Northwest Florida is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 8, not exactly tropical, but the winter temperatures do not usually get below zero either. Plants that are recommended for northwest Florida are not always hardy in the rest of the state, but are just as colorful and dramatic as the more tropical ones in the south.
Taro (Colocasia esculenta) is also known as dasheen, elephant ear, cocoyam, eddo and eddoe. The plant grows as tall as 8 feet with a similar spread producing heart-shaped leaves that grow from 2 to 3 feet long and 1 to 2 feet wide. The leaves grow on stems that are succulent, purple and 3 feet tall. Plant taro in partial shade and a rich, organic, moist or wet soil.
Butterfly blue (cabiosa columbaria) is also known as small scabious and is a member of the sundew family. The plant forms a clump and grows up to 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The plant produces 2- to 6-inch-long, gray-green, hairy leaves that grow from the base and shorter ones on the stems. The lavender-blue flower heads are made up from many tiny flowers, measure 1 1/2 inches across and bloom from summer until first frost. Plant butterfly blue in full sun and a very well-drained soil that is more dry than moist. Butterflies and bees will come for the nectar and the flowers go well in cut flower arrangements.
Angel-star (Brugmansia suaveolens) is also known as angel trumpet and brugmansia and is a member of the nightshade family. The shrub grows from 6 to 15 feet tall, but very rarely reaches more than 8 feet in northwest Florida. The plant produces oval-shaped leaves that grow up to 10 inches long and 6 inches wide and fragrant, white, yellow or pink trumpet-shaped hanging flowers that grow to about 12 inches long. Plant angel-star in full sun to get the most flower production and in a soil that is moist and well drained. In northwest Florida, the plant will die back to the ground in the winter and grow again in the spring.
Montbretia (Crocosmia X crocosmiiflora) is a member of the iris family that produces pale-green strap-like leaves that grow from 2 to 3 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide. The red, orange or yellow flowers are funnel-shaped, grow in clusters and measure 2 inches across. Plant montbretia in full sun or partial shade and in a consistently moist soil.
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