As the southeasternmost state, Florida experiences balmy winters, hot humid summers and more than its share of hurricanes. Northern parts of the state often suffer from crop-killing winter freezes. Many deciduous shrubs, however, meet the demands of life in Florida's landscapes. They range from low-spreading plants to large screening shrubs. They add years of bright color, showy or fragrant blooms and interesting foliage to your Florida garden.
Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla), according to the University of Florida's IFAS Extension, is a good shrub for central Florida gardens. Standing up to 10 feet high and wide, hydrangea has snowball-shaped summer blooms in white, pink or blue. Gardeners can amend their soil to produce booms of the desired shade.
Soil low in phosphorous with a pH reading of 4.5 to 5 will produce blue flowers. Phosphorous-rich alkaline soil with a pH of 6.3 to 6.5 causes pink ones. Flowers dried on the shrub until fall may take on tones of deep pink or burgundy and work well in dried floral arrangements. Hydrangea's large, medium-green leaves make a good backdrop for other flowers. Plant in full sun or part shade, where other trees won't compete for soil nutrients.
Fragrant honeysuckle (Lonerica fragrantissima) also stands up to 10 feet high and wide. Native to China, it has a bushy form with delightfully fragrant white tube-shaped flowers. They bloom before the shrub leafs out, announcing that spring is on the way. Like those of forsythia, budding honeysuckle branches will bloom if cut and placed in water.
Red berries follow the flowers in summer, contrasting effectively with dark green leaves. Clip shrubs to form hedges or let them grow as a privacy screen. Fragrant honeysuckle tolerates many soils but does best in moist well-drained loam. Plant it in full sun to part shade. Prune for shaping after it has flowered.
Ideal for hummingbird gardens, coral plant (Russelia equisetiformas) is native to Mexico. Up to 4 feet high and 5 feet wide, it may root wherever its branches touch the soil. Between June and September, drooping clusters of brilliant red tube-like flowers conceal the needle-fine green foliage. Hummingbirds flock to these shrubs.
Cascading stems and blooms make this shrub effective in containers or trained upward against walls and trellises. This sun-loving plant, says the Missouri Botanical Garden, will tolerate dry locations when mature. Young coral plants, however, benefit from well-drained soils with medium moisture.