TROPICAL PLANTING AND
GARDENING FOR SOUTH
FLORIDA AND THE
THE WEST INDIES
OF MIAMI PRESS
B LES, FLORIDA
Copyright @ 1960 by
University of Miami Press
Fourth Printing, 1970
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 61-9185
All rights reserved, including rights of reproduction and use in any form or by any
means, including the making of copies by any photo process, or by any electronic or
mechanical device, printed or written or oral, or recording for sound or visual
reproduction or for use in any knowledge or retrieval system or device, unless
permission in writing is obtained from the copyright proprietors.
Since the publication of this book, many chemical preparations used in
gardening and recommended in this book have been found to be unsafe for
general use; among these are such previously accepted pesticides as
chlordane, DDT, lindane, and toxophene. As research progresses, other
chemical preparations may become regarded as dangerous. Do not use
chemical preparations without first checking with an authority-for
example, your county agricultural agent-who has on hand the latest
information on such pesticides.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Where to get information and how to use it are major problems
for the south Florida gardener. The newcomer is baffled by the
plants, the climate, and the soils. It is almost like moving to a new
world. New facts must be learned. New adjustments must be made.
Providing the facts and helping to make the adjustments as easily
as possible is the aim of this book. The facts in it are basic. They
are put as simply as the author knows how. If some parts seem
complicated, we ask the reader to bear with us. For we must
confess that we have not found gardening a subject which can be
so simplified that it can be learned without effort. It is like learn-
ing anything else. What you get out of it will depend on the effort
you put into it.
A book on gardening should be readable and useful. This book
was written with the hope it will serve both purposes. A quick read-
ing should acquaint the gardener with its contents. Thereafter it
should serve as a guide, providing answers to gardening problems
which come up from time to time. But books alone don't make
a good gardener. Experience is necessary.
One of the quickest ways to learn tropical plants is to visit tropi-
cal gardens, where many species are growing together. Florida and
the West Indies are fortunate to have many fine botanical gardens.
Those within easy reach should be visited again and again.
Dade County's own Fairchild Tropical Garden, at 10901 Old
Cutler Road, has one of the largest collections of tropical plants
of any other garden in the Western Hemisphere. Other excellent
local collections may be seen at the Gifford Arboretum at the Uni-
versity of Miami; at the Redland Fruit and Spice Park, Coconut
Palm Drive and Redland Road in south Dade County; at the Sub-
tropical Experiment Station, on Waldin Drive, one-half mile west
of Redland Road in south Dade County, and at the U. S. Plant
Introduction Garden, on Red Road three miles south of South
Many fine botanical gardens also may be visited in the West
Indies. Comparable with the best are Harvard University's Atkins
Gardens at Cienfuegos, Cuba, and Hope Gardens at Kingston, Ja-
maica. Others are the Royal Botanic Gardens, Port of Spain, Trini-
dad, and the Botanic Gardens of the Imperial College of Agricul-
ture, Dominica. Smaller gardens may be seen at the islands of
Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent. Although no public botanical
gardens exist in the Bahamas, some outstanding private gardens
have been developed at Nassau, into which the visitor who is
genuinely interested in tropical plants usually has no trouble gain-
Thus through reading books and bulletins, by visiting gardens,
and at the same time engaging in the practice of gardening, one
should learn quickly. It is hoped that Tropical Planting and Gar-
dening for South Florida and the West Indies will provide the
information needed by the gardener whose main desire is to create
pleasing surroundings in which to live.
