Flower beds filled with colorful annuals are possible year-round in Central Florida, which includes the region from Marion to Highlands Counties, and encompasses the cities of Tamoa, Ocala, Orlando, Melbourne and Daytona Beach. Spring and fall weather is similar to what many "Northern" Americans are familar with in their summers.The Florida summer is intensely hot and humid with rain. Winter is mild, with occasional threats of frost.
Spring (March to May)
With threat of frost gone and temperatures in the 70- to 85-degree range, the Central Florida spring allows you to grow a huge variety of annual flower choices. While cool-season plants begin to fade by April, the heat-loving plants are prospering. Spring choices include: annual phlox, marigold, petunia, salvia, cockscomb, ageratum, dusty miller, nicotiana, impatiens, moss rose, wax begonias, zinnia and verbena.
Summer (June to September)
Summer in Central Florida is punctuated with temperatures in the 90s, afternoon thunderstorms and oppressive humidity. Florida gardeners often call summer the "rainy season", to emphasize that plants must be able to endure and prosper in the heat, humidity and rain downpours. These conditions cause most spring annuals to wither. Change your choices to: pentas, torenia, caladium, lantana, Madagascar periwinkle, wax begonia and coleus.
Fall (October to December)
Once the rains and heat of summer break in mid-October, new annual plantings resemble the variety enjoyed in the spring. Since frosts may occur in late December, choose plants that thrive in comfortable to chilly nights with lows in the 40 to 50 F range. Revisit the list in the spring section, adding dianthus, snapdragon and geranium. Gardeners in southern counties can plant small poinsettias outdoors in November.
Winter (January and February)
A killing winter frost is not always widespread each year in Central Florida, but chances are highest in January and February. Thus, plants that tolerate bouts with light subfreezing temperatures thrive in the sun and cool weather. Try viola, flowering kale, dianthus and snapdragon in northerly counties and calendula, snapdragon, dianthus, annual phlox and gerbera daisy in southern coastal Central Florida. If you cover plants with a blanket to protect them from frost, you can keep your fall annual flowers prospering.