Container gardening expands useful landscape space, with year-round potential in Florida. Depending on where you live in Florida, however, some plants do better than others--Florida's environment is highly variable, depending on the region. Southernmost Florida rarely sees freezing temperatures, whereas in North Florida, winter frosts are quite common. Coastal areas remain warmer than inland locations, but have higher wind and salt conditions. Choose the right plant for your particular area, paying attention to climate and light conditions. Be prepared to protect cold sensitive plants in Central and North Florida regions.
Lady palms (Rhaphis excelsa) are small, delicate, deciduous palms suitable for patio containers. Lady palms commonly grow 6 to 10 feet tall, capable of reaching 15 feet. Its leaves are about 1 foot across, in a palm-like form of 10 to 15 segments. Lady palms have slender, fibrous trunks that form a dense cluster. Grow lady palms in partial to deep shade, in nutrient-rich, organic soils. Lady palms grow in all Florida areas, but require protection from frost.
Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spp.) are evergreen sprawling, woody vines with a rapid growth rate. Its leaves are 2 to 4 inches long and some species may produce a sharp, slender thorn in the leaf axils. Bougainvillea flowers are not showy, but they are surrounded by very distinct, large, brightly colored bracts (modified leaves) up to inches long. Bract colors vary by species and hybrid, ranging from purple, white, yellow, pink or orange. Grow bougainvillea in full sun for the best flowering and sandy, well-drained soil. Prune bougainvillea frequently to control its size and shape. Give bougainvillea plenty of room to grow, allowing it to cascade.
Lantana (Lantana camara) is a multi-branched, spreading, evergreen shrub growing up to 5 feet tall. Lantana has simple, 5-inch leaves and pretty, orange, yellow, red or pink flowers in 2-inch clusters. Grow lantana in full sun on various, well-drained soils for the best flowering and form. Lantana grows in all areas of Florida, but will freeze back in winter.
Shrimp plants (Justicia brandegeana) are evergreen, leggy shrubs growing 4 to 6 feet tall. Their interesting feature is the white flowers with reddish-brown bracts that combine and form 4- to 6-inch-long drooping spikes that resemble shrimp. Shrimp plants make an interesting accent and are less floppy if pruned. Grow shrimp plants in full sun for compact growth and good flowering. Plant them in nutrient-rich, moisture-retentive soils.
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