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, Hippeastrumspp. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For many people in the Panhandle, gardening season begins when the weather warms in spring and nurseries start setting out tomato transplants. While I understand the allure of the yummy summer veggies and spring/early summer are the most traditional times to garden, cultivating a winter garden in the Panhandle unlocks many tasty options. Among these cool-season garden veggies is a classic southern staple that is among the easiest and most rewarding of all vegetables to grow, sweet onions!
‘Texas Super Sweet’ Onions almost ready for harvest in a Calhoun County garden. Photo courtesy of Joe Leonard.
Sweet onions are very popular in the culinary world for their mild flavor and soft texture and are among the most widely grown group of onions across the world, but the most famous of them, Vidalia’s, hail from Georgia! Despite its fame, the “Vidalia” onion is actually nothing more than a trademarked name for a specific variety of sweet onion that was bred in Texas (‘Yellow Granex’ and its derivatives), grown in a 20-county region in South Georgia with excellent onion-growing soil, and made famous by excellent marketing from the Vidalia Onion Committee. While they can’t be called Vidalias legally, you can absolutely grow your very own Vidalia type sweet onions at home here in the Florida Panhandle!
Sweet Onions are most easily grown at home if purchased in the fall as “sets”. Sets are small bulbs that have been started, harvested, dried to prevent rotting during storage, and shipped to garden centers ready to be “set” out in home gardens. Sweet onions may also be grown from seed but take much longer and have a lower success rate. When browsing onion set varieties for purchase at garden centers or in seed catalogues, make sure to purchase a short-day “Granex” type like “Texas Super Sweet” or similar. It is critical to remember that sweet onions are classified by how many hours of daylength they require to produce bulbs. The three classifications are Short, Mid, and Long-Day. Since sweet onions require cool weather to develop properly, Floridians must grow short-day varieties to compensate for decreased daylight hours in the winter. In the less hot Northern states, long-day sweet onions are grown in the summer, where they’ll be able to soak up 15-16 hours of daylight. Therefore, for best results in the Panhandle, select ONLY short-day onion varieties.
‘Texas Super Sweet’ Onions that have been harvested and are ready for use! Photo courtesy of Daniel Leonard.
Once you’ve selected your onion sets in the fall, they can be planted in the garden anytime from early October to mid-December. Individual bulbs should be planted about an inch deep in well-drained garden soil with high organic matter content (mushroom compost, composted manure, or other rich organic matter works) and spaced 4-6” between plants and about a foot between rows. Onions in general, and sweet onions in particular, are heavy feeders and require ample nutrition to meet their potential! To meet these fertility needs, I apply a slow-release fertilizer like Osmocote or a Harrell’s product at planting and supplement that with either a quick release granular or liquid fertilizer monthly during the bulb enlargement phase. Sweet onions also have a shallow root system and require frequent watering to develop properly and avoid splits, doubles, and small bulbs. Don’t let your onion bed dry out!
Finally, sweet onions planted in late fall/early winter are normally ready to harvest in April and May. However, rather than relying on a calendar, begin harvesting your onions when the tops start to turn yellow and fall over, this indicates maturity. After harvesting, allow your onions to “cure” with tops and roots still attached for a couple of weeks outside in a shaded, protected area. Once they’ve had an opportunity to “cure”, remove tops and roots and store the cured bulbs in a cool, dry place (a dark pantry in an air-conditioned room or the refrigerator crisper drawer work fine) and use at your convenience!
While they can’t be called Vidalias, sweet onions grown at home are oh so rewarding and very tasty! Provided they are planted in quality soil, receive plenty of water and fertilizer, and are harvested/stored correctly, sweet onions will provide a delicious, home-grown culinary treat throughout the year! For more information about growing onions in the home garden or any other horticultural/agricultural topic, contact us at the UF/IFAS Calhoun County Extension Office. Happy Gardening!
As October gets by us and November quickly approaches, I would like to include the preparation on What to Plant? And What to Do? Some great annual plant choices are digitalis (foxglove), petunias, and Shasta daisy. There are many daffodil bulb varieties for North Florida including the following: Carlton, Fortune, Silver Charms, Thalia, and Sweetness. We will be getting into more of the cooler days, so this is a good time to start bulb onions and salad crops such as arugula, lettuce, and spinach. Dill, fennel, oregano, and sage are all herbs that can be planted throughout the fall months.
Start preparing now so your fall garden will be full of dark leafy greens, multi-colored lettuces, and root vegetables of all shapes and sizes. Photo by Molly Jameson.
In lawns there are a few key things that can be done in October. It is possible to control winter weeds before they appear. This is the time to use preemergent herbicides when nighttime temperatures are between 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit for four to five days in a row. If a green lawn is desired, you can overseed with annual ryegrass when the daytime temperatures are in the low 70s. Remember, the lawn will still need to be watered and mowed to maintain a healthy ryegrass. Watch for fungus like brown patch and large patch disease. This can become active when the soil temperature is between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hollies also attract bees to the landscape. Credit: Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County
And last but not least as you prepare for winter around the corner you can plant evergreen hollies that will make it through the cold and provide a splash of color with red berries. Gather pine needles that are dropping and use as a natural mulch, and this is the last month that strawberry plants can be established in a bed or a large container.
