Time to think about what to plant


By CHARLES REYNOLDS, Halifax Media Group

Just about everyone likes bright-yellow flowers, and the best and easiest way to get them in Central Florida is by installing bush allamandas. Unlike much larger, cold-sensitive and somewhat viny allamandas such as A. cathartica and the purple-flowered "Cherries Jubilee" (great plants if you have the space), bush allamanda (A. schotti) grows just 4 feet tall and is surprisingly cold tolerant.

Native to Brazil, bush allamanda thrives in full or part-day sun on fertile, well-drained sites kept heavily mulched. The golden-yellow flowers, which attract butterflies, are displayed nearly year-round. Established plants have moderate drought tolerance and no serious pest or disease problems. Propagate with warm-season cuttings. The white sap of all allamanda plants is mildly toxic.

Note: Take care when purchasing allamandas. Both the botanical and common names of the genus Allamanda are somewhat muddled. Plants of extremely large-growing species are often labeled "bush allamanda" in nurseries. Even more confusing, some horticulturists consider the plant I've described to be just a variety of Allamanda cathartica, not a distinct species.

February vegetables

It's time to begin planting warm-season vegetables and fruits such as pepper, sweet potato, cantaloupe, squash, eggplant, cucumber, watermelon, tomato, pumpkin, corn and beans. But there's still time to cultivate cool-season crops too. They include radish, leek, onion, carrot, lettuce, parsley, collard, beet, endive, celery, turnip, mustard, kohlrabi and English pea. Herbs of all kinds can also be planted now.

Plenty of veggies

"How to Grow More Vegetables," a 256-page paperback by John Jeavons, has taught multitudes of gardeners how to coax larger harvests from their vegetable plots. Now in its eighth edition, this publication from Ted Speed Press is available by visiting www.Amazon.com.

Fruit trees

If you didn't fertilize your mature citrus trees last month, do it soon. Other fruit trees, including loquat, carambola, jaboticaba, avocado, lychee, longan, fig and mango can all be fertilized now with citrus fertilizer. Alternatively, you can provide nutrients by spreading a layer of composted manure around trees and covering it thickly with mulch. Keep both materials a couple of feet away from the trunks. Applying a nutritional spray formulated for citrus and other fruit trees is also beneficial.

Mexican sage

Among the best perennial shrubs for dependable color from early spring to late autumn is Mexican sage (Salvia leucantha). A low-maintenance, drought-tolerant evergreen plant that revels in sun, this 3-to-5-foot-tall species features lengthy purple-and-white inflorescences and arching stems of soft gray-green foliage. Mexican sage, which is propagated by cuttings, can be cut back hard in late winter to encourage denser growth and increased flowering.

Charles Reynolds has an associate degree in horticulture.

Last modified: February 21, 2014
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