Plant of the Month

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

2023

A cluster of small yellow berries drooping from a stem like grapesFebruary

Golden Dewdrop – This evergreen shrub or small tree makes an attractive backdrop or privacy barrier. Its common name references the showy yellow fruits that cascade from the plant in the summer, but it offers flowers as well. Golden dewdrop grows to a maximum height of eight to 15 feet and is hardy in USDA zones 9B through 11.


A tall clump of grassy-looking sugarcaneJanuary

Sugarcane – With foodscapes increasing in popularity, one way you can add an attractive edible to your landscape is by planting sugarcane. This perennial grass from the genus Saccharum ranges in color from green to red to purple. There are different varieties for various intended uses; some are bred for chewing, while others are grown for crystalizing, or for making syrup.


2022

A small evergreen tree with a shape similar to a Christmas treeDecember

Red Cedar – Red cedar is a Florida native evergreen that adds year-round color and texture to your landscape. This tree is highly tolerant of both drought and salt spray, making it an excellent choice for a variety of landscapes. Its pleasing form makes red cedar also popular as a cut or living Christmas tree.


Large leaves of greens on a black backgroundNovember

Greens – Rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K, greens are easy to grow and very nutritious. They're also a good source of calcium, potassium, folate, and iron. This group of plants includes spinach, collards, kale, mustard, and turnip greens. Generally considered cool-season vegetables, the time to plant these in Florida is August through February.


strange purple flowerOctober

Bat Flower – With ghostly bracts that look like wings, the bat flower is a unique addition to any home gardener's collection. With a little extra care, this conversation starter can grow very well in Florida.


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

2019