To keep your Florida garden looking its best, you'll need to fill it with blooming plants that can handle the state's climate. This means choosing plants that tolerate torrential downpours, hurricane-force winds, high humidity, scorching summer temperatures, and, in some cases, salt spray. Native Florida flowering plants--whether trees, shrubs, vines or bulbs--are the only ones proven to handle the Sunshine State’s weather when it's not at its temperate best.
A member of the pea family, American wisteria (wisteria frutescens) grows wild along Florida's river banks and in its wet woodlands. The glossy dark green leaves of this 25- to 35-foot vine make a marvelous backdrop for its 6- to 9-inch clusters of white or lavender May and June blooms. Nectar from the fragrant 1-inch blossoms attracts butterflies. Brown seed pods follow the flowers, remaining on the plants through the winter.
An ideal ornamental plant for trellises, fences and porch columns, wisteria graces gardens throughout the American South. It tolerates both sun and shade, and is happiest in rich, moist slightly acidic loam. Plant wisteria with southern or southwestern exposure protected from cold wind and early morning sun on cold mornings. Wisteria can handle flooding.
A perennial found growing wild in Florida's woods, Carolina petunia (ruellia carolineiensis) stands between 2 and 3 feet high. It has medium green oval leaves and five-petaled trumpet-like purple flowers. Blooming from June through August, plants seldom have more than two flowers open simultaneously.
Carolina petunia likes dry sandy soil and a partly shady location. Buy started plants at nurseries and or root them from stem cuttings taken in the summer. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center advises keeping seedlings protected until their second year.
Sometined called rain lily, atamasco lily (zephyranthes atamasca) grows wild in roadside ditches, bottom-lands, meadows and wet woodlands. This 8- to 15-inch lily is a naturalizing perennial. Between March and June, it produces showy white single flowers above clumps of narrow glossy green leaves. The 3- to 4-inch flowers take on a pink hue as they age.
The lilies grow from bulbs. While they tolerate deep shade, they do best with one to two hours of sun or up to four hours of partial shade. They prefer moist, organically rich and slightly acidic soils but will handle alkalinity and can withstand flooding. Lift bulbs before winter, however, if you live in an area where the ground freezes.
Growing wild among the sandhills and coastal flatwoods of northern and central Florida, scarlet calamint (clinopodium coccineum) is a 1- to 3-foot shrub that blooms all year. Its faintly fragrant foliage is topped with clusters of small trumpet-shaped scarlet blooms, mottled with darker red.
Flowers peak in the summer, but scarlet calamint continues to color landscapes when almost every other plant has given up. The blossom's nectar is a hummingbird magnet, providing even more garden interest. Plant scarlet calamint in dry, acidic sandy soil and sun to part shade. It can handle brief dry spells but does better with moderate watering.