Amarylis – The Botanical Fashion Statement

Amarylis – The Botanical Fashion Statement

Gardening is a year-round activity here in the deep South. As the rest of the states bundle up for the upcoming winter, North Florida’s gardens are bustling with activity. There is still plenty to do this November in North Florida. Amongst the many tasks include planting the subtropical amaryllis, Hippeastrum spp. It’s a beloved choice for gardeners due to its hardy nature and minimal maintenance requirements. The good news is, you can welcome these wonderful amaryllis into your garden this November, bringing a burst of beauty to your outdoor space in the coming spring without much fuss.

Amaryllis is a low maintenance, reliable bulb for Florida. Credit: fotofrogdesigner/iStock/Thinkstock, © fotofrogdesigner


Imagine flowers that open up like grand trumpets, each one stretching up to a generous six inches in diameter. What’s more, these magnificent blooms don’t make a solo appearance; they often arrive one after the other, as if in a graceful floral procession. Amaryllis doesn’t just shine in one color but offers a whole palette of choices – from vibrant reds, warm oranges, and delicate pinks to the purest of whites. And for those who adore the extraordinary, there are amaryllis varieties with stunning stripes as well. The plant itself boasts glossy, elongated leaves, each one measuring about 1.5 inches wide and 18 inches in length. With amaryllis, nature’s paintbrush knows no bounds.


For amaryllis in North Florida, it’s ideal to plant them during November and December. Find a spot with some sunlight and good drainage, not too much shade or full sun. These bulbs are tough; just dig a hole deep enough, but for top performance, prepare the soil by tilling it, mixing in organic material and some complete fertilizer. Plant bulbs about a foot apart, with their necks above the ground. Water them when you first plant and keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged until they’re settled in.


Amaryllis plants can keep on blooming if they get what they need and the bulbs can be left in the ground for years. To keep them happy, put some mulch down when you plant and get rid of any weeds that show up. In the growing season (from March to September), you can feed them with fertilizer, but be sure to follow the instructions on the label. When they’re growing and blooming, make sure the soil stays moist. Once they’re established, they can handle dry spells and only need water if it’s been super dry for a while. After the flowers are done, you should remove the old flower stems, and this not only keeps things looking nice but also helps prevent diseases. Every now and then, amaryllis might get a fungus problem called “red blotch” or “leaf scorch,” and you might also spot some chewing insects like caterpillars or grasshoppers.

Red blotch disease of Amaryllis. Credit: Bob Rutemoeller


Amaryllis creates a stunning landscape display when planted in masses of 10 or more, all with the same vibrant color. You can place them right at the base of evergreen shrubs to create a beautiful backdrop. If your house and shrubs have dark colors, go for amaryllis with bright, eye-catching flower colors. On the other hand, if your house and surroundings are light or white, the darker-colored amaryllis will really stand out. These versatile plants have many uses in your landscape, whether you’re decorating terraces, creating tree islands, sprucing up slopes, adding a welcoming touch near a gate, enhancing borders, or simply scattering them around for a pop of spring color.

Amaryllis has many landscape uses. Credit: squirrel77/iStock/Thinkstock, © squirrel77

The beautiful amaryllis offers a glimpse into the resilience and wonder of nature, reminding us that even in the face of changing seasons, life and beauty continue to thrive. Why settle for ordinary blooms when you can have the show-stopping drama of amaryllis? This November, ditch the dull and dive headfirst into the dazzling world of these majestic bulbs.

 For more information about growing amaryllis, contact your local UF/IFAS county extension office.

Sun Kissed Bulbs

Sun Kissed Bulbs

Trying to rejuvenate your flower beds can be challenging during these hot days and warm nights. This presents a chance to carefully select and plant varieties that not only endure but thrive in the scorching summer season. Luckily, Florida gardeners have many options, including bulbs. Bulbs are known for their ability to flourish and produce beautiful flowers year after year with proper care. Three of these, Aztec Lily, Walking Iris, and Spider Lily, can be planted during the month of August.

