Growing flowers year round is so easy on Anna Maria Island that, even without a highly qualified landscape expert, nursery, or landscaping service, it’s still possible to enjoy blossoms throughout the year. As somebody who has very limited interest in spending the day doing the work of a landscaper, I have found some plants that give color in the yard with almost no effort, and almost no fertilizer or extra watering.
The bougainvillea that was already on our property has continued to provide color throughout the year, with almost no care. Every once in awhile, a caterpillar of some sort eats some of the leaves. I used to spray pesticide when this happened, but more recently I haven’t worried about it, and the plant seems to survive and periodically bloom, even with no treatment. Having grown bougainvillea years ago as a house plant, I already knew that they prefer to dry out between waterings, and I’m very glad to oblige by letting only the natural rainfall water the plant. Even during droughts, I have not watered our bougainvillea. I have fertilized it several times in the course of ten years, watering it then to soak the minerals into the ground. The blossoms on the plant come and go, and it’s particularly beautiful in mid winter, in cooler temperatures, as seen in the photo.
Crinum lilies are in the same South Africa family as the amaryllis. In our yard, without landscape design, they grow with no watering or fertilizer and seem to blossom all year. Every once in awhile they are attacked by an insect pest I have not yet identified, but spraying with a mixture of cooking oil and dishwashing soap takes care of that. These plants are hardy on Anna Maria Island, and very satisfying. The huge blossoms can be cut and put in a vase inside. Flowers left on the plant often deposit new bulbs on the ground, which turn into new plants.
The hibiscus is a bit more temperamental. Not that it requires lots of care or horticultural knowledge, but they seem to fluctuate. A neighbor of mine had a new hedge of apparently identical hibiscus plants put in by a landscape company recently. Already, some of the bushes are thriving while others seem to be withering. I’m sure they are receiving uniform care. In my yard, there are some hibiscuses that have survived for years, but since I don’t fertilize or water them often, they look a bit unruly and wild. That’s fine with me, since I’m not fond of the overly formal chemical landscape. Every once in awhile, I buy a small hibiscus to keep as a potted plant on our deck. After awhile, if we are planning to be away and not able to water it, I stick it in the ground in the yard. Several have survived and have grown surprisingly large.
This leads me to my final landscaping tip for increasing the color in your Florida yard: instead of buying cut flowers to decorate the inside of your house, buy small potted flowering plants at a place like WalMart or Home Depot. You can enjoy them inside for awhile, as if they were fresh cut flowers. Just have a few decorative pots or baskets in which to set them, while they’re inside. Later, you can either set the pot into a little hole in your garden, or just hide the pot in the permanent growth of the garden. If it seems like something you want to grow for the long term, of course you can take the plant out of the pot and dig it into the soil. Otherwise, these inexpensive little potted flowering plants can add a welcomed touch of color to your yard for as long as they last.
A few small, inexpensive potted blossoming plants that work well this way are the poinsettia, geranium, kalanchoe, impatiens and miniature rose. Bromeliads can be treated the same way, enjoyed for their initial color as an indoor plant, then moved outside, where they might survive in our benign climate, even with neglect. All of these might even surprise you by flowering again in the following season.
Not having a landscape irrigation system is little hindrance to growing native plants in Tampa Bay Florida. Keeping a lush lawn is not that rewarding here but while looking for landscape ideas one other enhancement that I’ve considered is to add landscape lighting for nighttime safety and pleasure.