Climate and the Gardener ............----.---- --- -- ---- 1
Designing the Tropical Garden ----..--..-...----..--.... --------- 7
Tropical Horticulture ........-------------------------- 19
Plant Propagation .--......----.....------------------- 33
Shrubs and Their Uses ...........------------------- 39
Trees and Their Uses --................----------------- 57
Flowering Climbers .........----------------. .... .-------------------.. 71
Palms ......-- ...... ....... ....-----------------------------------.---.... 79
Tropical Fruits ..--------------------------. 91
Dooryard Citrus ------.. --~..... ..-----------------......--. 107
Lawn Grasses and Their Care ....--- --------------- 117
Ground Covers -......~...------------------------... 129
Annuals and Perennials .....----------------------------- 141
Orchids and Bromeliads -------- ------------------- 153
Special Gardens --.............-------.-------------------....-- 161
Pruning .............----------- ....-----------------------------.... 179
Insect Pests and Diseases --....---.. ----------........... ...... .------ 185
CLIMATE AND THE GARDENER
It is important for the gardener to know something about the
climate where he lives and to appreciate the effects of climate on
the plants he grows.
Gardening in the tropics or the subtropics is, in many ways, sim-
ilar to gardening in cooler latitudes. Plants require moisture,
nitrogen, minerals, and light; and they must be kept relatively free
of insect pests and diseases. But while gardening in the cooler
areas is done only during part of the year, in the warmer areas
gardening tools are never stored away for a season. For grass must
be mowed, pruning may be needed throughout the year, and
insects never rest.
Climate is variable everywhere, whether in the tropics or in the
colder zones. Altitude or prevailing breezes may affect the climate.
The Torrid Zone, noted for its hot and humid conditions, also has
the world's most agreeable climate. It depends on where you are.
In Quito, Ecuador, only sixteen miles from the equator, the climate
is never excessively hot or cold. The city sits in a high valley in the
Andes, 9,500 feet above sea level. The climate of Guayaquil, Ecua-
dor, less than an hour's flight from Quito, is greatly different. Guay-
aquil is situated on a river in a flat country near the Pacific, only
a few feet above sea level. Here the temperature and the humidity
are high, a combination which makes the climate disagreeable. The
climate of many areas in the Temperate Zone, frigid in winter,
may be just as hot and humid in summer as in Guayaquil, which
is in the Torrid Zone.
One finds a comfortable climate in tle highlands of Mexico,
Guatemala, Honduras, and the Andes. The mild climate of north-
ern Europe is credited to the influence of the Gulf Stream. The
pleasant climate of Honolulu and that of some of the West Indian
islands is said to result from favorable breezes.
The plants in your garden are affected by climate, just as you
are. But whereas you can seek shelter from a hot sun or enjoy the
warmth of a heated building during cold weather, the plants in
your garden are at the mercy of the heat, the cold, the wind, and
the rain. For your plants to thrive they must be adapted to the
climate prevailing in your garden throughout the year. A plant
adapted to the north, where ice and snow cover the ground much
of the winter, is not likely to thrive in Florida gardens, nor should
one expect to see an Amazon valley palm growing well in Boston
Apples, peaches, and pears are examples of plants which require
periods of winter chilling in order for them to bloom and to set
fruit. But there is great variability among varieties of these. A
peach variety which thrives in Ohio may not fruit well in Georgia,
for it probably would require a longer chilling period than it would
receive in the South. Several varieties of peaches can be grown in
north Florida which would be worthless to plant in south Florida.
These same peach varieties probably would be killed by freezing in
The climate of south Florida is too warm for growing the de-
ciduous fruits, as apples and peaches are classed, and the planting
of them here is not recommended. But there is always that inevita-
ble exception to the rule. The Ceylon peach, introduced to Florida
from the Far East seventy-five years ago, fruits well in south Flori-
da. It apparently does not require a chilling period to induce it to
bloom and fruit, or, if a chilling period is required, it must be
Other variables in climatic effects also must be considered. For
instance, few of the desert plants of Africa or the Southwest would
thrive in Miami gardens. Nor would most of the high altitude
plants of Guatemala or the Andes. On the other hand, there are
many plants which are so tropical in their demands that they can-
not survive Miami's mild winters, even when the temperature may
reach no lower than 45 degrees. Plants from tropical rain forest
areas may do well in south Florida only under artificially moist
conditions. For part of south Florida's year is dry and cool and
part of the year is hot and wet. A plant that requires year round
high humidity would suffer during our dry season. The climatic
requirements for the world's many species of plants is varied to no
end. The gardener will do well to select those plants which have
proved their adaptability here.