Aztec Lily.


The Aztec Lily, a tender perennial bulb, belongs to the Sprekelia genus in the amaryllis family and is one of only three known species. Among them, Sprekelia formosissima stands out for its striking and showy flowers. Growing from 12 to 36 inches, Aztec Lillies are typically colored from scarlet to deep crimson, though there are also pink and white varieties available. Each bulb has the potential to produce multiple flower stalks annually, usually in sequence rather than all at once. The flowers exhibit bilateral symmetry, resembling the velvety appearance of an orchid. Aztec Lilies should be planted in full shade to part sun and can tolerate acidic and alkaline soil. These plants are incredibly versatile and well-suited for various landscaping purposes, such as mass planting, border decoration, adding accents to garden designs, and attracting butterflies to butterfly gardens.

Walking Iris.


The Walking Iris, Neomarica spp., is a clumping herbaceous perennial, growing to a height of 18 to 36 inches. These plants boast attractive light green leaves and small Iris-like flowers that bloom periodically throughout the spring, summer, and fall seasons. Although the flowers have a short lifespan, they still add a delightful splash of color, making the Walking Iris an interesting addition to any landscape. The Walking Iris thrives in both full and partial shade, making it a versatile choice for your garden. While it can adapt to various soil types, it truly flourishes in moist areas. When grouped together in shady areas, the Walking Iris creates a lovely and eye-catching display. Its upright foliage, coupled with the occasional blooming flower, makes a bold statement in the overall landscape.


Spider Lily.

Native to Florida, the Spider Lily (Hymenocallis latifolia) is a captivating perennial featuring alluring foliage and fragrant white blossoms. This clumping plant exhibits long, dark green leaves that emerge from an underground bulb, gracefully reaching a height of 24 to 36 inches.  During the summer and fall seasons, the Spider Lily adorns itself with numerous white flowers, known for their enchanting fragrance, remarkable longevity, and delicate appearance. For optimal growth, place your Spider Lily in either full sun or part shade, and ensure the soil is well-drained. With its rapid growth, the spider lily serves as an excellent ground cover option, spreading its beauty across the landscape. Alternatively, it can be strategically planted in borders or highlighted as a specimen plant, adding charm and elegance to any garden or landscape design.

In the world of flora, the Aztec Lily, Walking Iris, and Spider Lily stand out as captivating gems worth exploring. Each possessing its unique allure and charm, these three species display nature’s diversity and ingenuity. For more information about summer bulbs, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.

The Enchanting Allure of the Purple Coneflower

The Enchanting Allure of the Purple Coneflower

Article Written By: Khadejah Scott, Horticulture/Agriculture/Natural Resources Extension Agent, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Wakulla County

Among the notable floral species is the striking and resilient Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). With its enchanting blooms and remarkable adaptability, the coneflower has captured the attention of both nature enthusiasts and gardening enthusiasts alike. The Purple Coneflower has fascinating characteristics that thrive in our unique region. 

Purple coneflowers
Purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea). Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS


On top of sturdy, hairy branches, this hardy perennial produces daisy-like flowers with a cone-shaped center and petals in pink, lavender, and purple hues that are either horizontal or drooping. In the spring and summer, the flowers are displayed atop sturdy, 2 – 4-foot stalks that are known to tolerate wind and rain. Nothing compares to a Purple Coneflower in full bloom. 


The Purple Coneflower is an incredibly useful landscape plant, and there are several cultivars available. The Purple Coneflower’s rigid look contrasts nicely with the softness of other perennials and fine-textured plants. Because of the gorgeous blossom, the plant draws a lot of attention and works well as part of a mixed perennial border. Coneflowers are also well-suited for bulk plantings since they look stunning in drifts and draw a ton of butterflies.  


