Grow your own – October 2013

When we first moved to Florida many years ago, one of the things I missed was the beauty of the Virginia countryside as the leaves changed to red, yellow and orange in the fall. While not as panoramic as up north, autumn in Florida can be just as colorful. Right now I have red, yellow, and orange (as well as pink and purple) flowers, foliage, and berries growing in profusion in my yard. There are many plant varieties to choose from if you want autumn color. Some of my favorites are listed by color below.
Yellows–Texas Bells and Thryallis have had showy, yellow flowers since early summer. Texas Bells’ trumpet blooms are a favorite with butterflies, bumblebees, and an occasional hummingbird. Thryallis has put on quite a lengthy show, adding “pop” to a side ornamental bed in partial shade. Recently my Candlestick Cassia has begun its fall display of elongated, yellow blooms on stems that reach heights of up to twelve feet.
Reds–The Chenille Plant has been blooming since late spring. I use this plant as a ground cover in one sunny area of my yard, and the carpet of red flowers and green leaves is lovely. Pyracantha, a large bush that had many tiny white blooms in the spring, is now at its best with a spectacular display of red berries, a favorite with the birds. You can’t beat the colorful foliage of a Copper Plant. Its 3- to 6-inch leaves are red and maroon in full sun, but in shadier areas they show off in cream, green, and pink. Pinecone Ginger is at its peak with bright pink “pinecones” hiding among the foliage of other plants. Another favorite is Firespike, which sports large, shiny, green leaves from spring until frost and beautiful blooms beginning in late summer. I have two varieties, a red and a purple, both of which attract lots of nectar-lovers.
Purples–The birds are enjoying the gorgeous, bright, purple berries on my native Beautyberry bushes, and purple Fountain Grass is charming with its caterpillar-like flowers swaying in the breeze. Mexican Sage has had lovely, purple blooms for months, and will continue on up until the first freeze. This plant is easy to root from cuttings, and spreads to make a showy display in the garden.
Oranges–The native Fire Bush’s orange blooms have made quite a dramatic statement in my front beds, where I have two full-sized bushes (6-8 feet high) and one dwarf bush (2 feet high). The Lion’s Tail bush sports tall spikes of green leaves with bright orange flowers swirling around. My Trumpet Vine is also in full color, and the bees often disappear into its orange and yellow blooms.
While we can all still enjoy an occasional trip up north to see the leaves changing color, I hope you can agree that Florida offers lots of colorful beauty of its own in the fall. With a little planning and some TLC, we can create colorful displays year round if we grow our own.

About Aline Clement

Aline Clement is a master gardener with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.