Temperature, Not Latitude, Most Important
Where is the line that divides the tropics from the Temperate
Zone? And what is the difference between the tropics and the sub-
tropics? Early navigators and map-makers considered the tropics
as being in the Torrid Zone, a belt lying between the Tropic of
Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, and which was bisected by
the equator. The Tropic of Cancer is the northernmost line reached
by the overhead sun in summer and the Tropic of Capricorn is the
southernmost line reached by the overhead sun in winter. The
Tropic of Cancer crosses the Florida Straits between Key West and
Cuba and passes through the Bahamas south of Nassau. Havana
is located just inside the Torrid Zone, while both Miami and Nas-
sau are in the Temperate Zone.
Actually there is no sharp line dividing the tropics from the
Temperate Zone, so far as weather is concerned. Arctic and Ant-
arctic frigid waves sometimes invade the Torrid Zone. Tender
tropical plants may be severely injured or killed. When invading
cold waves are severe, even large trees may be killed. On the
other hand, when the sun moves to its northernmost overhead point
in summer, it is closer to New York than it is to the equator. Is
it any wonder, then, that Temperate Zone states get so hot in sum-
It is the kind of climate a place has throughout the year that
determines what kinds of plants may be grown. Miami is usually
thought of as being in the subtropics. It is influenced more by the
climate of the tropics than by the climate of the north. Its orna-
mental plants and its fruit trees are mainly of tropical origin. North-
ern types of vegetables and annuals are grown in Miami, but only
during the cool months.
Nassau, on the other hand, is usually thought of as being in the
tropics. Although most of the Bahamas lie above the Tropic of
Cancer, these islands never receive any frost, and a number of
very tender tropical plants can be grown in Nassau which cannot
be grown outdoors in Miami. Nassau has large breadfruit trees
which are never harmed by cold. In Florida, only in Key West
does .one see mature breadfruit trees. On the mainland breadfruit
trees are subject to periodic killing-back by frost. In the outskirts
of Miami, near the Everglades, a breadfruit tree would be killed
to the ground nearly every winter.
The lowest temperature recorded in Miami was 27 degrees, dur-
ing the 1917 freeze, one of the most severe freezes in the history
of south Florida. The temperature dropped below freezing soon
after sundown and remained below freezing until mid-morning of
the following day. Such cold was too severe for a great many tropi-
cal plants, which were killed to the ground. Fortunately south
Florida seldom gets such hard freezes. There was not a severe
freeze between 1940 and 1958. The 1958 freeze was bad but not
nearly so bad as the 1917 freeze. Recovery of stricken plants was
rapid and within a few months hardly any signs of cold damage
remained. But if south Florida had such freezes every winter its
tropical plants would not be able to make full recovery from one
winter to the next. And soon the cultivation of the more tender
tropical things would cease.
Horticultural Limits of Tropics
Plant scientists have offered a number of suggestions about how
to determine whether an area is tropical. The northernmost limit
of the fruiting coconut palm has been considered by some to be the
northernmost line of the tropics. This would put most of south
Florida in the tropics. Others have suggested that only any area
where a breadfruit tree can be grown to maturity should be con-
sidered tropical. The idea of using the breadfruit tree as a guide
for determining the limits of the tropics seems practical. Where
a breadfruit tree can be grown to maturity, almost any other tropi-
cal plant also can be grown, if moisture and soil conditions are
The northern limit for the cultivation of oranges is often con-
sidered to be the northern line of the subtropics, It is often said that
Miami is on the edge of the tropics. Most tropical plants can be
grown here, but few northern species thrive here.
