Gardening in Central Florida

By Resident Betty Suber


From the class of 2008 Volusia County Master Gardening program, it is my pleasure to share this information from the University of Florida with my friends here at John Knox Village. Garden information is so interesting and so confusing at the same time. I want to share with you just what annuals are best suited for our area in Central Florida.

In Florida, most annuals only last one season (not one year). To be successful, they must be planted at the right time. Unfortunately, they are sometimes sold out of season and are therefore short-lived in the garden. Annuals offer an almost infinite variety of flower colors and plant forms. We have warm-season and cool-season annuals. There are so many varieties that for this article I will only concentrate on the warm-season annuals. Based on historical records, the last frost for our area is February 15. However, early and late frosts can occur anywhere in the state. We do know that by March 15, it is pretty safe to plant warm-season tender plants.
It is interesting to note that overhead sprinkler systems can destroy the beauty of a flowerbed by physically damaging the fragile petals or causing the blooms to rot. Also, make sure the annuals receive nutrients throughout their growing season. Controlled-release fertilizers provide an extended, steady supply of nutrients.

The following practices can help reduce pest problems:
1. Plant annuals at the appropriate time of the year. Cool-season annuals in the fall, winter, and early spring; warm-season annuals in spring and summer.
2. Right plant/right place: Match the growing requirements (light and moisture needs).
3. Remove weeds from flowerbeds since weeds frequently host insects and/or disease organisms.

Most interesting of all is which flowers grow better for the longest amount of time in Central Florida. Speaking strictly, warm-weather plants should be planted in March or April. Category #1: plants that last nine months with proper care. Category #2: plants that last 5 months. Category #3: plants that last only three months. This may influence your choices when you are planning your flowerbed.

  • Flowers in Category #1: Wax Begonia, Coleus, Impatiens, New Guinea Impatiens, Pentas, Scaevola, Torenia, Moss Rose, Angelonia, Crossandra.
  • Flowers in Category #2: Zinnia, Ornamental Pepper, Gaillardia, Amaranthus, Rudbeckia, Phlox, Celosia.
  • Flowers in Category #3: Marigold, Balsam, Gazania, Lavender, Lobelia, Salvia.

Of course, there will be many other options in your local nursery, but these are the best choices according to my research on annual optimum performers for Central Florida. Good luck and happy gardening to everyone who enjoys this hobby!