Building a Flower Garden

See how I planted a little flower garden in my Florida yard.

My son took me to Lindley’s Nursery in New Smyrna Beach the other day and I picked up some flowering plants for the yard. (More about Lindley’s further down the page.)

I’ve been saving cardboard boxes to use as grass killers in the yard. It is not that easy to kill Florida grass and weeds, but this type of thing works very well in New Hampshire! Haha… I’m not there, I’m here, so we used the rototiller.

cardboard on grass

Step Two

Dig up the grass, roots, and dollar weed (ugh) and pull it all out. (There is no way to remove all the dollar weed.) This leaves a sandy “dirt” to which I added a bag of store bought soil. (We buy our dirt, compost, and mulch from The Yard Shop in New Smyrna.)

creating a new flower garden
Nearly done with the garden

Plant the Shrubbery

I had four plants to put into the space and I planted them back a bit to leave room for something in the front. Also, I’m not sure how big they will become. I used a piece of the cardboard to kneel on while planting.

These plants came from Lindley’s Nursery in New Smyrna Beach. I was so impressed with the upgrades they had done to the place since my last visit (quite a white ago). I would have stayed longer because the grounds were beautiful and they had so many wonderful plants, but I was with my son who was not into plant shopping.

I grabbed some flowering things that seemed to attract bees (if the bees are on the plants while shopping, it’s a good indication!). All the Florida native plant names totally left my head, but I will probably go back at a later date to find more plants. They did not have any native milkweed because I asked. It was sold out – and there was no sign – so I’m not sure which type they were selling. I hope it was not the tropical milkweed.

I’ve never grown any of theses plants before.

The Garden is Finished!

The digging began early in the morning to beat the sun. I have until around 9:00am until this area becomes sunny. I did have to finish with the mulch and do the watering in the sun, but at least the digging was finished.

New flower garden planted

Planting Tips

For each plant I added to the garden, I included some bone meal, crab meal, earthworm castings, and compost. All these things should help improve the soil and keep the plants happy for now. I used these amendments because I had them, but bone meal only would have been fine for now. (All links are Amazon affiliate links.)

A couple of the plants were very root bound, so I disturbed the roots by pulling them a bit to keep them from being tight. This helps them to grow outward instead of round and round like they had to do in the pot.

All the soil amendments I mentioned above were mixed with the ground soil once the plant was in its place. After planting, each plant was soaked with water, and once the mulch was added, I watered them all again.

Keep Reading the Blog

Why You Should Plant Zinnias

Here in Florida we can plant and grow Zinnias. I never knew this, but the Urban Harvest sells seeds and they sell things that will grow in Florida. Sure…

Seeds From the Urban Harvest

Growing seeds from the Urban Harvest has been a rewarding experience. My small backyard vegetable garden is off to a great start.


Fill the Yard With Milkweed – The Right Kind!

Be sure to select a native milkweed for the yard, or you could be harming the Monarchs instead of helping. Don’t take store and seller’s word for it – be informed.

(Photos on this page are of the WRONG kind of milkweed. Do not buy it to plant in the Florida landscape.)

On our last trip to the Farmer’s Market at the Fairgrounds in Deland, Florida, we found some plants for the yard. I was happy to find this plant at the market. It cost me $15.00 but I was very excited to find such a wonderful, big plant to help the monarchs. What a mistake. I bought Tropical Milkweed which is becoming a problem in our state – and is pictured on this page.

Two-colored flowers (red and orange/yellow) with pointed leaves – this is the non-native Tropical Milkweed.

Good Intentions

I want to fill my yard with food for the bees and butterflies (namely Monarchs)… BUT… this is not the right kind of milkweed for my area. When this milkweed plant began to drop its seeds, I looked for information about planting them. I’m so glad I searched for information.

I will not be planting or scattering these seeds!

This is when I realized that I have the wrong type of milkweed.

Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias Curassavica) is NOT a native Florida plant. It is native to Mexico.

Because this flowering milkweed is not native to this area it can cause problems for Monarch butterflies. I bought it without realizing that it is completely the wrong type, and it can even be harmful – to the Monarchs – to have this milkweed growing in my yard!

The flower color of the Tropical Milkweed (pretty but unwanted)

The orange flowering milkweed shown below is NOT a Florida native plant. As problematic as it is, it should not be sold in the state. Maybe this is why I could not find it in Home Depot. I’d like to think that stores and shops will begin to sell native types only one day.

Tropical milkweed is not native to Florida and can cause problems for the Monarch butterflies.

Native Type – Buy This

Asclepius Tuberosa is one of Florida’s native milkweeds. This link goes to the UF site with photos of the completely orange flowering plant. And the Gardening Solutions page has a compete list of all of Florida’s native milkweed plants. A couple have links, but the point is that if you live in Florida and want to help the Monarchs, choose to grow something from this list.

You may find what you want, along with other Florida native plants, from this list of growers / nurseries on the Plant Real Florida site.

The Monarch Story – IFAS

Do Not Buy or Plant This Type of Milkweed

This orange and yellow flowering milkweed is the Asclepias curassavica and is native to Mexico. It does not drop its leaves overwinter as our native milkweed will. Because of this, the monarchs can continue to lay eggs here in Florida at a time when they should be migrating. Also, a parasite that would die off when the leaves fall, tends to stay around ready to infect new caterpillars. High levels of this parasite can cause the butterflies to be too weak to make their migration.

