There are important landscape lessons to learn from recent, early and widespread freezes.
First, know the average climate for the region you live in here in Florida. The work has already been done for you with the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Here is a link for the map: https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov. Find your zone on the map. Note that Northwest Florida includes zones 8a, 8b and 9a.
The newest map, with interactive features, was updated in 2012.
This map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature and is divided into 10°F zones. It can help you determine which plants are most likely to thrive in your zone. There are areas bordering Alabama, located in the extreme northern portions of Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton and Holmes Counties, that are in Zone 8a, with an average annual extreme minimum temperature of 10 to 15 degrees F. Most of these counties fall within zone 8b, with an average annual extreme minimum temperature of 15 to 20 degrees F. The extreme southern portions of these same counties (bordering the Gulf) are in Zone 9a with an average annual extreme minimum temperature of 20 to 25 degrees F. As you go south in Florida, you move into Zones 9b, 10a, 10b, and 11a. Zone 10b has an average annual extreme minimum temperature of 35 to 40 degrees F. Zone 11a; which includes a small portion of West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, most of Miami and all of the Florida Keys; has an average annual extreme minimum temperature of 40 to 45 degrees F.
It seems that some people move to extreme north Florida and think they are in extreme south Florida. They move barely below Alabama or Georgia and want to plant the palms, citrus and tropical plants that thrive in extreme south Florida. If you live in Zone 9a, perhaps you might get by with growing a few plants that are well suited for 9b. But it is wise to mostly grow plants that are known to flourish in the Plant Hardiness Zone where you live.
Secondly, follow principle one, which is Right Plant, Right Place, as explained in the UF/IFAS Extension Florida-Friendly Landscape™ (FFL) Program. Following this principle results in developing a healthy, low-maintenance landscape by using Florida-Friendly plants that match your site’s soil, light, water and climatic conditions and that require limited supplemental irrigation, potentially less fertilizer and fewer pesticides.
More information on the FFL Program is available through this UF/IFAS Extension link (https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu) or from the Extension Office in your County.
Using these tools may be a great goal for 2023 as we replace cold-injured plants.
The shorter days and cooler temperatures of autumn bring on changes in our shrubs and trees.
Most people expect to see changes in leaf color in deciduous trees and shrubs during fall. But some people become concerned when the leaves on certain evergreen plants begin to turn yellow with the change in the seasons. For many plants this is normal.
Azaleas may lose a few leaves now. These are the older leaves on the branches near the center of the plant. There is no need for alarm by the loss of a few older azalea leaves from now until spring. However, if the younger leaves, those nearest the tip of the shoot, turn yellow or brown there is cause for concern. Poor drainage, lack of water or alkaline soils may cause this condition. Be sure to keep azaleas and other ornamental plants well-watered during dry weather that may occur from now through spring.
Other plants such as gardenias, hollies and camellias may have yellowing leaves now. But as with azaleas, these are the older leaves on the stem near the center of the plant. The mature leaves will drop from the plant from now until spring. This is only the normal aging of older leaves. However, be careful to not confuse this normal process with spider mites, scale, lace bugs, nutrient deficiencies, poor growing conditions or salt injury. Just keep in mind that this normal change in leaf color and leaf drop occurs on the older leaves generally during cooler weather – it’s a seasonal change.
The leaves of sycamore trees have changed from green to brown by now. Although the sycamore is a deciduous tree, this phenomenon may not be caused by a change in day length or temperature alone. This change in leaf color in sycamores can begin in late summer. Many times, it is the result of sycamore lace bugs feeding on the leaves. By the time the damage is visible, there is little that can be done to correct the problem. However, this problem will take care of itself since sycamore trees will soon be dropping their leaves.
We do have some trees that exhibit beautiful fall foliage this time of year. A few to consider include hickory and gingko for their bright yellow fall foliage, black gum for its early display of brilliant red, purple or orange leaves and Chinese pistache for its late reddish-orange fall show. There are plenty of other good trees to consider for fall color here in North Florida such as dogwood, crape myrtle, Florida maple, sourwood, shumard oak and the list could continue.
Have you ever visited a public garden or a park and wondered what type of plant you were looking at? Or found the name on a sign but wondered – can I grow that at my house? How big will it get? Does it have flowers, berries, keep its leaves in the winter? We feel your pain, fellow plant lovers!