Yes, that’s right! We made it through the hottest part of the year and we are looking ahead to fall just around the corner! I am excited to be discussing September and what we can do to prepare for fall in the garden. As the nighttime temperatures start to cool down, we are given many more options.
For annual color plantings in September, try Ageratum, Celosia, Zinnias, and Wax Begonia to add fall color to your landscape. Bulbs will also add color, texture, and pattern to a bed. If you have some extra space, a variety of elephant ears could really accent a bed or you could always go with the classic calla, narcissus or zephyr lily. Popular vegetables to plant in North Florida in September are broccoli, carrot, cabbage, and collards. See Vegetable Gardening in Florida This is also the time of year to establish strawberry plants. Some great herbs to get started are Mexican tarragon, mint, rosemary, and basil.
Image Credit: Matthew Orwat UF/IFAS Extension Washington County
There are many things that can be done in your lawn during September. Monitoring your lawn for its health and potential insect pests is important this time of year. Common insects to scout for are fall armyworms, chinch bugs, mole crickets, and sod webworms. The last fertilizer application should be done by the middle to end of September. Make sure you choose a fertilizer with little to no phosphorus unless a soil test shows differently. To maintain a healthy lawn, avoid weed and feed products and only apply herbicides in areas with high infestations of weeds. Weed and feed products are not recommended because the timing of when to fertilize and the timing of the weed killer is not always the same. The best management practice is to use a separate treatment for weeds and when possible spot treat weeds.
If you already have bulbs in your landscape from previous growing seasons, this is the time to divide and replant those that are big. You can also add organic matter to new planting areas. Continue working on your vegetable plants and prepare them for either transplants for a fast start, or plants seeds for more variety. Throughout your landscape, it is important that plants are getting the right amount of water as we go in and out of wet and dry weather this time of year.
October will be here before we know it in just a couple of weeks. Look out for the next article to come. We will be getting into the cooler nights and more options for planting vegetables and herbs!
Bulbs are my favorite class of ornamental plants. They generally are low maintenance, come back reliably year after year, and sport the showiest flowers around. While many bulbs like Daylily, Crinum and Amaryllis are very common in Panhandle landscapes, there is a lesser-known genus of bulbs that is well worth your time and garden space, the Rainlily (Zephyranthes spp.).
Rainlily, aptly named for its habit of blooming shortly after summer rainfall events and a member of the Amaryllis family of bulbs, is a perfect little plant for Panhandle yards for several reasons. The plant’s genus name, Zephyranthes – which translates to English as “flowers of the western winds”, hints at the beauty awaiting those who plant this lovely little bulb. From late spring until the frosts of fall, Rainlily rewards gardeners with flushes of trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of white, pink, and yellow, with some hybrids offering even more exotic colors. While these individual flowers typically only persist for a day or two, they are produced in “flushes” that last several days, extending the show. Though Rainlily flowers are the main event for the genus, beneath the blooms, plants also offer attractive, grass-like, evergreen foliage. These aesthetic attributes lend themselves to Rainlily being used in a variety of ways in landscapes, from massing for summer color ala Daylilies, to use around the edges of beds as a showy border like Liriope or other “border” type grassy plants.
Unknown Rainlily species blooming in a raised bed. Photo courtesy of Daniel Leonard.
Continuing along the list of Rainlily attributes, the genus doesn’t require much in the way of care from gardeners either. Most species of Rainlily, including the Florida native Z. atamasca, have no serious pests and are right at home in full sun to part shade. Once established, plants are exceedingly low-maintenance and won’t require any supplemental irrigation or fertilizer! Some Rainlily species like Z. candida even make excellent water or ditch garden plants, preferring to have their feet wet most of the year – putting them right at home in the Panhandle this year. And finally, all Zephyranthes spp. do very well in containers and raised beds also, adding versatility to their use in your landscape!
The one drawback of Rainlily is that they can be somewhat difficult to find for sale. As these bulbs are an uncommon sight in most garden centers, to source a specific Zephyranthes species or cultivar, one is probably going to need to purchase from a specialty internet or mail-order nursery. As with other passalong-type bulbs though, the absolute best and most rewarding way to obtain Rainlily is to get a dormant season bulb division from a friend or fellow gardener who grows them. There are many excellent unnamed or forgotten Zephyranthes cultivars and seedlings flourishing in gardens across the South, waiting to be passed around to the next generation of folks who will appreciate them!
Even if you must go to some lengths to get a Rainlily in your garden, I highly recommend doing so! You’ll be rewarded with years of low-maintenance summer color after the dreariest of rainy days and will be able to pass these “flowers of the western wind” on to the next gardening generation. For more information on growing, sourcing, or propagating Rainlilies, check out this EDIS publication by Dr. Gary Knox of the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center (NFREC) or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office! Happy Gardening!