Even though the weather has been changeable, one day hot and dry, the next cold and blustery, it’s still gardening season in Florida. Some plants and annual flowers may be suffering from unpredictable weather. One tactic to make annuals last and bloom a little longer is to remove old flowers to encourage more growth and new blooms. The practice is called “deadheading” and is the process of removing old, spent flowers.
Deadheading is a chore that never ends and a good one to work in whenever the time is available. The how of deadheading is simple, clip the old flowers close to the next leaf. Use clippers, sharp scissors, even fingernails work. remove the blooms and add them to the compost pile. Get the children involved, deadheading is a good way to get them involved with gardening.
As we approach the end of the gardening season, leave a few old flowers to form seed and/or fruit to feed wildlife. Seed-eating birds are fond of daisy seeds like sunflowers.
For years I offered advice and guidance to gardeners and green industry through real-time education and newspaper/online columns. It’s time to change things up a bit. Check it out! I’m very excited about the opportunity for you to book virtual consults for socially-distanced help.
This monthly newsletter, which will endeavor to offer tips and advice on seasonal changes and tasks, should be another resource to help you get growing. We will take a look occasionally at new plants and new pests that come our way. New year, new yard! Let’s go!
Tips: Florida Gardening in February
Bougainvilleas are in full bloom right now. Admiral Louis Antoine de Bougainville, the first Frenchman to cross the Pacific surely would be pleased to see the popularity of the plant he and the European botanist traveling with him discovered in Rio de Janeiro in 1760. The native locations give us a hint on the proper place and conditions to grow beautiful Bougainvillea.
The secret to great Bougs is in the water and light. This tropical vine is very drought tolerant and requires additional water only during very droughty conditions. They prefer a hot, sunny location and be careful about pruning. Arguably, the most common culprit of no blooms on Bougainvillea is continual shearing or pruning; constant pruning removes the flowers before they emerge and show off.
Give Flowers – Everyone loves to get flowers anytime not just Valentine’s Day. Try something unusual, something which will bloom year after year, tropical bulbs. Good choices for southern gardeners include Aztec Lily, Amazon Lily, Blood Lily, Gloriosa, Rain Lily, Tritonia, Tuberose, and Watsonia. A friend sent me an Amaryllis bulb for the holidays, it brought a big smile to my face!
Here are a few interesting ones to consider:
- African Lily or Agapanthus africanus. Agapanthus will grow throughout Florida, however, in north Florida, a little protection from the cold may be necessary. Agapanthus blooms more freely when crowded, plant between Oct-Feb. Expect the blue or white flowers during the summer & early autumn.
- Caladium or Caladium X hortulanum. We grow caladiums for their beautiful leaves. Choose a partial shade location for the traditional heart-shaped leaf types and a sunny spot for the strap-leaf varieties. Typically, caladiums are planted from Feb-May, we enjoy the show through the fall. Ninety percent of the world’s caladiums are grown in Lake Placid, Florida.
- Kaffir Lily or Clivia minata. Plant Clivia bulbs any time of year just below the soil surface, 18-24 inches apart. Plant in partial shade for orange to scarlet flowers in the spring. Be sure any location is well-drained because Clivia will not tolerate soggy or wet soil.
Roses – Prune Florida roses throughout the year. Whenever working the roses, deadhead (remove spent blooms) and look for and remove canes exhibiting dieback. Hybrid teas roses may benefit from an inspection and pruning during February – March when the weather is cool. Avoid all but essential pruning during the summer. There is no dormant season for roses in Central and South Florida and the general rules for pruning shrubs apply, never remove more than 1/3 of the growth at any one time.
Tools – Scissors can be an invaluable gardener’s tool. I keep a good pair of shears handy for deadheading annuals, cutting roses for my sweetie, harvesting greens and other young veggies, and removing a yellow leaf or two. Like many tools, a sharp edge makes the work easier, sharpened shears regularly.
“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” – Kahlil Gibran
Be well. Garden with abandon, it’s good for you, body and soul. Plant an extra row when gardening and donate the surplus to the local food pantry, homeless kitchen, or women’s shelter when you harvest.
Until next time….