Florida plants can add to Mississippi gardens

Published 2:11 pm Monday, February 21, 2022

By Gary R. Bachman
MSU Extension Service

My wife, Katie, and I just spent a long weekend in central Florida — Mount Dora to be exact — for much needed rest and relaxation. I also did a radio interview for the new Southern Gardening book, but more on that later.

I love travelling and visiting places that are in a different growing zone from my own. Central Florida is in the U.S. Department of Agriculture zone 9b/10a, so I observed interesting plants. They are able to maintain many in the landscape that we grow indoors or as annuals in Mississippi gardens and landscapes.

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I was amazed seeing all the varieties of croton growing in the landscape. Mississippians love the great croton colors and forms in containers, but the crotons growing in the Florida landscapes were being used as shrubs. I mean, these were big plants!

And speaking of big plants, I had the chance to visit with a former student and good friend. She told me about her husband removing a bougainvillea from their yard. Our Mississippi bougainvilleas are fantastic growing in hanging baskets. He removed theirs with a chainsaw! It’s definitely a different gardening world there.

I want to share a couple of plants that I fell in love with on our visit.

First up is snowbush. Now, I do have to say it has a curious name because it is not hardy to areas that actually get snow; it’s a Pacific Island native. Perhaps the name comes from the variegated foliage that looks like it’s been frosted with snow.

I loved the snowbush colors of red, white and green foliage displayed on reddish zig-zag stems. This plant is hardy to zones 10 and 11. For Mississippi, it’s an indoor plant in the winter, but it would grow well in a container on the patio in the summer.

So, keep alert for this gem when visiting your favorite garden center.

The other plant I was impressed with was Brunfelsia pauciflora, which is quite a mouthful of a botanical name.

Most gardeners know this plant as Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. It lives up to this descriptive name because the flowers actually change colors from deep violet to light violet to white, all in three days.

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is hardy in zones 9 to 12, so Mississippi gardeners on the Gulf Coast can give this one a try. Don’t tell anyone, but I collected a few cuttings to try to root for my home garden.

Every year, I get a few questions from gardeners fortunate enough to already have one of these in their landscape, but the plants have stopped flowering. Here are a couple of suggestions that may help restart the blooms.

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow tolerates a variety of light conditions, but morning sun and afternoon shade are best. I have just the spot picked out for my cuttings. Soil type isn’t critical, but make sure the planting bed is well drained. This plant does not like to grow with wet feet.

Although these popular central Florida plants may not be widely available in Mississippi, keep alert when visiting garden centers, as you might find these gems.