Caladiums and Impatiens Flower Garden Under the Trees

When I bought my house nearly 2 years ago, there was a little flower garden under the trees out front.  I neglected it and it became overgrown very quickly.  I’m not inclined to work outside in the heat, but the other day I decided a quick fix was in order.  The garden is small, so the work would be minimal.  We had brick pavers leftover from the building of the patio, so I used them to create a new border to hold the additional dirt needed.

I’m not yet very good with my Florida plant names, but the ones with the colorful, pointed leaves are Caladium.  The link to Eden Brothers calls them “bulbs”.  Mine came out of a pot so didn’t look like bulbs to me.

The white leaves are called “Florida Moonlight”.  I don’t know the name of the pink-leafed one, but they add lots of interest in the yard.  They love heat and humidity, which explains why they do so well here.

Flower garden under the trees
Flower garden under the trees

Also in the background around the tree are the thin leaves of the Variegated Flax Lily.  I spent a lot of time removing lots of dead leaves from them.  Even without attention they continued to grow, so I would say they are very hardy plants.  Now that I have given them some attention, the lily is blooming.  Each plant has tiny white flowers on stalks among the leaves.

little white flowers
Little stalks of white flowers on the Varigated Lily

When I first moved in here I bought a bunch of New Guinea Impatiens and put them in the garden by the front door.   The brightly colored flowers add continuous color to the landscape.  It turned out those annuals lasted nearly a year. The very cold nights in January finally froze most of them. Because they did so well, I bought a few more to put under the tree.

New Guinea Impatien
New Guinea Impatien and Caladium leaves

University of Florida plants list for the shade.

The purple flowering plant which is now under the tree is still in the short fabric pot. It is a Mona Lavender Plectranthus. I bought it because it was pretty, and I especially love the deep green of the leaves.

Now that I am researching this plant, I have discovered it needs some shade and is a perennial in warm climates. It seems that I have chosen a good spot for it to grow under the tree.  I moved the fabric pot and did not dig up this plant.  The potted Mona Lavender is now part of the shade garden and no one can tell it’s in a pot!

short grow bag
Plectranthus, Mona Lavender

Because planting around the base of a tree can be difficult because of roots, fabric gardening pots can be super helpful.

shade garden
The purple flowering plant is in a fabric pot.

All my new plants were purchased at the Home Depot. I also bought more organic garden dirt, and added blood meal and black mulch.

In my part of central Florida, plants can be killed in winter.  When freezing temperatures are coming overnight I will have to cover all these plants to keep them from dying.

Must Plant More Fast Growing Tropical Hibiscus Plants

The photo below is of my orange hibiscus and rose bush after planting in my yard. This past April, 2017, I dug up a little patch of grass in the back yard to create a space for a colorful flower garden.

The pretty double-flower orange hibiscus is a typical plant to grow in Florida. I prefer the double type flower, and I thought the color was lovely.  You can see that it was a small plant.

hibiscus and rose bush
New Garden, Hibiscus and Rose Bush – April 2017

Roses are such a bother, but this one was pretty and I decided to try it. The rose bush looks awful now, but the hibiscus has grown like crazy.  This just goes to show that if you plant what likes to grow in the local climate it will flourish.

Here it is 7 months later.

orange hibiscus plant and rose bush
Hibiscus and Rose Bush in November 2017

The hibiscus plant was watered regularly after it was planted, as was the rose. There were some mites on the buds, so I picked off the buds and threw them away. I’ve noticed that sometimes there are still mites on the plant, but it is not affecting the growth. I never water it now and it is flourishing in the sunny spot by the house.

Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 9.49.17 AM

Hibiscus are tropical plants and I fully expected it to survive quite well. I didn’t realize it would grow so fast.  It constantly buds and blooms and the leaves are nice and green.

All I do is occasionally pick off the bug infested buds and give it fish fertilizer and sprinkle some bone meal around the base for good root strength.

I have plans to plant more like this in the front yard. The wind blows from the front and it’s also more shady, so I don’t know if that will be a good location.

Something I’ve always enjoyed is watching my plants grow and change.  I once took photos of the Pinky Winky hydrangea in my New Hampshire yard for an entire blooming season to show the changes in the flowers from summer through fall.

Starting New Crotons From Old Plants

It’s easy to start new croton plants from cuttings.

Finding plants that will propagate easily has always been a goal of mine. Starting new crotons from old plants is easy. In fact it’s easier than propagating most things I’ve tried.  Cut the stem, put cuttings in water and wait a few weeks.  More detailed explanation below.

It is possible to propagate hydrangeas, but that takes time. It’s worth it, because in the end you have a new, lovely hydrangea bush. In fact my baby hydrangeas grew quite large before I had to move.

But back to the crotons. These plants love sun and heat and can live through a draught. The wilted leaves come back after getting some water. Crotons like well-drained soil, and the sandy soil of Florida helps this plant to love it outdoors. It can even survive the cold nights we sometimes get here in Central Florida.

