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Hummingbirds Return in the Winter

Firebush – number two nectar plant. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com Years ago when I began my quest to attract butterflies to my garden, little did I know that butterfly gardening came with a bonus? After years of removing turf grass from my yard and replacing it with colorful flowering plants to attract wildlife— particularly butterflies — I no longer have any grass left to mow. During the past couple of fall seasons, I’ve been seeing numerous hummingbirds competing for nectar with our year-round friends, the butterflies. This is such a great thrill! It started a few years ago, with one or two hummingbirds arriving every ... Read More »

Florida’s Swallowtail Butterflies

Underside of Giant Swallowtail

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com My “Butterfly Gardening in Florida” series rolls on with this third installment in which I will focus on swallowtail butterflies. Florida is home to 10 swallowtail butterflies — more than any other state. They are very easy to identify due to their strikingly large size and their ability to glide long distances between wing flaps. Much larger than other Florida butterflies, most swallowtails have distinctive tails on their hind wings. I remember the first time I saw one. Actually, there were two, and they were mating. I’ll never forget it! I still thoroughly enjoy watching ... Read More »

Butterfly Gardening in Florida

Monarch butterflies. photoS BY MIKE MALLOY

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com It’s summer in Florida. It’s hot, and the butterflies are in full swing. Florida has a year-round butterfly season because of the usually warm weather, much to the delight of all those crazed butterfly enthusiasts living here in Southwest Florida. Some migrate in the winter like Sulfurs (yellow butterflies) and monarchs, but many stay here and flourish. I am going to write a six-part series on the butterflies of Florida. Starting with the Monarchs — probably the most recognized butterfly in the country. Monarchs, Queens and Soldiers, all are in the Danas genius, and their ... Read More »

Succulents in South Florida

Century Plant

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com The average rain fall in South Florida is about 60 inches a year, amazing especially when it mostly arrives in just a few months of the year during our rainy season which runs from June to September. This has not stopped South Florida gardeners from creating cactus, agave and succulent gardens. The interest in these plants are on the rise in the past few years as water prices have increased and water restrictions have been implemented. Usually succulents and cacti are found in hot and sunny locations with poor soil conditions. Well, we have all ... Read More »

The Family and Fragrance

Clerodendrum dicentra (Bleeding Heart)

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com Clerodendrum is a beautiful, flowering plant that can be found blooming and thriving all over our South Florida landscape. With more than 300 species of vines and shrubs in the genus, they are as plentiful as they are lovely. Some are grown primarily for the large, beautiful flowers that emerge in clusters. Others are wanted mostly for their fragrance. Either way, they’re a great addition to anyone’s garden. Many of the varieties can be found easily; others are rarer, and must be hunted down a bit. Finding them is part of the fun of using ... Read More »

Butterfly Time of the Year

Zebra longwing Florida state butterfly

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com July is here. What does that mean? It’s summer in Florida? Yes, but it is also the start of the full blown butterfly season. In Southwest Florida, we have a year round butterfly season. While numbers of butterflies like Monarchs and Yellow Sulfurs will migrate, many of the same and others stay in South Florida and prosper year round, much to the delight of all those crazed butterfly enthusiasts living here. In spring, summer and fall, the numbers of these little flying flowers rise dramatically because the temperatures are warm just like they like it ... Read More »

Home Remedies, Myths or Facts?

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

PLANTTALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com There is a saying that insects will inherit the earth. Well, in Florida they already have so we better just get over it. You aren’t the only one looking forward to harvest time in your flower and vegetable gardens, so are your neighbors. I’m referring to insects, of course. And, you don’t want to be hosting a veggie buffet for all the bugs in your neighborhood. Sure, there are effective pesticides that will quickly rid your garden of these hungry invaders, but before resorting to harsh chemicals, why not give some of these popular home remedies ... Read More »

The Magnificent Trees of Spring

Golden Chain Tree Flower

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com Those of us who have a large piece of property and want some shade need to take these three trees into consideration. All you need to do is take a ride around any of the older neighbors in town and you will fall in love. Try 6th Street — right off of 5th Avenue in Naples — and also 4th Avenue, you’ll be happy you did. First is the royal poinciana (Delonix regia), also known as the flamboyant tree from Madagascar, and once you have seen, it you will know why. I think it is ... Read More »

Plumeria in Florida

PHOTOS BY MIKE MALLOY

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com Like a beautiful butterfly emerging from a plain brown chrysalis, magnificent blossoms sprout from seemingly lifeless branches every spring. Plumeria, also known as Frangipani, are colorful tropical shrubs or small trees native to Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean. They are readily available in pink, red, yellow, white and every combination in between. Plumeria are extremely popular in Hawaii, where they grow in abundance. Leis, the famous flower necklaces given to tourists upon their arrival, are made from Plumeria blossoms. Fun fact: In many Polynesian countries, women wear a blossom behind their ear ... Read More »

On the Shady Side

Shade

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com When most of the flowering plants and shrubs are struggling to thrive in the hot summer sun and waiting for the “cooling” afternoon showers, there is a group of plants that might be a little bit smarter. They thrive in the shade. Not only are these shade plants doing just fine, they are blooming. In Florida, shade takes on a different meaning than the shade “up north.” I don’t think we have the same deep shade areas in Florida as they do up north because the sun is so intense here. It’s lower in the ... Read More »