Purple coneflowers prefer well-drained, acidic to slightly alkaline loam and clay soil. They thrive best in a light shade as improved drought resistance and enhanced flower and leaf color result from protection from the late afternoon sun. To encourage additional flowers, remove fading blossoms, and divide clumps every few years to maintain healthy plants. Watch out for powdery mildew and whiteflies. During damp weather, fungus-related leaf patches could emerge as well.  

The Purple Coneflower stands as a remarkable testament to nature’s ingenuity and beauty. Its stunning petals, growing properties, and ability to attract a myriad of beneficial insects make it a true gem in any garden. The Purple Coneflower is more than just a visually captivating plant—it is a symbol of resilience, healing, and harmony with the natural world. For more information about Purple Coneflower, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.

The Art of Mowing

The Art of Mowing

Written by: Khadejah Scott, Horticulture, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Extension Agent, UF/IFAS Extension – Wakulla County

A well-manicured lawn not only enhances the beauty of your property but also provides a welcoming outdoor space. In North Florida, where warm weather and abundant rainfall create ideal conditions for lush green lawns, proper mowing practices play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy and vibrant landscape. With the right techniques and considerations tailored to the unique characteristics of this region, you can achieve a pristine lawn that becomes the envy of the neighborhood. In this article, we will explore essential tips and insights for mowing your North Florida lawn, helping you unleash the full potential of your outdoor haven while ensuring its long-term health and sustainability.

Mowing a lawn.
Mowing a lawn. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS

Mowing Heights

The turfgrass species’ growth pattern and leaf width influence the ideal mowing height. Grass species that grow horizontally and have narrow leaf blades are often cut lower than grasses that grow upright and have wider leaf blades. Because of its numerous tiny leaf blades, Bermudagrass is an example of a plant that is mowed at low heights. St. Augustinegrass, on the other hand, has wider leaf blades and is cut at a higher height. Rooting depth is also influenced by mowing, with deeper roots developing in response to higher mowing heights. Greater resistance to drought, insects, disease, nematodes, temperature stress, poor soil conditions, nutritional deficiencies, and traffic are benefits of the deeper root system. The main cause of turf damage is frequent mowing below the suggested heights for each species, which should be avoided.

Mowing Frequency

The frequency of lawn mowing is determined by the rate at which the grass grows, which is influenced by various factors such as the type of grass, time of year, weather conditions, and the level of maintenance. In North Florida, the need for mowing during winter months may vary depending on the climate and the type of grass present. Grasses like bahiagrass, which require less maintenance, may primarily be mowed to remove seedheads rather than cutting the leaf blades. To maintain a healthy lawn, it is recommended to mow frequently enough to remove no more than one-third of the blade height at a time. Preserving an ample amount of leaf surface is crucial to allow for photosynthesis, especially when the grass is exposed to environmental or site-related stresses.

A lawn
A lawn up close. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS

Using Grass Clippings

Leaving grass clippings on the lawn is generally beneficial as it aids in recycling nutrients and organic matter, while reducing waste in landfills. When lawns are regularly mowed, clippings pose minimal issues. Microbes in the soil readily decompose the clippings, returning valuable organic matter and nutrients to the soil without contributing to thatch buildup under normal conditions. However, infrequent mowing can lead to excess clippings, resulting in clumping and potential thatch formation. Excessive thatch can create various problems, including reduced water infiltration, increased risk of pests and diseases, and diminished turf quality. To mitigate environmental concerns, it is crucial to sweep up any grass clippings from hard surfaces like sidewalks or driveways. These clippings contain nutrients that, if washed into storm drains or water bodies, can contribute to water pollution. By sweeping them back onto the lawn, the grass can benefit from the nutrients while minimizing environmental impact.

