South Florida covers growing zones 9 through 11. With mild winters and extremely hot summers, a long dry spell half the year and extreme humidity the other half, gardening in south Florida offers a challenge. Some of the easiest plants to grow in this extreme environment are herbs. Whether using herbs for culinary and medicinal reasons, or strictly as ornamentals, there are a few that are particularly suited for growing in south Florida.
The aloe plant is a succulent prized for its medicinal uses. The gel-like substance found within the leaves can be used to sooth many types of skin irritations. A frost-tender native to South Africa, south Florida is one of the few places in the U.S. where it can be grown in the ground year-round. It is very drought tolerant, but should be kept very well drained through the wet season.
Plant aloe where it will be shaded from the harsh midday summer sun or its high moisture content will cause it to steam itself to death.
Fragrant and pungent, sweet basil is one of the most popular home-grown herbs, but basil comes in many flavors, including lemon basil, cinnamon basil and spicy Thai basil.
This sun-worshipping tropical plant can be treated as a perennial in the sub-tropics, as long as it is kept well watered in the winter and protect from frost. In south Florida, herbs like basil will tolerate the summer heat well and will often bolt in early summer--so prune often.
This plant is worth growing for its sweet citrus fragrance. In south Florida, sow or transplant it in the early fall, and will continue growing and offering an ample harvest throughout the winter and spring. It can survive the summer if well shaded and provided with very good drainage, but it’s best to propagate new plants from cuttings taken in the late spring.
These herbs grow well in south Florida, so much so that you may have to take measures to prevent them from becoming invasive. Plant them in containers and prune them back frequently to prevent them from taking over your garden. Keep them well drained in the wet season, and well watered in the dry season. They can survive full sun most of the year but will benefit from some shelter from the mid-day summer sun. Mints offer a wide variety of delightful flavor variations, including: apple mint, chocolate mint, orange mint, peppermint, and pineapple mint.
Stevia leaves are 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, but do not have any effect on blood sugar levels, so they are perfect herbs for diabetics or low-carb dieters. They are native to south America and like the sub-tropical climate, as long as there is good drainage in the soil and they are protected from winter frosts. While it is one of the best herbs for south Florida, stevia is very difficult to propagate from seeds, so unless you are up for a challenge it is best to purchase starter plants from a nursery.
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