A lot of Marco's winter visitors come from Northern cities that are bleak and gray this time of year. South Florida's subtropical climate allows us to grow plants that are native to more tropical climates. Many of these plants sport beautiful, exotic, highly desirable blooms.
While these exotics will grow here, they have problems with some of the seasonal climate changes not found in their native lands. Our native plants are adapted to dry springs, wet summers and cold winters. But many of the tropical exotics suffer through these seasonal changes, requiring extra water in the dry season or losing all of their leaves in the cold winter.
Thought should go into the planting locations of exotics to allow for these sensitivities.
If the exotic you want to plant comes from a more consistently warm climate, it should be planted in a place in the landscape that will shield it from cold winter winds.
If the plant comes from a dry, arid climate, don't plant it in a low area likely to flood with summer rains or surround it with annual flowers that require lots of extra water for survival.
Planting an exotic in the right place can mean the difference between having a happy, well-adjusted plant and having an unhealthy plant with lots of disease and insect problems — or worse, a dead plant.
Here is a list of some of the more common exotics that have been imported to Southwest Florida landscapes. Many are so widely planted, most people think they are native to this area.
• From Brazil we have allamanda, bougainvillea, blue daze, orange trumpet vine, jacaranda and vinca (which actually grows wild in our fields now).
• From the West Indies we get night-blooming jasmine.
• China sent us the much-loved gardenia and confederate jasmine.
• From India are the crepe myrtle, Indian hawthorne and the delicious mango.
• Asia and Hawaii were the original homes of the hibiscus and ixora, both of which are widely planted in our landscapes.
• Japan gave us the azalea.
• The Mediterranean was home to the oleander.
• From South Africa are the blue plumbago, bush daisy and society garlic.
• And from Mexico comes the firecracker plant and a new favorite, the Mexican petunia.
While these exotic plants may be a little more work to have in the landscape, their beautiful and colorful blooms make it all worthwhile.
But don't forget that many of our native plants also have colorful foliage and flowers with a lot less work. More on those next week.