Gardening: Enjoy the colors of the tropical landscapes

Eileen Ward

In sub-tropical Florida we have shrubs and trees which can provide us with flowers all year. Some flower year round while others have a short flowering season. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors.

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Among the large trees of 30' to 60' tall are the jacaranda with bluish-purple flowers in the spring, the royal poinciana with orange flowers in early summer and the Hong Kong orchid with fragrant rose-purple flowers from fall to spring. These are all very large trees and will not only grow tall but also up to 50' wide and so must be given most of the yard to mature fully.

Yellow tabebuia caraiba.

There are a number of smaller trees from 15' to 25' tall which flower. One of the most outstanding is the yellow tabebuia. These butter yellow trees will shed all of their leaves and burst forth in a magnificent display of yellow for about a month in early spring.

There is also a pink tabebuia but this tree is more like 50' tall and does not have the showy display of the yellow. Another small yellow tree is the cassia. It is smaller at 15' tall but will flower twice a year in spring and fall. It should be noted this is not a true tree and will need constant staking to remain upright with our wind storms.

The geiger is a lovely, salt tolerant, tree with orange or white flowers in spring and summer. Frangipani is the fragrant flower used in Hawaii to make leis. This tree will lose all of its leaves in colder months and look like a stick tree. The branching can be quite attractive and the fragrance of the flowers as the tree grows large make this a favorite for many.

File: Frangipani is the fragrant flower used in Hawaii to make leis.

The flowers come in white, yellow or pink in the spring and summer. This tree can be easily propagated by cutting off a branch and sticking it in the ground. Water regularly and you will soon have your own frangipani. There is also a dwarf poinciana tree. While not a true poinciana it is a member of the same family and will produce red flowers with yellow margins throughout the year. The dwarf poinciana has thorns on the branches to help you distinguish from the much larger royal poinciana.

In the large shrub category the hibiscus and ixora both flower most profusely in the summer, although they will produce some all year. Hibiscus come in a rainbow of hybrid colors including red, pink, yellow, white, orange, lavender and on and on. Ixora come in red, orange, yellow and coral. Oleander in shades of pink or white will give the most color from fall through spring. And two of the spring favorites are the gardenia with its fragrant white flowers and the startling colors of the bougainvillea. These are all large shrubs and if they are planted in an area where they require constant pruning the flowering will be substantially reduced.

Smaller flowering shrubs are also available. The azalea which is pink or white in the spring likes a shady location. The dwarf bougainvillea only comes in one color but is much more manageable in size. The crown of thorns is a prickly shrub in pink or red and will flower all year. The Indian hawthorn has nice foliage and flowers in pink and white on occasion. Blue plumbago is a beautiful sky blue color all year.

There are also many flowering vines. Be careful when planting vines in this sub-tropical climate as they can quickly get out of control. The coral vine has lovely coral pink flowers. There is the orange trumpet vine, yellow allamanda vine, and mandevilla vine in yellow, pink or white. Fragrant vines include the confederate jasmine and the passion flower. And one of the more unusual is the night blooming cereus. It has huge, white flowers which put on their display after dark. They are flowering right now and are a sight to be seen.

There are even ground covers which flower including beach sunflower in yellow, mimosa in pink or lantana in pinks, yellow or purple.

Whatever color-scape you choose for your home there are trees and shrubs to match here in southwest Florida.

Enjoy the colors of the tropical landscapes here on Marco Island.

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Eileen and Peter Ward have owned a landscape and lawn maintenance company for 35 years. Eileen can be reached at Gswdmarco@comcast.net or 239-394-1413.