The native Chickasaw plum is a beautiful smaller tree (12-20 ft mature height) that is perfect for front yards, small areas, and streetscapes. True to its name, the Chickasaw plum was historically an important food source to Native American tribes in the southeast, who cultivated the trees in settlements well before the arrival of Europeans. They typically harvested and then dried the fruit to preserve it. Botanist-explorer William Bartram noted the species during his travels through the southeast in the 1700’s. He rarely saw it in the forests, and hypothesized that it was brought over from west of the Mississippi River.
One of the first trees to bloom each spring, the Chickasaw plum’s white, fragrant flowers and delicious red fruit make it charmingly aesthetic and appealing to humans and wildlife alike. The plums taste great eaten fresh from the tree but can be processed into jelly or wine. Chickasaw plums serve as host plants for the red spotted purple butterfly and their fruit make them popular with other wildlife. These trees are fast growers and typically multi-trunked.
Almost any landscape works for the Chickasaw plum, as it can grow in full sun, partial sun, or partial shade, and tolerates a wide variety of soil types. The species is very drought tolerant and performs well in sandy soils.
The plum is in the rose family and has thorns, so it is wise to be aware of these if young children might play near the tree.
Winter is ideal tree-planting time in Florida. While national Arbor Day is in spring, Florida’s Arbor Day is the 3rd Friday of January due to our milder winters.
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.
Plant names in today’s industry are not as simple as the established binomial (genus and specific) and a common name. Many of the plants that you get for your landscape are varieties, cultivars, and hybrids. To make matters more complicated, there are trade names that are given to plants to aid in marketing. We see the Endless Summer® hydrangea or Purple Pixie® Loropetalum. Throw into the mix the work of plant taxonomists who are always reclassifying plants and we can all be truly confused about a plant’s name.
Even as names change, it is still fun to learn plant names. Just recently, I sent plant pictures to the UF Herbarium to help get a clarification on the plant I was calling Georgia savory, Clinopodium sp. This is one of my favorite plants because it makes a spreading groundcover that grows about 1.5 feet tall and has tubular flowers in spring and fall. Many pollinators visit the flowers. It also grows well in sandy, well drained soil and thrives on occasional water. I have a single plant in my backyard that only gets water from rain and has grown to five feet wide over several years. It is definitely a low maintenance beauty.
My results back from the UF Herbarium did not completely clear up this plant’s name. There are reports that it is a hybrid of Clinopodium georgianum × Clinopodium ashei ‘Desi Arnaz’. Other information suggests that it is an intergeneric hybrid between Clinopodium and Conradina named x Clinadina ‘Desi Arnaz’.
The lesson from all this confusion is to just do your best. Realize that all of us can be mistaken on a plant’s name and even those that study plants in depth don’t always agree on a name. In the world of plant names, change can happen.
Vegetative plant propagation is a way for one plant to create another plant without the need for pollination to occur. This process is often much faster in achieving a new plant than growing from seed. The genetics of the parent plant can be carried on through this vegetative propagation method. There are many methods to propagate plants and the one covered in this article was taught to me by my grandmother many years ago – layering. Layering is a science and an art and has been performed by humans for over four thousand years.
Propagating plants by layering can be accomplished in several ways, including simple, tip, air, mound, compound, and runner production layering methods. Many plants in nature propagate by layering accidentally when long, low-lying limbs contact the soil around the plant and are eventually covered by leaves from other surrounding trees and shrubs. This creates an organic cover over a part of the limb and keeps the area moist. This creates the situation for adventitious roots to develop at the soil contact area. This occurrence is called simple layering and is often mimicked by gardeners in the landscape. Not all plants respond to this type of propagation, but several common species that do are azaleas, jasmine, viburnum, climbing rose, and grapevines.
Unlike simple layering, tip layering involves digging out a shallow 3–4″ hole, which will allow space to bend the end of the branch down into the hole with the tip out the other side. Then, simply cover the hole to keep the branch in the ground. It may take something with a little weight placed over the covered hole to keep the branch from popping out. A brick or rock may be all that is needed. Both methods will take months for enough roots to develop before clipping the branch with a new plant ready to be dug and set somewhere new. For best results with both simple and tip layering, begin either in early spring with last seasons growth or late summer, utilizing that current year’s growth.
Air layering is a fun adventure to rooting a new plant and can be used with both outdoor and indoor plants. It can be used on outdoor plants like camellia, azalea, maples, and magnolia, or indoor plants including weeping fig, rubber tree, and dieffenbachia. This type of layering requires a bit more planning and preparation than simple or tip layering. If the plant has a bark layer surrounding the cambium layer (this is the growing part of the limb and trunk and appears green) this area will need to be removed with a sharp clean knife. Choose a 1- ½ inch long area of the limb and scrape this area to remove the cambium layer located just beneath the bark. This is done to prevent the outside limb area from reconnecting back to the limb portion connected to the plant. Sphagnum moss will be needed to wrap around the wound site to create a rooting zone. Be sure to soak the moss with water by immersing it in a bucket of water, then squeeze it out. Wrap the moss with plastic wrap, making sure the moss is fully covered and tucked inside of the plastic. Both ends of the plastic wrap need to be secured tightly with twist ties or string. Make sure it remains tight throughout the 2 – 4 months needed for rooting to occur. If this process takes place in a sunny location, cover the plastic wrap with tin foil to block out the light.
