Plant of the Month: Milkweed

Milkweed is the poster plant for pollinator-friendly landscape designs. Not only is it attractive, it's an important nectar source for bees and other insects. Milkweed is also well known for attracting butterflies and serving as a host plant for their caterpillars.

Most famously, milkweed serves as the only host plant for the monarch butterfly.

Milkweed generally grows quickly, reaching a final height up to four feet tall, depending on the species. You can plant them closely, about 18-24 inches apart in most North Florida lawns. And whether or not the milkweed is being installed as part of a butterfly garden, plant multiple plants. Too few and you will be left with leafless milkweed and hungry caterpillars! Planting multiple species can also increase the attractiveness to butterflies and other pollinators in your yard.

Avoid Pesticides
As a host plant for a number of pollinators, use of pesticides on milkweed is...

Plant of the Month: Dogwood Trees

The Dogwood Tree is a majestic ornamental tree that fills the landscape with its clusters of flowers and draws attention as a specimen tree and has the extra benefit of attracting butterflies, beneficial insects, and birds.

The Flowering dogwood is a popular tree native to North Florida. This beautiful spreading tree grows up to 35 feet tall.

The dogwood is an understory tree (meaning it is small enough and sufficiently shade tolerant to thrive under the canopies of other, taller trees), so it does best in part or filtered sun.

Flowering dogwood prefers growing on rich, well-draining soils that are moist, so regular watering benefits the tree's growth and flowering. They’re not drought tolerant and should get plenty of water.

The dogwood tree blooms for a few weeks in the spring, with four-petaled white flowers with yellow centers. Its leaves turn a spectacular red and purple in fall before dropping. The tree has bright...

Plant of the Month: Gerbing Azaleas

The Gerbing is a larger, more full-sized Azalea variety with large, pure white blooms that average about 3" in diameter. Blooms are very numerous in spring, with an occasional re-bloom period in early to mid-fall. Gerbing is an evergreen Azalea variety that generally is one of the few Azalea cultivars that are capable of thriving in planting areas with higher light exposure.

Foliage is a slightly lighter medium green color, with leaves being quite large and slightly elongated. This Azalea variety makes a very good foundation planting with medium size, and also does very well when mass planted or used as a hedge. Has a slightly more upright growth habit than most of the other Azalea varieties.

Like all Azaleas, Gerbing prefers semi-shade, and will even do well in planting locations with mostly shade, but is rare in that it is one of the few varieties that will also handle higher amounts of sun exposure.

These Azaleas have shallow, non-...

Plant of the Month: Dusty Miller

The dusty miller plant is an interesting landscape addition, grown for its silvery gray foliage and standing up to both the cold evenings and hot days of North Florida's winter. Lacy leaves of the dusty miller plant are attractive companions for many blooms in the winter landscape. Dusty miller care is minimal once the plant is established in your Gainesville landscape.

Water Needs:
The soil must be well-draining to avoid root rot. Water regularly right after planting and withhold water once roots have developed and the plant is growing.

Sun Needs:
Being of Mediterranean origin, dusty miller is fairly drought tolerant and does best in some sun but is best planted where afternoon shade is available.Typically used in our beds as winter annuals, they look great from October through February in our North Central Florida...

Gainesville Lawn Plant of the Month: Viola

Winter violas look dainty and delicate but they are tough enough to survive hard frosts and can flower all through winter. The small flowers of winter violas come in many color combinations and patterns and should produce more flowers than the larger-flowered winter pansies.

How cold hardy are violas?
Violas are very cold-tolerant plants. Grown outdoors and acclimated, they will easily handle temperatures down to the mid 20s and will continue blooming. If the temperature drops any lower, the existing flower buds are usually damaged, but the plants live on.

Best planting practices for violas in Florida?
Because they're compact plants, violas are ideal for borders, containers, and window boxes.  Plant yours in a well-drained, rich soil where they'll receive plenty of sun, and irrigate them only as needed.

Are viola flowers annuals or perennials?
Violas are perennial,...