This information comes from the article at FNPS (Florida Native Plant Society) and please read this informative page. It explains it all much better than I can.

Someone suggested that if this type of plant is growing in your Florida yard, cut it down in winter. That way there will be no leaves and it will mimic the native type, except for the parasite problem.

Telling Native From Non-native Milkweed

All of the milkweed photos on this page (and on my blog so far) are of the tropical milkweed. It has two- colored flowers. And all yellow variety is sold in stores as well.

There is a native milkweed that looks similar but its leaves are very long and thin. The native plant with totally orange flowers has leaves that are rounded (not pointed) at the ends. See a comparison at the bottom of this page.

Feed the Caterpillars Well

It is not enough to simply provide food for the monarch caterpillars, we need to feed them the right way. I want to mimic nature as much as possible so I will not be planting this new milkweed plant in my yard.

I’ll continue to research buying milkweed plants and seeds for my area.

monarch caterpillar

Find More Info About Florida’s Native Plants

Keep reading…

Pink Hydrangeas Are Blooming in June

The hydrangea shrub in my Florida yard is doing well and blooming with pink flowers.

The hydrangea I planted in my Florida garden a few years ago is now blooming once again. Soil in Florida tends to be alkaline so the flowers are pink. When I first bought the plant the flowers were blue, no doubt due to amendments to the soil. Everyone wants blue flowering hydrangeas.

But when this hydrangea plant was left to grow in the sandy soil in my southern yard, the flowers became pink. I don’t care. Pink is pretty too.

The key to success when growing hydrangeas in the hot and humid Florida climate is to give the plant shade. All the leaves fall off for winter but the greenery comes back along the stems in Spring. Don’t cut the plant back! The first year I did cut it, but it’s not necessary.

2017 Potted and blue

Here is the hydrangea plant when I first bought it. It was probably grown in a greenhouse and given something acidic for the flowers to bloom blue.

Blue hydrangea

The blue flowers faded to green, just like my New Hampshire blue flowers!

My blue hydrangea flowers have faded to green

Each year the leaves fall off

For the winter months in Florida, the plant is nothing but stems. Once the weather gets permanently warm again – around February – the stems will begin to show green growth.

hydrangea February garden Florida stems
February – hydrangea is stems only!

2022 June – Pink flowers

The flowers will only be blue if the soil is acidic. In Florida, azaleas, camellias, gardenias, and crepe myrtle all like acidic soil. So planting hydrangeas near these plants means they can all be amended with bone meal, or something to naturally turn the soil acidic. Read about more ways to turn soil acidic.

It seems that each year this plant has more, and larger, flowers. I try to give it plenty of water and it is never in direct sunlight thanks to the fact that a large shrub covers it.

Growing hydrangeas in Florida
June 2022

July and the Blooms Are Fading

I was sick with Covid for nearly a month and only recently have been back out in my Florida yard. Now my pink hydrangea flowers are a very light greenish color. One little pink bloom hangs on.

faded hydrangea flowers in Florida
Hydrangeas drying on the stem

Please Keep Reading the Blog

Spring in Florida is Like Fall Only Uglier

Some people will say that Florida is one big season that just gets hotter at times. But Florida does have a Spring. It’s when the leaves fall off the trees and pollen collects as a yellow film on everything day after day. Yes, Spring is like Fall / Autumn here, in a way. It’s a duller, more annoying, version of Fall.

Florida oaks with moss branching over a road
Live Oaks – Spring

There are no colorful leaves, or crisp air to breathe, like in a real Autumn. The trees turn a brighter green with the new growth and the oaks drop those long brown things all over the cars (that don’t fit inside garages because that is where everything is stored because there are no basements). Oak leaves are small here and not like the oak leaves where I come from.

That’s about it. Other than that, new growth will appear when bushes are trimmed, but that can happen at any time of year. No use looking for tulips, forsythia, daffodils, or anything that signals Spring in many places, because those flowers don’t grow here in the jungle.

Spring Trimming of The Shrubs

A seasoned Floridian knows when to trim the shrubs. Don’t trim in winter as it will promote new growth that will freeze if the temperatures drop, which they sometimes do. Don’t trim azaleas until after they bloom in March or April. Plant new perennials well before the summer heat arrives. (Not this year. The nurseries are all closed.)

Trimmed hedge
Trimmed hedge of little ficus?

I have decided this year to try and fix up the shrubs along the front by the garage. These are hardy little things that are slow growing, so they are perfect for this area. I’m not sure of what they are, maybe some sort of ficus. I imagine they were planted when the house was built. Unfortunately, the sprinkler system didn’t reach them, and they’ve been ignored since I moved in over three years ago. I’m so sorry, but you did well enough without my help.

new growth on the shrubs
New growth

Now it’s time I paid attention and helped them out. I just recently cut them back a lot. The leaves were looking bad, as you can see I’m my photo. The stems had become spindly and leafless. I’m hoping that this trim will help them to fill out.

new growth on green shrubs

Already there is lots of new growth on the stems. I’ve added topsoil, fertilizer and mulch to this section of garden. My son bought, and installed, a little sprinkler head that sprays this garden specifically. It shouldn’t be long before this hedge is looking thick and lush.

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