This first photo below was taken over the winter months, when the leaves are duller in color with more green and dark purple colors.  Or maybe this one just needed better care.

crotons and birdhouse
Winter Croton

In this second photo, you can see that this plant’s leaves have turned stunning red, orange, yellow and pink from the bright Florida summer sun.  I’ve also given it fertilizer and cleaned out the pot a bit.  It was full of ferns.

croton
Summer Croton

So, to propagate this croton, I waited until Spring when it began to grow some new leaves. Then I cut off the top of a longer stem, also making the stem long enough to drink from a vase of water. Remove the lower leaves of that cutting, and put it in water.

croton
Bright Orange Leaves of the Croton

You will want the stem to not be touching the bottom of the vase, so find one that leaves it hanging. The new roots will grow out of the bottom of the cut stem.
Wait a few weeks and the roots will emerge. Be sure to change the water in the vase daily! Once you see roots, it won’t be long before they are long enough and you can plant the new croton in a pot or the ground.  Don’t plant until the roots are at least an inch long.

propagated croton plants
Three New Croton Plants

These are my three new croton plants. Their leaves are not as bright because I took the cuttings before the mother plant’s leaves turned so pretty. But once these new plants are in the ground, in a sunny location, they will turn just as bright.

As you can see below, the baby croton is turning color.  I need to fertilize these plants for better result, but even without much attention, crotons will grow beautifully.

croton

Tropical and Common Plants That Are Loving My Florida Room

Now that I live in Florida, I can grow some beautiful tropical plants in my sunroom.

plant in orange pot
Variegated Leaf Plant

In my new house there is a porch which is a little odd.  Someone visited and called it a “Florida Room” which reminded me that there are such things.  However my porch is not the traditional type that is on a corner or out back.  My Florida Room is situated between the dining area and the back bedroom.  Only one wall contains screens.  It is not enclosed and will get very hot (or cold) depending on the weather outside. More sun comes in during the winter months than will in summer, which is perfect.

It’s also not very big, considering we have a bar height table and chairs in the center, a chest freezer in the corner, and a long wooden table from my northern home along one wall. Amidst all this I have added some new tropical plants to the few I dragged with me from New Hampshire. (By the way, the New Hampshire born plants are loving all this sun and warmth!)

Some of these plants are new to me and some I am familiar with because I have grown them before. In Florida, only certain plants can take the full sunshine. It can be deadly to others by burning the leaves. Light (doesn’t mean direct sun) and warm conditions are what most of these need.

To be honest, growing plants in Florida is fairly easy. It’s almost greenhouse conditions year round. Keeping plants alive was nearly impossible in my New Hampshire home. They had hardly any sunshine and no warmth since I couldn’t afford to keep my house warm. I would set the plants near the wood stove to warm them up! And it was a very dry climate, which didn’t help either.

But I love to have plants inside. They clean the air and add a homey feel, in my opinion.

One of the plants I brought with me is this corn plant. It was not doing well, but has really begun growing like crazy in my Florida room. It’s happy now!  It’s hard to see, but there are two stalks growing here in this one pot.

The Corn Plant (as I call it) is easy to grow but it likes sun and warmth.  This one can take the full sun for part of the day.  Water when the pot feel light weight.

corn plant
Corn Plant

One of the new plants I have is a Ponytail palm. This was purchased in a small pot but I replanted it in a larger, cheap black pot. I had a nice ponytail palm a long time ago. I took it with me when I moved to New England and it died, of course. It was wishful thinking that a tropical plant would survive in a freezing cold climate, but I’d had it a long time and it was really big.
So I am growing one again for old times sake.  They are easy to grow.  Water when lifting the pot feels light.

ponytail palm in pot
Ponytail Palm

This next picture is my rubber plant. I love the unique look of this one. Those big, purple, rubbery leaves are so fun. I’ve grown them before and they can get quite large. They are shade tolerant and don’t like direct sunlight, as far as I know. But I’ve seen this type growing outside in a front yard here in Florida (in the sun) and it looks nice and healthy.  My landlady up north had a big one in her front window!  I was amazed when I saw it.  So I guess up north they will need more sun to stay warm.

For now, this one is small enough that I can take it outside when it needs water and spray the leaves too.

rubber plant
Rubber Plant

The Peace Lily is also called a “spath” which is short for spathiphyllum. This plant will grow well in a dark corner, but it can take some light too. The leaves will turn obviously toward any light, so it will have to be turned to grow upright and look nice. When the leaves begin to droop it’s time for water!

I take this one outside and spray it down when I fill the pot with water, but don’t leave it out in the sun!  This is a plant that will stay bright green without any sun.  Mine has a couple of white flowers, and hopefully it will get more.  It was recently re-potted.

peace lily spathiphyllum spath
Indoor Peace Lily

The pothos ivy, which is a common hanging plant, loves the warm and humid porch area. My hanging basket broke, so I had to put the pothos in the plant stand. It works out well because I can move the whole thing out the door and give it plenty of water outside when needed.  Most plants like to have their leaves sprayed, which gives them a good cleaning.

pothos hanging plant
Pothos

I also have some succulents scattered around the house and two orchids. I have managed to kill some beautiful succulents by overwatering. Certain types can’t be watered very often. If you are tempted to water them, set them someplace out of the way. It’s best if you can forget about them for a while! Believe me, you must be strong and NOT WATER THEM. Some succulents only need water every few MONTHS.
More on growing succulents in my next post.