has small flowers colored yellow, copper, green, orange, or bronze. A cluster of these blooms looks like a flutter of tiny, colorful butterflies. It grows as an epiphyte in almost every county in the state. Notably, the orchids can withstand a freeze, making them popular on the northern edge of their range.


Reddish-orange tublular flowersMarch

Coral Honeysuckle – Our native coral honeysuckle features scarlet flowers that bloom for months. And Florida's wildlife love it, too! The flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies and then mature into berries that feed songbirds. This low-maintenance vine is a Florida-Friendly alternative to invasive Japanese honeysuckle. Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) grows all over Florida and further north, USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 10. 


A tan tuber-like ginger rhizomeFebruary

Edible Ginger – The leafy, grassy foliage of edible ginger adds a tropical backdrop for more colorful plants, but is best known for its underground stems, or rhizomes. This is the part of the plant that produces the "ginger" spice we love. It grows well throughout the state, too, as long as the soil is amended with organic matter. And for gardeners with tree-covered landscapes, ginger is one of the few crops that loves some shade.


white flowersJanuary

Chickasaw Plum – One of the first to flower each year and an excellent pollinator resource, this native tree grows quickly and will perform best in full sun, though it can also be planted in dappled shade. Each spring, the trees are covered with clusters of tiny, fragrant, white flowers. Then the small fruits appear, turning from red to yellow as they ripen. The tart plums can be eaten fresh or turned into tasty jelly, and they're also enjoyed by wildlife.


2021

Red maple treeDecember

Red Maple – Every fall, the leaves of these trees erupt into a blaze of yellow, orange, and red, putting on a show that lasts several weeks. As a native plant, an abundant seed-source, and a winter-blooming tree, red maple is also a favorite of birds and other native wildlife. Red maple is usually found in zones 4A through 9B, but has been found growing wild further south.


roselle calyxNovember

Roselle – A relative of hibiscus and okra, this plant was once a very popular edible. Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is native to Central and West Africa and is grown around the world. It does best in well-drained soil and full sun, and appreciates watering when rainfall is inadequate. A truly tropical plant, roselle is only cold hardy in zones 9-10.


Cluster of small white flowersOctober

Elderberry – Elderberry flowers and fruit have been prized around the world since prehistoric times. And of course the local wildlife have always enjoyed this abundant food resource. Elderberry plants do contain toxins, and special care should be taken when consuming the fruit. Native to the eastern coast of the US, elderberry prefer moist, fertile soils and full sun.


Small flowers, fringe like pale purple petals and yellow centerSeptember

Elliot's Aster – This Florida native aster has a sprawling shape that quickly fills gaps in pollinator gardens and is very attractive to bees. Its light purple, delicate blooms emerge in late summer and early fall. It grows best in USDA Hardiness Zones 8B – 10B in full sun and tolerates a range of soils.


Yellow flowers of thryallisAugust

Thryallis – Also commonly known as "rain-of-gold," Galphimia gracilis is a flowering, evergreen shrub. Although native to Mexico and Central America, thryallis is well-adapted to Florida's climate and not considered invasive. It thrives in Central and South Florida, USDA Hardiness Zones 9-11. Further north than zone 9 it may experience freeze damage and some die back. Still, with proper cold protection thryallis will grow back from the roots year after year, even in North Florida.


three sweetsop fruits, one cut openJuly

Sweetsop – Home-grown tropical fruits are one of the joys unique to Florida gardening. If you're looking for another fruit tree for your landscape, we have a couple suggestions for you! Two unusual but delicious tropical fruits are sugar apple (sweetsop) and its relative, soursop. Cross-pollinating sweetsop and the closely-related cherimoya produces another tasty fruit: the hybrid, atemoya.


A mass of roots elevated about waterJune

Mangroves – A keystone species providing essential services, mangroves act as the base for the entire estuarine community. Occasionally referred to as the "kidneys of the coast," mangroves are magnificent filters and maintain necessary water clarity for offshore corals and near shore seagrasses. The 1996 Mangrove Trimming and Preservation Act prohibits trimming or alteration of mangroves on publicly owned lands and sets specific limits for trimming or removal of mangroves on private property.


A small purplish-white flowerMay

Horsemint – Horsemint is popular with pollinators and appealing to gardeners as well. The fragrance of the leaves and flowers add a new dimension to a landscape. Also known as bee balm, horsemint is native herb worth adding to your garden. Horsemint's mounding shape is well suited for an informal garden or to a mass planting. Gardeners interested in hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies will be delighted by the variety this plant attracts.


A cluster of tiny, white, bell-shaped flowersApril

Sparkleberry – Native to Florida, sparkleberry is a close relative of blueberry, huckleberry, lingonberry, and cranberry. Delicate flowers, glossy foliage, shiny berries, and interesting bark give it year-round interest. Sparkleberry is wildlife friendly, drought tolerant, wind resistant, and well adapted to Florida's sandy soils. It can be trained as a small tree with pruning and grows from USDA Hardiness Zones 6 down to 9b. 