Plant of the Month: East Palatka Holly

Discovered in 1927 growing near East Palatka, Florida, this Holly is one of a group of hybrids between Dahoon and  American Holly. The broad, dull green, rounded leaves have one spine at the tip and few, if any, along the blade edge. The 30 to 45- foot-tall trees take on a moderately tight, pyramid shape.

East Palatka is one of the most common tree form hollies and one of the best. This female Holly plant is heavily covered with bright red berries in fall and winter, especially toward the top of the tree. A row of East Palatka Hollies will look quite uniform, adding to the popularity of the tree among landscape architects and designers.

It is faster growing than most American hollies and it has a more refined appearance in the landscape with its softer green foliage and non-spiny leaves. Like most hollies, it will grow in full sun or partial shade but does best in good, rich soil. Hollies are not very drought tolerant so should be watered during...

Gainesville Landscape Plant of the Month: Golden Cassia

As a focal point, the cassia is a multipurpose tree that brightens the North Florida landscape with its bright yellow flowers.

While the tree is in bloom, it is easily the brightest plant in most any landscape. The Golden Cassia tree with all its glowing flowers definitely sends a signal to all bees and butterflies in the area to come join the party.

Due to our colder winters (compared to south Florida), the tree will drop its leaves after a hard frost - but can be pruned and come back stronger in spring. The medium-sized tree usually grows to decent heights but can be managed with winter pruning. It’s not really a large-sized tree and doesn’t require special arrangements regarding the location and space in your garden. You can practically plant it in a side yard or a tiny backyard.

Landscape Design Ideas using cassia trees:

  • This tree is most ornamental around a patio or around the pool
  • Centerpiece for a circular driveway
  • ...

Plant of the Month: ‘Black Diamond’ Crape Myrtle

Black Diamonds are a revolutionary new series of crape myrtles that provide unique beauty to your landscape and instant yard envy for your neighbors. Flawless black foliage emerges in early spring followed by masses of brilliant jewel-toned blooms that last until the first frost.

How Fast do Black Diamond Crape Myrtles Grow?

A Black Diamond Crape Myrtle tree can grow 2 to 4 feet in a single year. Once they get to mature height the trunks and branches grow thicker, but the trees stay around 12 feet tall.

How to care for Black...

Gainesville Landscape Plant of the month: Dwarf Ruellia

Dwarf Ruellia' is an improved variety and able to bloom beautiful pink or purple flowers almost all year long. We like this dwarf variety because they feature low, spreading mounds of narrow, dark green foliage. The combination of the flowers, grass-like texture, and green foliage make it a perfect filler to add color and interest to barren, dry areas in the yard. We also like to plant them in borders or on a sunny slope. Thanks to their compact form, these Ruellias are an excellent choice for use as a groundcover in tighter, narrower spaces and they also look great when planted in pots or planters!

Dwarf Ruellia is a low water use plant and is drought tolerant with little to moderate watering needs once established. This Ruellia variety thrives in full sun or partial shade exposures and is durable and easy to care for plants. These are a favorite for anyone that does not have a green thumb and still wants to have a thriving, colorful plant in their yard! They have a...

Gainesville Landscape Plant of the month: 'Mystic Spires' Salvia

Well-branched and very free-flowering, 'Mystic Spires' produces masses of sturdy, colorful flower stalks that are of great aesthetic appeal in beds, borders or containers and attract scores of butterflies, hummingbirds, and beneficial insects

This plant produces masses of colorful flowers that mix nicely with other annuals and perennials, is tolerant of heat and humidity (low and high), and is not bothered by pests or diseases or deer!

Exposure: full sun

Planting Time: spring to summer from containers

Soil type: adapts to most soils, but needs good drainage

This low-maintenance plant is perfect for Florida’s hot summers and keeps on blooming when other flowering plants have begun to decline.

How to Care for your Salvia:
Be sure to water every day during the establishment period after planting in the garden from a container, then, once plants have...

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