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Plant Talk

Copperleaf: A Rainbow of Colors in the Garden

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

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy 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 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 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 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


PLANT TALK Mike Malloy 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 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 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 »

Winter Show in the Garden

Dombeya seminole and Euphorbia leucocephala together.

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy The Dombeya burgessiae (Seminole) puts on one of the best flower shows of any shrub in Florida. It is sometimes called the Tropical Hydrangea because its flowers are similar to the Hydrangeas we know from up north. The flowers are pink to rose color and bloom from fall to spring. Blooming all winter here in Naples during tourist season, when the most color is desired and appreciated. Last year in Naples, they bloomed all the way into June. Dombeya Seminole is a large shrub growing seven feet tall and the same in width. It can be ... Read More »

What’s lurking in your Garden

Datura Devils Trumpet

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy Are there dangerous plants lurking in your garden? That pretty flower or leaf, or even the colorful bark you’ve been admiring, may cause redness, itching, blisters or even death! Because many tropical plants are toxic, those of us in South Florida have to be knowledgeable about selecting safe plants for our gardens. And, if children and/or pets frequent your garden, then you need to be extra vigilant of what’s growing out there. I’m going to first dispel the age-old assumption that the Poinsettia plant is poisonous. It’s not. It was proven in a well-known university ... Read More »

Caring for Holiday Plants after the Holidays

Christmas Cactus.

The poinsettia (Euphorbia pilcherrima) is probably the best known holiday plant. In the past years they have hybridized this plant into many different colors, but I still believe red is the most popular. I have been asked hundreds of times how to care for them after the holidays so they will bloom next year. The price of poinsettias are so reasonable that most end up in the garbage after the holidays and new ones are bought next year. But if you’re like me, as I hate to see any plant being thrown away, here’s what you have to do to ... Read More »

Moringa… The Tree of Life

Moringa flowers may be eaten if cooked.

PLANT TALK Mike Malloy If you’ve read the newspaper, watched TV or surfed the Internet lately, chances are you’ve probably come across a story about a specific miraculous, multi-purpose tree. Moringa grows easily and amazingly fast and is almost entirely edible by humans or farm animals. An important food source in developing countries, it has been aptly named the “tree of life.” Moringa is also highly sought after worldwide for its numerous health benefits. Its seed meal can even be used for purifying water. The nutritional value of Moringa is off the charts. A single fruit contains seven times ... Read More »

Autumn Colors in Southwest Florida


PLANT TALK Mike Malloy Fall, also known as football season, has arrived. And that means some of the best weather of the year is right around the corner for South Florida. “Chamber of Commerce” weather, as we like to call it in Naples. While our friends and relatives up north are battening down the hatches in anticipation of winter, soon we’ll be flinging open our windows and lanais. One of the best known and first-to-bloom vines this time of year in Naples is the Florida Flame Vine. Look for a blaze of brilliant orange color on Goodlette-Frank Road, just ... Read More »

Adventure and Beauty in the Everglades


PLANT TALK Mike Malloy For many years, the South Florida Plant Pickers have traversed the East Trail (US-41) through the Everglades. Bound for either Miami or Homestead, we are on a mission to find the most beautiful and unique tropical plants to bring back to Naples. We are constantly searching for that rare and special plant not found at your local gardening center. And, when we find it, we feels like we’ve struck gold! The South Florida Plant Pickers are a group of dedicated local plant enthusiasts who provide entertaining and informative YouTube videos and articles on the purchase ... Read More »

Curcuma: Tropical Flower or Medical Miracle


PLANT TALK Mike Malloy Curcuma, although tropical in origins, (mostly from Southeast Asia, India and Malaysia) does not like to be in the sun all day. A filtered morning or afternoon sun is best. Like most plants in Southwest Florida, the summer sun is deadly. The plants in the curcuma family are often called gingers but are really Zingiber. The Curcuma longa species is solely used for the harvest of the spice turmeric. The rhizomes are ground into a dried powder which is turmeric. Turmeric is the main spice in curry. It is used to color and flavor butter, ... Read More »

Garden Shrimps!!!


PLANT TALK Mike Malloy Shrimp plants are becoming very popular in South Florida gardens. I don’t know if it is because of their colorful bracts with tubular white flowers that seem to explode out of the top and sides, or if it’s that the flowers look like the pink crustaceans so many of us Floridians consume by the pound every year. Whatever the fascination, they are great plants; unique and wildlife friendly. For those gardeners who are not familiar with these little beauties, first let me tell you that they are drought tolerant and can take the summer heat ... Read More »

Sweetness in the Air


PLANT TALK Mike Malloy With August winding down it’s time in Florida to set our sights on – fall? Most of us have been trapped for months, scurrying from our air-conditioned cars to our air-conditioned homes, trying not to be overcome by heat exhaustion or dehydration; working in our gardens only in the wee hours of the morning to escape the burning rays of the hot Florida afternoon summer sun. Never mind the increasing number of mosquitoes that take up residence in the rainy season. The only good thing about working in the garden in the midday heat is ... Read More »

Chocolate in the Garden


PLANT TALK Mike Malloy Now that summer is almost over and the tremendous heat and frequent downpours should be coming to an end in about a month, it’s time to once again start thinking about some serious gardening. The first step is to take back control of your existing garden, which has had pretty much free rein, growing leaps and bounds all summer. The days of looking at our gardens through the windows of our air-conditioned homes are just about over. We’re all anxiously waiting for cooler days so we can begin the assault. After we’ve brought our gardens ... Read More »

Vines of Southwest Florida


PLANT TALK Mike Malloy There are many flowering vines that do well here in Southwest Florida. You can grow them on an arbor, a trellis or a fence; you can also let them climb up one of your least favorite trees. There are three different types of vines. Climbing vines use tendrils or small roots to attach themselves. Example: Passion Vine. Twining Vines use new growth, twining upward to encircle a structure such as a tree or pole. If you want to help them along remember that they usually twine themselves counter clockwise, following the earth’s rotation. If you ... Read More »

Gardening for Honey Bees


PLANT TALK Mike Malloy 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 dollars 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 ... Read More »

Butterfly Time of the Year


PLANT TALK Mike Malloy July is underway; 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, and ... Read More »