The addition of deciduous or semi-evergreen shrubs in Florida landscapes serves two important purposes: During hot periods of summer, their foliage creates shade and promotes a cooler environment, and during the cooler winter months, the loss of their foliage allows sunshine to enter the landscape creating warmth. Florida gardeners have many choices in deciduous or semi-evergreen shrubs that will thrive in their areas.
Seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera) grows well in warmer areas of central and south Florida. Considered a perennial, semi-evergreen, this large shrub experiences year-round leaf drop but never totally loses all its foliage. Plants produce white, fragrant flowers throughout spring with clusters of edible grape-like fruits that follow the blooming period. The grapes are an important food source for native wildlife, including butterflies, which use the plant as a source of nectar.
Seagrape is suitable for coastal plantings as it has a high tolerance to both salt spray and wind. Plants grow anywhere from 3 to 35 feet in height with a spreading habit of 10 to 50 feet. Seagrapes are trainable as either a shrub or tree. Relatively problem-free, seagrape plants tolerate growing in the poorest soils and have a high drought-tolerance. It will perform best when grown in full to partial sun conditions. Prune only to control its shape and size.
French hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) grows well as a perennial in the cooler regions of north and central Florida. It requires a cool winter for proper growth and flower production. It has a deciduous habit in areas of Florida that experience annual winter frosts, and in warmer areas the plant will retain a portion of its foliage. Large, ball-like clusters of flowers form in colors of pink, blue, purple or white, depending on cultivar, in spring throughout summer. French hydrangea is suitable for growing in containers.
Plants grow best situated in shady areas of Florida landscapes, but tolerate some amount of morning sun followed by afternoon shade. French hydrangea prefers growing in well-drained, moist soils that are not flooded. Plants grow up to 12 feet high with the same spreading habit. Hydrangea is moderately drought and salt tolerant once established. Prune after the blooming period to control shape and size.
Weigela florida, also called old fashion weigela, belongs in the family Caprifoliacea. It grows best in the cooler areas of north and central Florida as a perennial, deciduous, large shrub. It has branches that arch towards the ground and a rounded, spreading canopy. Bell-shaped, 1-inch flowers form May throughout June in colors of rose or pink. Weigela florida is suitable for use in hedges, borders or in mass plantings.
Relatively problem-free, weigela tolerates a wide variety of well-draining soil mediums. Plants obtain a height of 6 to 9 feet at maturity with a spreading habit of 9 to 12 feet. It prefers to grow in full sun with moderate water. Gardeners should prune weigela after the blooming period to control its size and shape.