Plants that are set for the season


Halifax Media Group

Silver, gold and green are traditional winter-holiday hues, but red’s the color that truly evokes a festive mood. Let’s be honest: Rudolph’s nose is red for a reason.

In Central Florida, gardeners can celebrate the season by planting flowering perennials and woody shrubs that display shades of that eye-catching color.

Herbaceous perennials that can be relied on to provide holiday cheer — barring a hard freeze — include red-flowered varieties of wax begonia, pentas, crown-of-thorns, porterweed, tropical sage, firespike, firecracker plant, Bolivian sunset, amaryllis, chrysanthemum, kalanchoe and my favorite source of intense cool-season blossoms: The common geranium.

All the perennials mentioned can be set out in the garden or cultivated in containers. Although most require some direct sunlight to bloom, wax begonia, pentas, tropical sage and amaryllis flower in sun or moderate shade, while firespike and Bolivian sunset do best in filtered sunlight.

hibiscusNote: Garden amaryllis, once established in the landscape, will — in future years — flaunt their stunning blossoms in late winter or early spring. Only newly purchased bulbs and plants flower during early winter. Regarding wax begonias, if you want to keep these short-lived perennials for their entire lifespan (two to four years), it’s best to grow them in light to moderate shade.

Among woody shrubs, the red-bracted poinsettia reigns supreme. Although varieties with bracts of other colors are now common and quite lovely, they lack the verve of the original plant. Install poinsettias in sheltered locations and away from street lamps and security lights, which will impede future development of flowerbuds.

Other shrubs that contribute ruddy tones during the winter holidays are red and dwarf red powderpuffs, peregrina (Jatropha integerrima) and the single red hibiscus, which is the sturdiest and most free-flowering hibiscus available. Also deserving mention is the cracker rose (“Louis Philippe”), a low-maintenance rose ideal for our climate. Among other plants that brighten the short days of winter with red hues are annuals such as carnation, delphinium, dianthus and phlox.

Even vegetables like red-leaved lettuce, kale and cabbage, and red-stalked chard and beet plants, can play roles. Finally, there are hollies with their brilliant berry-like fruit. If installing a single plant, choose a kind — such as “East Palatka” — that doesn’t require male and female plants to produce fruit.

Charles Reynolds, a Winter Haven resident, has an associate degree in horticulture and is a member of the Garden Writers Association of America.


Last modified: December 11, 2014
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