Agri Leader

Several Florida Friendly plants add something special to your landscape

Spring is just around the corner and that means it's time to think about updating your landscape setting. If you need a little variety, there are plenty of Florida friendly shrubs that will fill the bill. Here are a few choices that are sure to add a little spice to any yard or garden.

It can often be difficult to find shrubs that work well as ground cover. Mexican bluebell is a spreading or upright perennial that thrives even in the toughest of conditions. This plant produces lovely flowers in shades of red, pink, blue or violet that bloom in the spring, summer and fall months. These flowers are known to draw a number of butterflies, which make them an interesting addition.

Mexican bluebell works well as a border or ground cover and also looks great in containers. If you are interested in adding new trees, maples are always a good bet for Florida yards. The full-moon maple is a small tree, making it perfect for a specimen tree near patios or walkways. This tree is beautiful, producing showy red flowers that are sure to capture the attention of your neighbors.

The "Bloodgood" Japanese maple is a little bigger and it also makes a good residential landscape tree. These maples are a bit more susceptible to injury from frost or sun scorch so keep that in mind when choosing a planting area.

Maple trees may suffer injury from aphids, scales or boring insects so frequent monitoring is recommended. Verticillium wilt can cause die back, poor vigor and can eventually kill trees if left untreated.

Aromatic plants can give your landscape setting an exotic feel. Jasmine cultivars smell heavenly in the early evening hours and are pretty enough for a specimen tree or shrub. Crepe-jasmine is showy enough for a prime position in your yard and it does best in partial shade.

Like any plant grown in Florida, there are a few pests you must watch for on jasmine such as scale insects, mites and honeydew secreting bugs that cause black, sooty mold to stick to the foliage. Sprinkled with tiny, white flowers Confederate jasmine makes a lovely running vine that is easy to train on fences, trees or a trellis. Although confederate jasmine is not as fragrant as some members of this plant family, it still smells nice in the evening just before darkness falls.

Palm trees are tropical and are common additions to many residential landscapes as well as commercial buildings. If you are looking for a hearty, sturdy palm consider saw palmetto. These trees are native to Florida and look nice in rustic settings.

Saw palmetto has large leaves that grow low to the ground, which creates a thick ground cover. The berries it produces also attract a variety of birds and wildlife into the area. Swamp cabbage is a delicacy and comes from the heart of this palm and is delicious when cooked just right.

Even if you don't try your hand at making swamp cabbage, this tree is Florida friendly and easy to find in most local plant nurseries. Some other palm trees that work well in residential yards are bamboo palm, lady palm, parlor palm and European fan palm.

If you are looking to add fresh color to your yard or garden, there are many plants to choose from. Zinnias, beach sunflower, French marigold, China aster, Shasta daisy and purple coneflower are all excellent choices that will brighten any landscape setting.

Dusty miller is great for breaking up large plantings and its silvery color looks beautiful in the moonlight. Most of these plants do well in moist, well-drained soil just as long as the roots do not stay wet. This increases the chance of root rot, which can cause an unhealthy appearance or plant death. Most local landscapers recommend the compact "Silver Queen" cultivar for home gardeners.

Spring time will be here before we know it, so now is the time to think about how you want your yard to look this season. Even the smallest changes can brighten up a dull landscape setting.

Whether you add dramatic specimen trees or place a few new colorful flowers around your flower bed, you will enjoy a change and make your yard an inviting place to be. Before giving your entire yard an overhaul, it is usually best to consult a landscape professional before advice on plant types and placement. These professionals can give you advice on sprinkler placement, mowing height, fertilizer and more.