Plants are just as variable as the weather. It is often difficult to
explain to newcomers to south Florida why they cannot grow ap-
ples, hydrangeas, tulips, and blue grass, such as they grew back
home. Many newcomers, missing the plants they have been associ-
ated with all their lives, insist on bringing these plants with them to
Florida. It is hard for them to believe that some plants do require
cold winters where snow and ice is common and where the ground
may freeze some years to a depth of two or three feet. They reason
that if the climate of south Florida is so favorable for plant growth,
as it is claimed, then the plants which thrive in New York or in
Nova Scotia should do even better where the weather is favorable
throughout the year.
Plants become adapted to a climate through centuries of exposure.
The winters of New Jersey or Pennsylvania may be too mild for
many species of trees native to the country north of the White
Mountains. Likewise, the climate of south Florida is too warm for
most of native plants of north Florida. The principal reason why
West Indian plants dominate the hammocks and keys of south
Florida is due mainly to the fact that the climate is more favor-
able to their growth than to the growth of Florida's Temperate
Zone plants. As one progresses northward, the Caribbean flora
gives way to the Temperate Zone flora.
Plants do vary in their adaptability. The live oak seems to be as
much at home in south Florida hammocks, where it is almost the
lone representative of the Temperate Zone flora, as it is in north
Florida or Virginia. The wax myrtle grows from the southern tip
of Florida to New England. The slash pine is at home from South
Carolina to the Caribbean Islands. There is good reason to wonder,
though, whether a slash pine seedling from the Isle of Pines, Cuba,
would grow well in north Florida, or whether the north Florida
slash pine would thrive at the Isle of Pines. Foresters have found
some difference in the adaptability between the south Florida slash
pine and the north Florida slash pine. Some differences of adapta-
bility to climate may exist in varieties of live oak and wax myrtle.
A few plants may be moved, within limits, from one climate to
another. Ligustrum japonicum and Pittosporum tobira seem to be
almost equally at home in Miami or in Jacksonville, 350 miles to the
north. Some varieties of fire thorn, or pyracantha, appear to thrive
as well in Miami as they do in Raleigh, North Carolina.
There is no easy way to explain the differences in plant adapta-
bility to climate and to soil. The gardener endowed with an ex-
perimental nature will do well to use plants for basic development
of a garden which have been tested and proved in his area. The
use of untried ornamentals, as well as delicate plants which require
protection from cold or beating winds, should wait until the basic
planting in the garden has been developed.
A MacArthur palm, espaliered Clusia, clinging Ficus on old brick wall,
bayonet-leaved Nolina, and Liriope ground cover-all superbly planted
against a background of live oaks--make this tropical garden spot.
DESIGNING THE TROPICAL GARDEN
The way a garden is landscaped and planted may well determine
whether one lives in a distinguished home or in an ordinary house.
As much thought should be given to garden design and to the se-
lection of trees and shrubbery and their planting as is given to the
design and the building of the house. The garden should be planned
as the house is planned. First, the existing native growth on the
lot should be considered. The shape and placement of the house
may be determined by the position of existing trees. Where many
trees and native shrubs exist, the lot should be carefully hand-
cleared, rather than cleared by a bulldozer, in order to avoid dam-
age to the plants. If landscape plans call for the planting of one
or more fairly large shade trees in the rear of the lot, it may be
necessary to do the planting before the house is begun. It may
be impossible to get a tree truck into the rear of a small lot after
the house is built.
It pays to have the services of a landscape architect, not only
to design the garden but also to give advice about preserving native
plants. Many of the wild, scrubby plants which are bulldozed off
building lots may be superior to the exotics which are planted in
their places. Native plants are adapted to the soil in which they
are growing. It may be a good idea to save many of these plants,
including some of the pineland saw palmetto. But what to save,
how much to save-or whether to save anything-will always de-
pend upon circumstances. This is where expert advice is helpful.
For instance, in some of the high pineland in Dade County the
surface is so rocky that it is next to impossible to plant anything.
