Driving around Marco Island you don’t have to wait long till you come upon a bush or a small tree with a stunning display of blossoms. Southwest Florida has a year-round growing season with plenty of sun and summer humidity. This allows gardeners in the Sunshine State to enjoy blooms all year long.
A flowering bougainvillea is very common all over the Island with their vibrant and colorful displays. To most homeowners in Marco, bougainvillea is the most favored flowering plant offering colors of fiery red, white, pink, orange, lilac, yellow and even bi-colors. They thrive in hot sunny spots, are low maintenance, and you can even let it grow wild but an occasional trimming will help to control size. Bougainvillea is a flowering machine!
If you love the color BLUE, the Plumbago auriculata ‘Imperial Blue’ is definitely your plant. Blue flowers are rare; color blue is seen in only 10% of the 280,000 flowering plants on Earth. Blue is the color of calm and serenity and a blue plumbago, with its billowing drifts of blues and rambling habit, adds a cottage garden appeal to your front door or walkway. They also do well in containers and attract butterflies. There’s even a lesser known white plumbago. Mix both in a container or combine with other foliage, those with pinks and yellow flowers, for contrast.
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Bunfelsia) sounds like a romantic Shakespeare sonnet. It is a tropical plant that puts forth pansy like flowers that change from one day to the next with all the colors present at the same time. The blossoms start with the color violet, then changes to pale lavender blue and finally white. According to the garden books, purple stands for Yesterday, lavender for Today and white for tomorrow. This fantastical plant thrives in the heat and humidity of South Florida. Caution: According to the ASPCA, the plant is toxic to cats and dogs so keep this in mind when choosing a planting location.
The Dombeya burgessiae (Seminole) is often called the “Tropical Hydrangea” with its clusters of pink flowers similar to hydrangeas up north. It is a reliable bloomer from October to May attracting bees and butterflies. The more sun it gets, the fuller the plant will be with more spectacular pink clusters. It can grow up to 7 feet tall but it’s easy to maintain by pruning it down to 4 feet after spring bloom. This is a favorite front yard specimen plant for both Sue Oldershaw and Linda Schwoeppe of the Calusa Garden Club.
A landscape staple, the Panama Rose (rondeletia leucophylla) blooms nearly year–round with bright pink flower clusters that attract butterflies. It is often referred to as Bush Penta as it resembles the Penta (another butterfly plant). Suggest that you plant this near walkways or patios as the flowers have a very light scent which is stronger in the evening. Panama Rose is a consistent flowering bush and is a great addition to a bed of butterfly plants.
Euphorbia (leucocephala) Snowflake Shrub or small tree produces an abundance of delicate, airy white flowers reminiscent of baby’s breath contrasted with apple green leaves. It can grow to 3-5 feet and may be trimmed once blooms are spent; it will keep coming back. And this is a favorite for pollinators, too. This is not an easy plant to find as the Euphorbia family is known for many other specimens – such as its smaller cousin Euphorbia Diamond Frost, a mounding ground cover also with clusters of white flowers.
Donna Kay, a Master Gardener and Calusa Garden Club member, is a volunteer at the Naples Butterfly Garden where a Euphorbia Snowflake is a favorite for butterflies. Donna bought her two Euphorbias from the Naples Botanical Garden. Keep this plant in mind when looking for a spectacular white bloomer for your landscape. When everything else in the landscape is orange, pink and red the white canopy of the Euphorbia Snowflake is a show stopper.