A terra cotta planter full of bright green grassMarch

Rice – Ornamental grasses are enjoying a landscaping renaissance, and rice shouldn't be overlooked! The green blades add fresh color to planters, even in our summer heat. Gardeners hoping to support wildlife will enjoy how attractive the grain is to birds. Florida also has a native species of wild rice, Zizania aquatica.


Cluster of small pink flowersFebruary

Eastern Redbud – This small native tree erupts with pink or white flowers on its bare branches in the spring. Redbud's rapid growth and small size make it a popular choice in home landscapes. It grows across the eastern half of the United States, from USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 9A.


Cool blue flowers of plumbagoJanuary

Plumbago – Plumbago is a low-maintenance shrub that brings interest to many Florida landscapes. Its clusters of cool blue or white flowers are unmatched and make it a favorite among traditional garden selections. Most are familiar with the blue variety, but there is a white-flowering native species as well. Plumbago generally looks its best when planted in full sun and well-drained soil.


2020

Green needle like foliage of pine treeDecember

Longleaf Pine – The longleaf pine is one of our most majestic natives. The unique longleaf pine ecosystem is home to a rich variety of plants and animals, including Florida mice, gopher frogs, eastern diamond-back rattlesnakes, and the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. While longleaf pine is not usually planted in landscapes, they are often preserved on construction sites as specimen plantings.


A tan pumpkinNovember

Seminole Pumpkin – Gardeners in the Sunshine State sometimes struggle to find vegetables that will make it through our relentless summer heat. Seminole pumpkins just may be the answer to their search! Traditionally grown by the Calusa, Creek, and Miccosukee peoples, Seminole pumpkins remain one of the tastiest and most reliable pumpkins for Florida gardens.


A tuft of airy green Elliots lovegrassOctober

Lovegrass – Two native species, Elliot's lovegrass and purple lovegrass, are excellent choices for a wildlife-friendly landscape. They need not be confined to wild spaces, however. Both species make excellent borders and accent plants and are very attractive in massed plantings. In USDA Hardiness Zone 8A and further south they are perennials, coming back year after year.


A light green round tomatillo shedding its papery huskSeptember

Tomatillo – Tomatillos belong to the same family as tomatoes and are grown in a similar manner. Native to Central America, tomatillos do well in home gardens throughout Florida, but planting times vary; they are sensitive to frost. Tomatillos are often used in stews, molés, and salsas.


The large light green and almost perfectly round leaves of seagrape with clusters of green fruits resembling grapes, with the beach in the backgroundAugust

Seagrape – Named for its coastal home and the clusters of grape-like fruits it produces, seagrape is a versatile landscape plant, but it is also protected. This native species covers the coastal areas of Central and South Florida in zones 10A-11. Seagrape tolerates drought, salt spray, and salty soils, making it a Florida-Friendly choice for beachfront homes.


Tight cluster of white elongated heart shaped leaves that are white with bright pink veinsJuly

Caladiums – Over 1,200 acres of Florida land are planted with caladiums for commercial production.These popular landscape plants are fast-growing and bring life to shady areas. They are easy to grow in Florida's warm, humid climate and will provide beautiful color throughout spring, summer, and fall.


Cluster of tiny orange flowers of butterflyweedJune

Milkweed – This group of flowering plants serves as an important resource for butterflies and pollinators. In fact, milkweed is the only plant material monarch caterpillars can eat. Plant milkweed in full sun; these plants grow naturally in dry, sandy soil. Their thin stems and widely spaced leaves give a slightly weedy appearance, so most gardeners mix them with shorter plants.


Green leave of heirloom collards on a black backgroundMay

Greens – If you're looking for an easy addition to your garden, look no further. Greens are generally considered cool-season vegetables. This includes spinach, collards, kale, mustard, and turnip greens. In Florida, the season to plant these is August through February. But there are a few, like Swiss chard and Malabar spinach, that tolerate warmer temperatures.


Pale purple flowers of agapanthusApril

Agapanthus – This summer-flowering bulb is ideal for Southern gardens in USDA hardiness zones 9-11. Don't let its delicate flowers deceive you; it's a deceptively tough plant. Native to South Africa, agapanthus performs well in partial shade or full sun, drought, and even our sandy loam soil.


Yellow puffball flower of sweet acaciaMarch

Sweet Acacia – This Florida-Friendly tree has it all: tolerance to drought, heat, and salt, show-stopping looks, and a scent that will perfume your entire neighborhood. Sweet acacia is also a Florida native and pollinator-friendly. Its spines make it a refuge for birds and other wildlife. It thrives in USDA hardiness zones 9a – 11.


A mass of hot pink bougainvillea flowers which are technically bractsFebruary

Bougainvillea – This tropical, vining shrub comes in a pallet of bright pinks, purples, oranges, and yellows. It thrives in arid, sunny climates; the more sun, the better! It needs to be protected from frost and freeze. Bougainvillea can be trained into a stand-alone shrub or allowed to grow naturally as a vine.


Round tuberous vegetableJanuary

Kohlrabi – A very productive cool-weather crop, kohlrabi is easy to grow and matures quickly. Because of this, gardeners can grow multiple crops in one season. The planting time and methods are very similar to those of cabbage. Popular varieties for Florida include 'White Vienna', 'Kolibri' (red), and 'Terek' (green).


2019