About Central Florida Gardener

Welcome and thank you for visiting Central Florida Gardener. Florida is a unique state in which to garden. It can be frustrating but also rewarding for gardeners who persevere. This blog was created as a resource for Florida gardeners, both new and experienced, in search of information specifically for Florida gardens.

You are invited to participate by leaving your comments, suggestions, tips and recommendations relevant to Florida gardening - don't be shy! Thank you for dropping by to learn more about gardening in the Sunshine state. I look forward to hearing from you! Susan

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Butterfly Basics

Creating butterfly gardens is one of the most popular forms of gardening these days. Seeing beautiful butterflies drifting among the blooms in my own garden is very rewarding.

Luckily, creating a butterfly habitat is quite simple. With the right plants and a little know-how, it's easy to attract these flying beauties to your garden.

To attract butterflies to your garden you'll need . . .

~~ Nectar Sources ~~

Choosing a mix of nectar-rich blooming plants (both native and non-native) for the butterflies to feed on is essential. And, if you've ever spent any time watching butterflies in a garden, you'll notice that they prefer certain blooms over others. Add a good variety of of the following nectar-rich plants around your garden to ensure a plentiful supply of food year-round.

Annuals - Ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum), Asters*, Spider flower (Cleome hasslerana), Gazanias (Gazania spp.), Indian Blanket flower* (Gaillardia pulchella), Pentas (Pentas lanceolata), French marigold (Tagetes patula), Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia), Zinnias (Zinnia spp.).

Perennials - Fernleaf Yarrow (Achillea filipendula), Milkweed (Asclepias spp.)*, Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Beach Sunflower (Helianthus debilis), Swamp Sunflower* (Helianthus simulans), Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.), Kalanchoes (Kalanchoe spp.), Lantana (Lantana camara), Stoke's Aster* (Stokesia laevis), Salvia* (Salvia spp.)

Shrubs - Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora), Powerpuff (Calliandra haematocephala), Firebush* (Hamelia patens), Hibiscus (Hibiscus spp.), Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.), Barbados Cherry *(Malpighia glabra), Plumbago (Plumabo auriculata), Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus).

To keep the butterflies in your garden add a mix of . . .

~~Host Plants~~

To have a more dramatic increase in butterflies you'll want to add host plants (both native and non-native) for the butterflies to lay their eggs on, so that the caterpillars will have a food source when they hatch. By having host plants for future generations there won't be any need for the butterfly to leave your garden, so you'll be assured of future generations. Caterpillars have a voracious appetite, so don't skimp on host plants. And, by adding as many varieties as possible you'll attract more butterfly varieties.

Annuals - Dill (Anethum graveolens), Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), Mustard family (Brassica spp.), Calendula (Calendula officinalis), Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Parsley (Petroseliman crispum), Rue (Ruta graveolens).

Perennials - Milkweed*(Asclepias spp.), Aster* (Aster dumosus), Beach Verbena (Verbena maritima), Golden canna* (Canna flaccida), Beach sunflower* (Helianthus debilis), Florida native petunia* (Ruellia spp.).

Vines - Passionflower (Passiflora spp.), Corky-Stemmed Passionflower* (Passiflora suberosa), Pipe vine* (Aristolochia spp.)

Shrubs - Paw Paw (Asimina obovata)*, Cassia (Cassia spp,), Golden Dewdrop (Duranta repens)*, Firebush (Hamelia patens)*, Hibiscus (Hibiscus spp.), Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens), Wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera)*, Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata), Viburnum (Viburnum spp.), Spanish bayonet (Yucca spp.), Coontie* (Zamia floridana).

Trees - Redbud* (Cercis canadensis), Citrus (Citrus spp.), Sweet Bay* (Magnolia virginiana), Red bay* (Persea spp.), Laurel oak* (Quercus laurifolia), Live oak *(Quercus virginiana), Hackberry or Sugarberry* (Celtis laevigata), Wild lime* (Zanthoxylum fagara).

Important Note -- These plants are food sources so expect to see leaf damage as the caterpillars need a lot of food to grow. Also, avoid using pesticides or chemicals on their food source!  

~~Other Welcome Ammenities~~ 

Create what's called a "puddling area." This is basically an unmulched area of dirt where butterflies can extract minerals from the ground when it's wet.

 Add a rock in the middle of a birdbath so that butterflies have a landing spot from which to drink water.

Plant additional shrubbery around your nectar and host plants for increased shelter from weather and predators.

Many experts think that grouping plants together by color (red, yellow, blue)  is beneficial in attracting more butterflies. Give it a try and let us know if it works for you.

 Tales from the Butterfly Garden - Lepcurious blog is a great resource to learn more about the butterflies that call Central Florida home and how to attract them.

Attracting butterflies is super easy and loads of fun! So, head on out to your local nursery with this plant list, and get started on creating your very own butterfly haven.

* Indicates native plant. You can buy native plants from local native nurseries, plant sales - especially local Master Gardener sales, plant swaps, seeds or cuttings from neighbors.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Spotted Bee Balm - Native Wildflower

If you want to include Florida native wildflowers in your garden then Spotted Bee Balm Monarda punctata is one to include on your "must-have" list. Also, known as Horsemint, this herbaceous perennial is a member of the mint family, and is a favorite of local bees and other pollinators.

