South Florida gardens are ablaze with color during winter months by two particularly spectacular vines. First, the Florida flame vine (Pyrostegia venusta) which is native to Brazil. This vine is well known in Naples for its brilliant show of color in the winter months along about a one mile stretch of Goodlette Frank Road in front of the Wilderness community just north of Golden Gate Parkway. To have a vine known by so many people, not so much by its name but by put its presence along the road, speaks to its showiness.
The Florida flame vine requires full sun to partial shade and is fast growing – climbing 50 to 60 feet it uses its tendrils to cling to anything it can reach. Once established it requires little water or fertilizer. In the winter, when landscape color is at a minimum, its clusters of up to 30 tubular bright orange flowers will light up an evening sky. Flowers have a tendency to hang downward because of their weight and volume.
This vine is best for covering a fence, wall or trellis. I have mine growing up in my tamarind tree which then gracefully cascades downward. Pruning after blooming will help keep this vine in check and also help to make it branch out, producing more flowers the next year.
The second is the Mexican flame vine (Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides).This was called “Senecio confuses” which means confused old man, which may explain why they keep changing its name. A native of Mexico, these vines with their glowing daisy-like flowers which appear in clusters, are bright orange when they first come out and change as they age to a fiery red. This very dense evergreen vine is great for trellises or fences and can put on one of the showiest floral displays you have ever seen. If allowed, they will climb palm and pine trees. The flower clusters will drape down like ornaments out of the top of the tree.
Very fast growing and drought tolerant, once established it has few or no pest problems. It requires full sun (the best) but will grow in light shade. Any soil will do. Again, like almost all our plants here in south Florida, if affected by a frost it will quickly rebound and flush back out. Both vines can be propagated by cuttings and air layering.
Both these great winter blooming vines are very special to hummingbirds, butterflies and me. KEEP BUTTERFLYING!!
Mike Malloy, local author and artist known as “The Butterfly Man” has been a Naples resident since 1991. A Collier County Master Gardener, he has written two books entitled “Butterfly Gardening Made Easy for Southwest Florida,” and “Tropical Color – A Guide to Colorful Plants for the Southwest Florida Garden”, and currently writes articles on various gardening topics for several local publications. Mike has planted and designed numerous butterfly gardens around Naples including many schools, the City of Naples, Rookery Bay, the Conservancy and Big Cypress. Bring your gardening questions to the Third Street Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings or on Thursdays at the Naples Botanical Garden where he does a Plant Clinic or visit his website, www.naplesbutterfly.com