Proper mowing practices are essential for maintaining a healthy and vibrant lawn in North Florida’s unique climate. Understanding the growth patterns of different grass species, adjusting mowing frequency accordingly, and leaving clippings on the lawn to recycle nutrients are key aspects of lawn maintenance. By following these guidelines, homeowners can achieve a well-manicured lawn that enhances the beauty of their property while promoting environmental sustainability. Additionally, regular mowing helps prevent thatch buildup, ensures optimal photosynthesis, and reduces the risk of pest and disease infestations. By implementing these best practices, residents of North Florida can enjoy a lush, resilient, and visually appealing lawn that serves as a welcoming outdoor space for years to come. Remember, mowing is not just a chore but an art that contributes to the overall health and aesthetics of your landscape. UF/IFAS provides a wealth of information online regarding maintaining a well-manicured lawn. For any questions or concerns, be sure to consult with your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.

Pollinator Gardening – Tips for Apartment Living

Article written by Khadejah Scott, Horticulture/Agriculture/Natural Resources Agent – UF/IFAS Extension at Wakulla County.

Gardening for pollinators is not only beneficial for the environment, but it can also be a rewarding and fulfilling hobby. However, living in an apartment can pose a challenge for those who want to create a pollinator-friendly garden. But fear not! With a little bit of creativity and effort, you can still create a welcoming space for pollinators to thrive. Check out these tips to encourage pollinators at your apartment.

Choose Your Location

The balcony is the obvious first choice for your apartment pollinator garden. Alternatively, if your building has a roof, porch, terrace, or courtyard, check to see if you can use those spaces for a few plants.

Assess Your Size And Space

The majority of apartment dwellers value their available space strongly. Finding space for just you and your possessions, much less a garden can be difficult. But even the smallest areas have the potential to turn into green havens with a little imagination. Make sure your space gets adequate sunlight and is close to a source for watering.

Select Your Plant Types

One way to start your garden is by choosing the right plants. Diversity is the key to a good pollinator garden. Because each pollinator has its techniques for sourcing nectar and pollen, flowers should be as varied as the pollinators that visit them. Native plants such as Gaillardia (Gaillardia pulchella) are an excellent option as they provide food and shelter for local pollinators. Together with native plants, you may also grow annual ornamental flowers in smaller gardens that will thrive and provide an excellent source of nectar and pollen, like zinnias (Zinnia elegans),  or sunflowers (Helianthus annuus). Another best option is also to use culinary herbs. For instance, basil (Ocimum basilicum) and oregano (Origanum vulgareare) are fantastic nectar sources if you allow them to flower. One creative way to create a pollinator-friendly garden is by incorporating a variety of textures and colors. This can include adding different heights, shapes, and textures to your garden, as well as incorporating a variety of flower colors. You can also choose plants that bloom at different times of the year to ensure a consistent food source. This will attract a wide range of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Sunflowers can be grown from seed and provide food for birds. Photo: J_McConnell, UF/IFAS

Plant in Containers

Another important aspect to consider is the type of containers you will use for your plants. You can use anything from traditional pots to repurposed containers like old tires or wooden boxes. Just make sure that your containers have proper drainage and are large enough to accommodate your plants. Plants such as swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Blazing Star (Liatris spp.), and Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) do well in containers.

Think Vertically

In a small area, vines can significantly expand the habitat that is available by climbing up a trellis or lattice against a wall or fence. Numerous native vines such as the Maypop (Passiflora incarnata) can go in large containers and are excellent sources of nectar and pollen for pollinators.

Include Bird Feeders And Bird Houses

An enjoyable way to observe birds up close and get in touch with nature is using bird feeders. Additionally, they enhance the natural food sources that birds can find near your garden. Bird houses also provide shelter to cavity-nesting species and increase the species of birds at your apartment. 

A hummingbird gathering nectar from a firespike (Odontonemastrictum) flower. Photo Credit:

Finally, make sure to supply a source of water for your pollinators. This can be as simple as a shallow dish or bowl filled with water or a small fountain. Just be sure to change the water regularly to prevent mosquito breeding.

Creating a pollinator-friendly garden in an apartment is not only possible but can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. By following the tips above, you can create a welcoming environment for local pollinators to thrive. For questions about pollinators for apartment living, contact your county UF/IFAS Extension Office.