Hardy, beautiful, long-living perennials are the gifts that keep on giving to Central Florida landscapes! Many perennial plants are very well-suited to our humid climate, high temperatures and intense summer sun – which means you have numerous options for creating a landscaping plan or garden spot that provides the look and function you want for your property and lifestyle.
Most people are familiar with the terms perennials and annuals, but as a recap, annuals are plants that last for a single year, while – depending upon the type – perennials can live from two to more than 20 years.
Why Your Yard Needs Perennials
While garden enthusiasts love visiting their home center or nursery to bring back containers of bright, colorful annuals, these flowering plants have a long blooming season, but live for just that one season. They must be dug out and replaced the next year – either with the same type of plant, or a different annual. Gardeners don’t necessarily consider this a bad situation or inconvenience. Instead, they see it as an opportunity to get creative with new flowers and new flower bed configurations.
Viewed from this perspective, if annuals provide beguiling pops of color that change from year-to-year, perennials provide the foundation for yard and garden landscaping. They’re the backdrop that remains consistent, allowing annuals their time and place to shine. Although most perennials have vibrant flowers, they continue as attractive plants that enhance the yard after their blooming season is finished. Moreover, the robust root system of perennial plants can prevent erosion and preserve nutritious, valuable topsoil.
Due to the wide variety of perennials available, it is incredibly easy to add several artistic elements to the yard besides colors – such as vining tendency, height and texture. For this reason, it’s possible to have a yard of exclusively perennials, with no compromise in aesthetic appeal. Which brings us to a major advantage of perennials – they require less maintenance than annuals! After all, not every homeowner has the inclination, time or ability to clear out flower beds and replant each year.
Top 10 Perennials for Central Florida Yards
If you have tried to grow certain plants but failed or faced challenges due to the Sunshine State’s climate, we have curated a list of 10 popular perennials that will thrive in Central Florida yards. If you’re looking for some low-maintenance plants that will make your landscape stunning, look no further! The following recommendations are provided courtesy of University of Florida IFAS Extension for perennials and Florida native plants, and Free Plants. Our blog post – “Landscaping with Florida Native Plants” – provides additional suggestions.
Azalea – Azaleas are widely planted in Florida yards because of the bright, colorful flowers they produce. Most of the evergreen azaleas found in home landscapes are hybrids, and came from Asia. Because evergreen azaleas hold their leaves year-round, they make great backdrop plants for seasonal flower beds. And of course in the spring, they put on their own show with flowers ranging in color from white, to pink, to red, depending on the cultivar.
One widely planted evergreen cultivar is ‘George Lindley Tabor’, a variety that produces countless soft pink flowers each spring and grows to about 10 feet tall and eight feet wide. It is classified as a Southern Indica hybrid, a type favored by gardeners for its vigor and tolerance of colder temperatures, typically down to 20°F without experiencing serious damage.
Bird of Paradise – Strelitzia reginae, or bird of paradise, is a stunning tropical plant that is famous for its eye-catching blue and orange flowers. The unique shape of the flowers makes it appear like a bird in flight. The banana-like evergreen leaves produce a lush backdrop. Look for a sunny or partly sunny location. It will need regular watering and fertilizing to grow and flower at its best. Over time, the plant can form a three- to five-foot tall clump. It is also available in a white-flowering form which can grow up to 15-30 feet tall. Cover when a hard freeze is forecast, or plant in a pot that can be moved indoors.
Bougainvillea – This is a tropical vining shrub that comes in a wide array of bright and fanciful colors. The “flowers” are actually modified leaves, called bracts, which are long-lasting and bright. The colorful bracts outshine the plant’s true (but tiny) flower, much like a poinsettia. Bougainvillea blooms in fuchsia, red, white, yellow, and orange. It can be pruned into a shrub-like form, but is more often trained to grow over fences and trellises to dramatic effect. It can grow up to a height of eight-to-20 feet, with a diameter spread of around 10-40 feet. Bougainvilleas require full sun and perform better when their soil is left a little dry, making this a perfect plant for the drought-tolerant landscape. Protect from frost and freeze.
Camellia – Camellias bloom in the fall and winter, when their stunning display of colorful flowers is most appreciated. During the rest of the year, their interesting textures and shape, evergreen foliage, and moderate growth make camellias an ideal landscape plant. Camellias can serve several functions in the landscape – including foundation plantings, screens, accent plants, background groupings and hedges. You can also enjoy continuous blooms by opting for a range of camellias that bloom at different times of the year. Plant in a sheltered location with partial shade to help them grow and bloom better. Try to prune before late summer.
Hibiscus – This lavish flowering shrub blooms in a rainbow of colors and creates a picture of a vivid tropical paradise. Tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) is commonly seen in garden centers and landscapes. Flowers can be many colors, come in single or double forms, and often last for just a day. Individual flowers may be short-lived, but the plant will produce blooms over a long flowering season. Hibiscus attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Tropical hibiscus are sensitive to cold weather; the slightest cold wave can cause lower leaves to yellow and drop off.
