The difference between the average low temperatures in the north of Florida and the Florida Keys is 40 degrees, giving gardeners in the north a somewhat different choice of plants than those in the south to plant alongside varieties available all over the state. Tropical plants and plants that are hardy further north blend well together to create a true Florida garden.
Walter’s virburnum (Viburnum obovatum) is also known as small viburnum and small leaf viburnum. It grows to a height of 6 to 15 feet and produces 1- to 2-inch leaves and small white flowers that grow in clusters that bloom in the winter. Red fruits that turn black when they are ripe appear when the flowers are done. The plant is native to central Florida and prefers full sun and wet soil. It can be planted in northern and central Florida and is a favorite of butterflies and birds.
Chinese Pistachio Tree
The Chinese pistachio tree (Pistacia chinensis) is native to China and East Asia. The trees are either male or female. Plant one of each or the tree will not produce seeds. It is a deciduous tree that grows from 25 to 40 feet tall and has a spread of from 25 to 35 feet. The tree produces 8-inch-long green leaves that turn red, yellow or orange in the fall, small green flowers that grow in loose 8-inch long clusters at the ends of the branches and red fruit, but only on the female trees. It is hardy in northern and central Florida and needs full sun and a soil that is moist and well-drained.
Variegated Shell Ginger
Variegated shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet) is also known as pink porcelain lily and grows to about 6 feet tall. It is a perennial that produces variegated leaves that grow to 2 feet long and 6 inches wide and pink-tipped white flowers that resemble small seashells. The plant prefers partial shade and rich organic soil. Variegated shell ginger grows in all of Florida but needs protection from frost in the north in order to produce flowers. It is used as a specimen plant or as a container plant on a shaded deck or patio or as a house plant.
Hardy Prickly Pear
Hardy prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa) is also known as prickly pear cactus and prickly pear. The cactus produces oblong, flat pads that grow from 2 to 6 inches long and have sharp spines. The bright yellow flowers appear in late spring and early summer and measure 3 to 4 inches across. Edible egg-shaped fruits appear when the flowers are done and grow from 2 to 3 inches long. The fruit contains a pulp that has a taste similar to that of the watermelon. Hardy prickly pear needs full sun and dry to just slightly moist soil and is hardy in all of Florida.