Mosquito Repellent Plants

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com With the snow birds leaving, the temperatures rising and the rains on the way, it is a sure sign summer is fast approaching. This all means the year-round residents of South Florida begin to retake paradise. To help us enjoy the outdoors more, we can plant certain plants that help repel mosquitos from our outdoor living spaces. Most insect–repelling plants do so with their natural fragrances that come from the oils in the leaves and flowers. Be sure to plant them in containers on patios or by the front and back door. The plants I ... Read More »

Mussaendas in Bloom

Mussaenda 'Queen Sirikit'

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com Sightings of the Tropical Mussaendas are becoming more frequent in South Florida gardens. Making them colorful standouts amongst the mainly green Florida landscapes. There are over 150 varieties with only a handful seen here in South Florida landscapes. They are native Africa to Asia and are members of the coffee family (Rubiaceae). This plant also is commonly known as Tropical Dogwood. The names of the different Mussaendas were derived from the names of the First Ladies of Philippine Presidents. Mussaendas are attractive shrubs that can reach the height of 12-15 feet, but can easily keep ... Read More »

Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia species)

Queen crape myrtle. PHOTOS BY MIKE MALLOY

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com I’d like to introduce you to one of South Florida’s most magnificent landscape plants…Crape Myrtle. Originally grown in Japan, China and parts of Southeast Asia, it’s the supermodel of the plant world. It’s beautiful and a real head turner, of course, but crape myrtle is versatile too. You can have it in either shrub or tree form and in a myriad of colors, including purple, white, pink, red or a combination of colors. Even the bark on this plant is attractive! The lovely crape myrtle blooms all summer long and into the fall, with long-lasting, ... Read More »

Copperleaf: A Rainbow of Colors in the Garden

Copperleaf plants vary in color from pink, red, green and white…

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com Native to Fiji in the South Pacific, the Acalypha — better known as Copperleaf — group of plants has the most colorful foliage I’ve ever seen. They can turn your garden into a spectacular, unending kaleidoscope of color. Under perfect conditions, they will grow to 10 feet and just as wide, but they can be kept to any desired height with just a little trimming. The flowers are small and inconspicuous, mostly hidden by the colorful foliage. Copperleaf comes in a large variety of leaf shapes, ranging from large and oblong to round and fringed to ... Read More »

Small Trees but Big Show

Hibiscus Tree (Fijii)

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com For all of us who want to have one of the showiest trees in town in our gardens (Royal Poinciana) and just don’t have the room because of their size, here are some of my favorite small trees that can be grown in courtyards, containers and small yards here in Southwest Florida. They also can be as special as the big boys. Dwarf Poinciana (Caesalpinina pulcherrima): This is the little brother to the Royal Poinciana but a much smaller size. This evergreen shrub can be pruned and trained into a specimen small tree, usually about 10-12 ... Read More »

Gardening for Honey Bees

Sweet Almond

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com Honey bees are more important than you think. One-third of all food consumed in the United States is pollinated by honey bees, and hundreds of crops rely on the tiny honey bee for pollination. The value of those crops is estimated at $15 billion annually. Truth “bee” told, the future of the American agricultural industry depends on the honey bee. The demise of the honey bee is a very complex issue. Since 2006, U.S. beekeepers have seen about one-third of their honey bee colonies disappear due to Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon caused by a number ... Read More »

The Family and Fragrance

Clerodendrum Dicentra
(aka Bleeding Heart)

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com Clerodendrum is a beautiful flowering plant that can be found blooming and thriving all over our South Florida landscape. With more than 300 species of vines and shrubs in the genus, they are as plentiful as they are lovely. Some are grown primarily for the large, beautiful flowers that emerge in clusters. Others are wanted mostly for their fragrance. Either way, they’re a great addition to anyone’s garden. Many of the varieties can be found easily; others are rarer, and must be hunted down a bit. Finding them is part of the fun of using ... Read More »

Bougainvillea — Kaleidoscope of Color

Bogainvillias

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com Native to Brazil, Bougainvillea is truly one of the showiest shrubs we have during the fall and winter months here in South Florida. Its spectacular color comes from its heart-shaped papery bracts. The tiny flower itself is usually white and located in the center of the colorful bract. A sprawling shrub with long thorny branches, Bougainvillea is commonly mistaken as a vine. Unfortunately, it lacks the tendrils that allow it to attach itself onto fixed objects. Bougainvillea’s come in a myriad of colors, including orange, pink, purple, red and white. Bougainvillea begin blooming after the ... Read More »

Crotons: Colorful Indoor or Outdoor Plants

Gold Dust Croton

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com Crotons (Codiaeum variegatum) were used years ago to decorate East Coast Florida hotel lobbies, as flower arrangements and planted extensively in Florida landscapes for their beautiful tropical color. They come in a kaleidoscope of colors: yellows, pinks, reds, greens, rusts and an occasionally purple and black. They also come in a multitude of leaf sizes and shapes. Flowers of the Crotons are small in size and are secondary to the more ornate colorful leaves. Crotons make wonderful year round colorful container or landscape plants without a lot work. Popular in the 1940s and 1950s, the Croton ... Read More »

Alternatives to a Ficus Hedge

Dying Ficus. Notice the coco plum hedge is unaffected.

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com Right plant, right place” is one of the nine principles of Florida-friendly gardening. It is the key to maintaining a beautiful landscape or garden, will reduce your maintenance costs, and quite possibly, prevent future headaches. There are many beautiful shrubs in south Florida that can be used to create a spectacular hedge. Ficus (Ficus benjamina) is just not one of them. Sure, it’s fast growing, inexpensive, has shiny green leaves that can be trimmed into balls, mushrooms and assorted Disney characters. Unfortunately, ficus also is capable of growing 90 feet tall in the wild. Therefore, this ... Read More »