Northwest Florida lies within USDA planting zone 8, which means that it experiences annual frosts and freezes as well as warm, humid summers. Planting in this region can be tricky due to the fluctuations in temperatures. Plants that are commonly grown in the central and southern regions of Florida will find the northwest part of the state too cold, and gardeners should plant them as annuals or container-grown plants. Plants used to living in cooler regions may find the area's temperatures not cold enough to set fruit or flowers. Gardeners planting shrubs should consider using native flowering plants, as they are used to the climatic changes in the region.
Consider using native flowering shrubs well adapted to northwest Florida such as Carolina aster (Aster carolinianus) and southern blackhaw (Viburnum rufidulum). Utilize the Florida-Friendly Plant List published by "The University of Florida" (Resources), which lists the flowering shrubs that grow well in the area.
Consider the amount of light the planting site receives during the day. Certain northwest Florida plants require full sunlight for best bloom production, such as weeping lantana.
Select shrubs that will tolerate the amount of salt your environment receives. Coastal areas in northwest Florida can receive large amounts of wind-blown salt, and flowering plants such as butterfly bush has a low salt tolerance.
Study the size of the planting area to see how much space is available for planting the shrubs. Check for any obstructions such as structures, windows, walkways or power lines that can interfere with the mature size shrub. Select shrubs that will fit into the area once mature.
Check how well the planting site drains, if unsure. Dig a hole in the area and fill it with water. Allow it to sit overnight and if water remains in the hole, consider the planting area a wet site. Choose plants accordingly. Ninety percent of Florida's soil, including northwest Florida, is sand, though some areas are prone to saturation.
Add organic material such as compost, peat or manure to the planting site. Due to Florida's sandy nature, the soil requires the addition of organic material, especially for non-native flowering shrubs.
Group together flowering shrubs with similar water needs. This will cut down on the possibility of one plant getting too much water and another not enough.
Water the flowering shrubs according to their requirements. Northwest Florida can experience hot and dry weather in which the shrubs can require an extra dose of water. Watering regularly will assure the shrubs never suffer wilt or drought. Apply a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch around the base of shrub to retain moisture in the soil and cut down on future weed growth.
Fertilize the flowering shrubs according to their particular requirements. Native varieties such as weeping lantana are used to growing in northwest Florida's environment and do not require fertilization for growth or bloom. Non-native shrubs might require three to four applications divided equally throughout the growing season.