There are other methods to layering plants and if you are interested, search online through the University of Florida IFAS EDIS site or contact your local UF IFAS Extension office in your local county. Enjoy growing your new plants.
It’s no secret that fall, October specifically, is the best month for wildflower watching in the Panhandle. From the abundant vibrant yellow-gold display of various Sunflowers, Asters, and Goldenrods to the cosmopolitan bright pinks and purples of Mistflower, Blazing Star, and False Foxglove, local native landscapes light up each year around this time. However, if you’re lucky and know where to look, you can also spot two species, Azure Blue Sage (Salvia azurea) and Forked Bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum) that sport that rarest of wildflower hues – vivid blue.
Forked Bluecurls begins its flower show in late summer, picking up steam in fall, and reaching its peak now as nights get cool and the days grow short. The species’ flowers are easily among the most unique around. Each flower has two distinct “lips” – the lower lip is white and dotted with blue specks, while the top is distinctly pure blue – with characteristically curled blue stamens rising to preside over the rest of the flower below. Though individual flowers are very small and only bloom in the morning, they appear by the hundreds and are very striking taken together. Various pollinators, especially bees, also find Forked Bluecurls flowers to their liking and frequent them on cool fall mornings. Though the flowers are obviously the highlight, the rest of the plant is attractive as well, growing to 3’ in height and possessing small, light-green fuzzy leaves. Forked Bluecurls, while not exceedingly common, can be found in sunny, sandy natural areas throughout the Panhandle, including well-drained flatwoods, sandhills, and open, disturbed areas.
The second blue bloomer, Azure Blue Sage, is possibly even more striking in flower than Forked Bluecurls. Aptly named and blooming around the same time as Forked Blue Curls, Azure Blue Sage is a much larger plant (often 4-6’ in height) and holds its abundant sky-blue flowers high above the surrounding landscape. Because of their height and their propensity to occur in bunches, Azure Blue Sage’s brilliant tubular flowers are immediately noticeable to passersby and the myriad bee and butterfly pollinators that visit. Beyond its flowers, Azure Blue Sage is a very unusual looking perennial plant, tall and spindly with dark green, narrow leaves held tightly to square stems, a giveaway of its lineage in the Mint family. The species can be found in similar areas to Forked Bluecurls – natural areas in the Panhandle that possess abundant sunshine and sandy, well-drained soil.
Both species would make excellent additions to mixed perennial landscapes where the soil and sun conditions were right, as they are exceedingly low-maintenance and have the propensity to reseed themselves from year to year. Unfortunately, they are rarer in the nursery trade than they are in the wild and can only be found occasionally at nurseries specializing in Florida native plants. (Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find native nurseries in your area!) However, even if you are unable to source a plant for your home, both these somewhat rare, blue-blooming fall beauties, Forked Bluecurls and Azure Blue Sage, are worth searching out in the many State Parks and public natural areas across the Panhandle! For more information about Forked Bluecurls and Azure Blue sage or any other natural resource, horticultural, or agricultural topic, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office. Happy fall wildflower watching!
As you drive along the highway look out the window at the blooming roadside wildflowers. Fall is the season of yellow and purple, with splashes of red.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum spp.), many different “daisies” (Aster spp.), tall and short Goldenrod (Solidago spp.), and “sunflowers” (Helianthus spp.) brighten up the landscape with the many shades of yellow. Spikes of Blazing Star (Liatris spp.), clumps of False Rosemary (Conradina canescens), and carpets of Moss Verbena (Verbena tenuisecta) add the purple hues. Here and there clusters of Red Basil (Calamintha coccinea) grab your attention with their fiery color.
Scarlet calamint, also called Red Basil, with its brilliant red flowers, offer a dramatic contract against the backdrop of scrub, sandhill and coastal dunes where the plant naturally occurs in Florida. They bloom sporadically throughout the year, peaking in the fall with as many as 100 flowers on a single plant. It is the only Florida native Calamintha species with red flowers, and its flowers are the largest.
When the Spanish Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon landed on the eastern shores in 1513 he immediately noticed the vast wealth of wildflowers and promptly name his new discovery the “Land of Flowers”, which is the translation for Florida. Habitats throughout the state vary greatly. Changes in elevation by only a few inches can change the soil and impact the types of plants growing there. Associated birds, butterflies, and other pollinators change as the wildflower species vary. Florida has one of the highest biodiversity in the United States.
Learning to identify the roadside wildflowers is the topic of the next Okaloosa County Master Gardener Lecture Series. Join Dave Gordon on Monday, October 23 at the Okaloosa County Extension 3098 Airport Rd. Crestview, FL 32539 from 10 -11 am CDT to learn about what is blooming along the road right of way and how they may be utilized in the landscape. For more information go to: