Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fast Growing Shrubs in South Florida II

     South Florida is known for it's unique tropical environment making it an ideal place for plants to grow.  We are quite lucky to be able to grow things year round without the eminent frost warnings of our northern counties.  Now that Spring is here, which means backyard gardeners have emerged from their winter long hibernation, most of you are probably wondering what to plant.  Well, great thing you are researching this stuff cause that is why people like me blog it for you. :)  Since the first post of fast growing shrubs was such a hit, I figured why not do an add-on to it.  So grab a snack & a drink, get comfy and here we go...

     In the first post I talked about many of the basic shrubs you may see around town and that are widely available at local plant nurseries.  This post I will add a few unique and native plants to the list so you may need to call before heading out to the nursery this weekend.  Though I do say that native plants are being used more and more by landscaper's like myself.  So the demand for the plant growers to stock natives is becoming greater.  If your local stores don't have them, just ask them to order them in and I am sure they will oblige.

     First up is a wonderful native called necklace pod, sophora tomentosa. With it's arching branches, soft velvety grey-green leaves and bright yellow honeysuckle looking flower spikes, any landscape would liven up with this shrub.  It's very salt and wind tolerant since it's native habitat is coastal forests and thicket areas.  Butterflies, ants and hummingbirds love the nutritious nectar from the fabulous flowers.  Full sun is where necklace pods like to be but can withstand a bit of shade.  Necklace pods get to be about 8-10 feet high as well as wide so plant this baby in a nice open space.
Our necklace pod in bloom a few weeks ago
A closer view of the necklace pod flowers

Another view of our necklace pod.  It was really bright
outside when I took these pictures so the colors are
a bit washed out but you get the gist.
This view you can see how high it gets, it's
about 6'0"high right now & still growing.
     Next up is the Copperleaf, acalypha, which has a few cultivars like godseffiana, wilkesiana and hispidia & within those are lots of varieties, some of which you can see on I Like Plants! blog.  I love using this shrub for it's texture, color & heartiness.  The wilkesiana variety gets to be about 10'0" high by 8'0" wide and the smaller godseffiana variety stays about 4-5 ft wide by high.  You can see my acalypha wilkesiana 'moorea' in the necklace pod pictures above, it's a purple red color with serrated edge leaves that ruffle like potato chips.  Copperleaf's like well drained soil, likes full sun and/or part sun/part shade.  These are very hardy plants with lots of character and sass!  Perfect for privacy hedge.  Like the croton's, there are hundreds of hybrids of this Fiji native that are now widely available.
Acalypha godseffiana 'firestorm'
I just absolutely love this little shrub with all it's
multiple colors & layers of texture!
Acalypha wilkesiana 'ceylon'
This one is on my wish list of acalypha's, so beautiful!
Reminds me of a Spanish senorita flamenco dancer with the ruffly skirts and colorful ensemble.

Acalypha wilkesiana 'tropical temptress'
Love the lemon-line colors
Acalypha wilkesiana ' miltoniana'
Another multi-color beauty
Acalypha wilkesiana 'moorea'
I have this one in our backyard
Acalypha wilkesiana 'mardi gras'
smaller leaf but packs a punch in bright color

Everyone loves landscapes full of color.
This beats an ugly white-fly ridden ficus hedge anyday!!!
     Next up is an all time "go to" for me in landscape design...the thyrallis, galphimia glauca.  This small shrub is a great addition as a stand alone or en masses.  The bright yellow flowers, which bloom all year round, are a beautiful contrast to the emerald green foliage.  Likes full sun as well as part shade, well drained soil and can withstand periods of drought.  Thryallis get about 4-5 ft high by wide. You will fall in love with thyrallis in your garden!
Thyrallis hedge
Thyrallis flowers
     Hibiscus is a quintessential plant when you think of Florida (and Hawaii) with it's thousands of hybrid varieties. Just one of these beauties will brighten your landscape right up!  Though my luck with hibiscus have not been so fortunate.  For those of you with the magic hibiscus thumb, I would love to learn your secrets and/or experiences.  This excerpt could be a long one with all the information out there on hibiscus but I will leave the details to some of the experts:  American Hibiscus Society (where you can find af local chapter), Tropical Hibiscus, Hidden Valley Hibiscus, and our very own local legend Winn Soldani's Fancy Hibiscus.
This was one of the last hibiscus I had called
Fifth Dimension, amazing flowers about 6-7" wide
An amazing thing about this Fifth Dimension hibiscus, it changed colors throughout the day!  It would go from lighter yellows & pinks to dark fuscia pink & magenta's!  Spectacular!
This is called a weeping hibiscus, just love it!

     If you need a shrub to grow quickly and spread over a large area in full to part sun, then these two are for you...the first is called Orange Plume Flower, justicia spicigera, max's out to about 6'0" wide by height but spreads out by rooting it's broken branch's into the ground, very hearty but does not likes to be water logged.  Has deep emerald ruffled leaves with large orange pom-pom flower poofs that hummingbirds, bees, butterflies and Oriole birds love.  The second is called Firespike, odontonema strictum, which has similar growth habits and requirements as the orange plume flower but has red flowers that grow erect.  Same pollinators believe it or not.  In my yard these two aggressive growers are easy to cut back & do need a good hard prune each year.
Our orange plume flower 
Here you can see how high the orange plume flower
plant are along side our MacArthur palms.
Red firespike
This is our purple firespike but is a slower grower
and smaller plant than the red
    Not to be the last (as I am sure there will be a part III to this episode of fast growing shrubs)  is the FiddlewoodCitharexylum spinosum.  A Florida native and wonderful plant that can withstand a variety of growing conditions.  Plus the birds love to eat the berries & butterflies love the small white sweet smelling flowers.  This gentle plant grows about 6'0" high with gracefully arching branches & beautiful deep green oval leaves.
Our fiddlewood is in the left-middle of the picture
Fiddlewood flower
So now that you know a little more than you did before, get out there & start planting!
Happy Rainy Weekend!
Best wishes,


  1. Simply love your Fifth Dimension hibiscus. I have a several weeping hibiscus in my garden too; peach and red flowers.

    1. Hi there Stiletto! Thanks so much for stopping in! I love the weeping hibiscus, I think they are by far my favorites. Any suggestions as to how I can keep mine going healthy & strong. It seems after a year in the ground they just don't do well then I end up pulling them out. I am sure yours are gorgeous, would love to see them! :)