Hydrangea – Also known as French hydrangea, hydrangea is a large shrub with stunning masses of color. The two kinds of hydrangeas offer different looks to a garden. “Mop heads” have big round, dense balls of showy flowers that add a bold statement, whereas “lace caps” are more subtle and elegant. Hydrangeas need minimal care in well-drained, fertile soil, and are shade lovers. They’ll grow to several feet in height and can be three to five feet wide. The native oakleaf hydrangea has deeply lobed leaves that resemble large oak leaves.
Knock Out® Roses – A relatively recent shrub rose cultivar introduced in 2000, Knock Out roses can be planted throughout Florida and bloom year-round. They’re available in a variety of colors ranging from vibrant red to blush pink to yellow. Self-cleaning and drought-tolerant, they are resistant to black spot and powdery mildew. Knock Out roses are ideal for gardeners who love the appearance of roses, but don’t want the high maintenance requirements. These plants need at least six to eight hours of sunlight every day, and regular watering. It also helps to have a site with good air movement and well-drained soil that falls between pH 6.0 and pH 6.5.
Pentas – Also known as Egyptian star cluster, this is a slow-growing perennial plant that is native to Africa. Planting pentas in your yard will provide you with an all-year-round blooming garden and make it an attractive place for butterflies and hummingbirds. Pentas plants are available in a variety of colored flowers with each flower having five petals. You can choose from white, lavender, red, or pink blooms or bring a mix of different colored pentas into your yard. These plants can grow up to a height of six feet. However, as these plants can spread up to 15 inches, you must keep ample space around them.
Persian Shield – Also known as Bermuda conehead, Persian shield is a royal purple, evergreen perennial that can grow up to a height of three to four feet. This plant originates from Myanmar and is a tropical shrub that enchants gardeners with its deep purple, six-inch (15 cm) long foliage veined with green. It offers striking flowers in different shades of pink and white. In Florida, this beauty blooms throughout the year. This plant will thrive in full sun or shade equally, but keep in mind that the color will be less impressive under too much light.
Salvias – Salvias are herbaceous plants, usually with square stems. Flowers are borne in spikes which may be scarlet, purple, pink, blue, white, or yellow. They are great plants for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden, and have no serious pests. Salvias are at home in mass plantings, borders and even containers.
The height, spread, flower color, flowering season, and cold tolerance will vary depending on the specific salvia you choose. One particular species may have variable flower colors, as well. For example, the popular and native perennial salvia commonly called scarlet sage or scarlet salvia (Salvia coccinea) can have white, pink, or red flowers. Salvias bloom from spring to fall, and can reach a height of around three to four feet. They can grow under different conditions, and are drought-tolerant.
Want Beauty and Easier Maintenance? Try Florida Native Perennials!
Plants that thrive magnificently all on their own in Central Florida yards may sound too good to be true. However, Central Florida is a subtropical climate, and the state has many unique characteristics when it comes to soil, water and wildlife. The plants we see today have taken many thousands of years to adapt to our specific climate and geography. Because of this, Florida native plants can naturally endure the state’s heavy rainy season, very hot temperatures, periods of drought, humidity, occasional winter freezes, the harsh sun and more.
The biggest benefit is that they’re simply easier to take care of! Florida native plants allow you to put in less effort for incredible results. Moreover, landscaping with Florida native plants will support your local ecosystem and curb the spread of intrusive, non-native species.
Some of the perennials mentioned in our “Top 10” list have native Florida species. For example, native azaleas – also known as bush honeysuckle – have smaller flowers and are more delicate-looking, but they’re also very fragrant, whereas non-natives have no fragrance. They usually bloom at the same time as other varieties, in the spring, with spectacular colors ranging from peach to pink to yellow. These fragrant native azaleas will reach up to a height of 10 feet and slowly lose their leaves during the winter. They prefer acidic, well-drained soil and are drought-tolerant. It requires little maintenance other than occasional pruning to have a healthy shape.
Another great example is Hibiscus coccineus, also known as the scarlet rosemallow, marsh hibiscus, or swamp mallow. This upright herbaceous perennial can reach a height of 4 to 8 feet. The long leaves of the marsh hibiscus have slender lobes with jagged teeth. Large, gorgeous deep-red flowers appear in mid- to late summer.
Understand that we’ve just scratched the surface of perennials that can add beauty, enjoyment and distinction to your Central Florida yard! We hope we’ve provided inspiration for avid gardeners to incorporate more of these amazing plants into your landscape design. However, if you’re not the green thumb type but still want your property to be a source of pride and the neighborhood jewel, call Daniel’s Lawn Care & Pressure Washing to design, plant and even maintain the yard of your dreams!
Our full-service company provides landscape design, tree installation, tree trimming, yard maintenance, pressure washing and so much more. Contact us today so we can do the work, and you can do the enjoying! We proudly serve all of Central Florida – including Orlando, Sanford, Longwood and Lake Mary! We look forward to helping you achieve your goals and bring your vision to life!