The Bee Balm in my garden grows into a  large clump 4' tall and 4' wide, similar to many sages that grow in Florida. It sports clusters of very attractive light lavender flowers, and blooms in late summer through fall. It then sets seeds that the birds dearly love, and in the following spring you'll find Bee Balm sprouting in unexpected places.  Don't panic! While it is self-seeding it does not do so aggressively. In my garden the plant dies back in winter and returns in spring. The leaves have a fragrance similar to spearmint and can be used to make tea with either fresh or dried leaves.


Moisture: This plant is drought-tolerant but may need some water during excessively dry periods.

Light:  It blooms best when it receives full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. 

Propagation:  Start from seeds or divide root clumps.

 Care:  Plant in spring. You can fertilize if you like with a 10-10-10 mix, but it's really carefree and low-maintenance. It's ability to tolerate sea spray makes it a good choice for seaside gardens.

Wildlife:  Attracts many bees and other pollinators. Birds eat the seeds in winter.

Spotted Bee Balm is one of the showiest and prettiest Florida wildflowers. It looks especially good when planted toward the back of a perennial garden where it adds some height to the garden bed. You can purchased Spotted Bee Balm from a local native plant grower or a Master Gardener Plant sale, which is where I found mine.

If you've grown this native wildflower in your garden, please share your experience with all of us in our comments section. And, for more information on creating a "Bee Friendly" garden click here.

Monday, September 09, 2013

More Florida Garden Bloggers

Hello Everyone ~ ~

Great news! I have come across 8 really wonderful, interesting and educational Florida garden blogs. You're going to love seeing what these gardeners have done with their Florida gardens.

Gardening in Winter Garden - Jonathan blogs about growing veggies in this quaint Florida city.

My Florida Meadow - Landscape designer Andrea shares the conversion of her standard yard into a meadow.

Orange County Master Gardeners - Lots of great information here for Central Florida gardeners.

The Lazy Woman's Garden - You'll enjoy visiting Sharon's beautiful Asian-influenced garden.

Myrtle Glen - Evelyn has turned her 1/4 acre corner lot in an Orlando suburb into a Certified Wildlife Backyard Habitat.

Graceful Cottage Gardening - You'll find plenty of great ideas in Janis' small cottage garden in the Tampa area.

Spruce Pine Cottage - Located in North Florida, Leslie writes about her beautiful old-Florida home and garden, as well as historic gardens in her area.

The Roosting Hen - Janine is sharing what she's learned about working with nature in creating her sanctuary.

I generally find Florida garden blogs by accident, so if any of you visitors have a Florida garden blog, please send me an email, so I can include you on this list and on our sidebar. I look forward to hearing from you!

Here's 2 more garden blogs for you to enjoy ~ ~

Treasure Coast Natives by John Bradford, George Rogers & Dee Staley

 Abandon in Place by Shaun Heath on Florida's space coast.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Mandevilla - A Mannerly Vine

If you're a gardener who suffers from "vinophobe - a morbid fear of vines" like Florida Girl at her "Peace in the Valley" blog*, then Mandevilla could be the vine for you. In central Florida this beauty is a well-behaved vine that doesn't insist on taking over the garden or even a trellis. Its glossy leaves and trumpet shaped flowers are most commonly found in red, pink and white. I, too, must confess that I am timid when it comes to planting vines due to their aggressive nature, so Mandevilla is the one I turn to often.

It's perfect for arbors, trellises, containers, obelisks, and even around mailboxes. It roots easily from cuttings. and requires minimal care. When rooting cuttings, cover the stems with a rooting hormone powder for quicker results. While tropical to sub-tropical in nature, temperatures below freezing will damage the vine, but it returns easily from the ground in spring. It is a member of the dogbane family, Apocynaceae, and will ooze a milky sap when cut which is toxic.

The pink Mandevilla pictured above has been growing on this arbor since summer of 2012,
 and did not freeze back during the winter. You can see it's mannerly growth habit.


Moisture: Water regularly until it becomes established. It may need additional water during extended drought periods in summer.

Light: Full sun for non-stop summer blooms. Will tolerate partial sun, especially later afternoon.

Care: Plant anytime except winter. Add compost when planting. Fertilize annually with compost or 10-10-10.

Wildlife:  Butterfly/hummingbird favorite. It is a host plant for Gulf fritillary caterpillars who can cause substantial damage to the plant in spring, especially if it's just beginning to grow back following a freeze. I generally, leave them on or move a few to other plants, as the vine will make a strong comeback during summer.

The red Parasol Sun Mandevilla (pictured at left) is my personal favorite planted poolside because of its vibrant color and tropical look.

It's very eye-catching and when planted among green and gold foliage plants, it's a real standout.

I highly recommend this Florida-Friendly vine which has so many uses, especially in a small Florida garden.

*And, back to Florida Girl  at her "Peace in the Valley" blog which is very entertaining and educational even though she sadly stopped blogging back in 2012, and has since moved to Facebook where you can still enjoy her stunning photos and her eclectic garden. You can find her here: https://www.facebook.com/floridagirl.peace?fref=ts. By the way, that term "vinophobe" was coined by FloridaGirl. That shows you a bit of her humor!