Gardens are ever evolving and providing up to date printed information on all the plants can become difficult to manage and involve a lot of wasted resources. In Bay County, we have several gardens at the Extension Office, and we try to keep everything labeled, but space on signs is limited to plant name and we want to teach gardeners how to grow not just identify plants. To expand outreach of Florida-Friendly plants, we have created a website with all the plants in our demonstration gardens.
The site is organized by garden area, common name, and botanical name to ease navigation. Each plant profile has photos at different stages, basic cultural information, and links to additional research-based information.
Whether you are visiting our gardens in person or just want information on plants that perform well in the Florida Panhandle, we hope you will check out our new site and let us know if you found it useful and how we can improve.
We grow many types of hydrangeas in North Florida. In order to prune your hydrangeas at the correct time of year, you need to identify which types you have in your garden.
Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) comes in mophead and lacecap flower forms. They bloom on old wood, so prune in summer after blooming is finished. Repeat bloomers, such as ‘Endless Summer’ bloom on both old wood from the previous year and on the current season’s wood. You can prune after the first bloom and still get a bloom later in the season.
Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) A native hydrangea that blooms on old wood, so prune after flowering. This type requires little pruning, only to maintain size and shape.
Panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) These shrubs bloom on new wood, so prune in winter or early spring before new growth emerges. ‘Limelight’ and ‘Pee Gee’, are examples of this type. Plants only require pruning to shape or thin out the shrub.
Here are some additional pruning tips for your hydrangeas.
For all types, check for winter-damaged wood in early spring. Remove all dead branches before buds start to open. Some plants need rejuvenation pruning. Old wood may die back or be less productive, so in early spring remove very old stems at the base. This stimulates new growth. Deadheading flowers (cutting off spent blooms at a set of leaves) can happen as needed.
The Fall 2022 Leon County Seed Library Kickoff event starts at 11 a.m. on August 13 at the Collins Main Leon County Library.
To kick off the Fall 2022 Season of the Leon County Seed Library Program, UF/IFAS Extension Leon County will be at the LeRoy Collins Leon County Main Library (200 W. Park Ave.) Program Room on Saturday, August 13, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with information on raised bed gardening, a hands-on seeding activity, an Ask-a-Master-Gardener booth, and a healthy cooking demonstration.
Although we are still in the full swing of summer, gardeners know it is time to start thinking about planning the fall garden. Although pulling weeds and adding fresh compost can wait a little while, gathering seeds for the new season can be something to think about doing now.
Youth creating garden gnomes at the 4-H station during the 2019 Seed Library Program debut. Photo by UF/IFAS.
If you live in or around Tallahassee, the Leon County Seed Library Program can help jump-start your fall garden. Starting August 13, you can go to any of the seven Leon County libraries to check-out three sample vegetable seed packets per month per library card! The Leon County Master Gardener Volunteers are currently busy labeling and packing each of the seed varieties that will be distributed to the seven libraries.
There will be 10 vegetables varieties this season, including a few varieties that have never been featured in the program. If you like to save seeds from your garden, know that all varieties in the Seed Library Program are open-pollinated (by insects, birds, wind), which means if they are not crossed with another variety, the seeds they produce will grow true to form.
The Fall 2022 selection includes:
Common Arugula: Deep green with a spicy, peppery, mustard-like flavor
Cylindra Beets: Heirloom with long cylindrical roots, good for slicing
De Cicco Broccoli: Central light green head and side shoots to extend season
Several years ago the Escambia County Master Gardener Volunteers added a Leopard plant, Farfugium japonicum to the office demonstration gardens. This was a new plant for me and I was immediately impressed with look and performance of this plant in a filtered shade garden.
Leopard plant’s attractive leaves and flowers make it an accent in the shade garden. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County.
Although not native to the United States, Leopard plant make an interesting addition to the Florida garden. The large green leaves can provide a tropical look throughout the entire year since it is hardy in growing zones 7-10. An added bonus of the Leopard plant are spikes of bright yellow flowers in the fall and winter months. When you use Leopard plant as a mass planting, it certainly becomes the focus in our cooler months.
Leopard plant on display in Downtown Pensacola. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County.
There are many cultivars of Leopard plant and the selections with white (‘Argenteum’) or yellow (‘Aureomaculatum’) patterns on the leaves give the plant it’s common name. There are also cultivars with curled or crinkled leaves. All plants will thrive in partial shade with some additional water when rainfall is lacking. The clumps will continue to enlarge so you can often share a piece with a friend after a few years.