Moreover, the existing plants may be no more than a few slender
Caribbean pines, palmettos, and poor pineland scrub. It may be
necessary to have the entire lot cleared by a large bulldozer and
plowed to a depth of six or eight inches. With the aid of fertilizer
and mulching it is possible to grow a large number of plants quite
well in six inches of loose rock and sand lying over solid limestone.
Nearly all of the avocado groves in south Dade County are grown
under such conditions.
If one likes pines, and the trees on one's lot are especially fine,
then the use of a bulldozer should be restricted to the actual build-
ing site and whatever open area one intends to have in the front
and in the rear. Unless pines are growing in deep sand they may
have their roots damaged severely by the bulldozer blade, and,
being so weakened, are likely to die within a few years. Uneven
surfaces about pines can be filled in and leveled with sand. Neither
marl nor muck should be used.
Landscape Plans Come First
There are several other reasons for giving so much attention to
the planting of the grounds before a house is built. What kind of
trees and shrubs does the owner want? Is he really interested in
gardening? Is he interested in a certain group or groups of plants,
such as palms, hibiscus, mangos, avocados, lush shade plants such
as philodendrons or anthuriums, or in building an orchid collection?
Planning, planting, and maintaining even the most simple kind of
garden requires some knowledge of plants. A garden containing
a great many features, and especially a garden in which there is
a lot of color, may demand almost constant attention. The owner
must have enough interest and time to give some effort nearly every
day to the garden. Since this is seldom the case, because most
persons have a wide variety of interests besides the growing of
plants and maintaining a garden, it is always best to start out with
a very simple garden-well planned, but containing a minimum of
planting of materials well adapted to the soil and to the climate.
Here again, if the planning of the garden is done as plans are
drawn for the house itself, it may be possible to begin collecting
planting materials months ahead of the time when they will be
needed. Where one has small funds to invest in planting, it is often
possible to save money by buying plants before they will be needed,
and to transfer them to larger containers and so push their growth
into larger specimens.
Only tough, adaptable types of shrubs and trees should be se-
lected for the basic planting. What specific kinds chosen will de-
pend to a great extent upon specific needs; but too often selections
depend upon the desire of the owner for a quick, colorful garden.
Gay-toned plants, colorful ground covers, beds of annuals and the
like may have their places in the garden, but the basic planting
should be done first.
So many persons look upon the tropics as a land of perpetual
color. This is hardly a true picture. The principal color in the
tropics is green. One sees bright colors here and there, but green
is everywhere. The garden should be planned with this in mind,
with green dominating and bright color playing a secondary part.
Every person who plans a garden must have some ideal picture in
mind; but this is usually vague and difficult to define. The problem
to make it real. The dream of the ideal is difficult enough to put
down on paper, even by the best landscape architect, and to plant
and maintain the ideal requires the knowledge and the skill of an
Planning Must Be Realistic
Most of us are more likely to come nearer to perfection if we put
our conception of the ideal garden in the background and tackle
the problem from a practical and realistic standpoint. There is the
neighborhood to be considered. How much screening must be
provided and what kind of plants must we use? Some consideration
must be given to those cold northwest winds that often strike south
Florida in the winter. It is possible to provide some protection
against the winds, and what kinds of plants might we use? Can we
arrange plantings so that we might enjoy the southeast breeze in
summer? Are there many children in the neighborhood and should
we consider erecting a steel fence before putting in any plants?
All such decisions should be made in advance if possible. But
no matter what, the main plantings should be restricted to the bor-
ders and the first line of plants on the outside should be of the
most adapted species-plants which, when well established, will be
capable of withstanding cold, wind, drought, and the full effects
of the summer sun. The kinds of plants suitable for such basic
planting are discussed under Shrubs and Their Uses. Haphazard
planting, the sticking of plants here and there throughout a yard,
is the worst enemy of good design. It steals space and prevents
full use and enjoyment of a building lot, which, in most instances,
is small enough anyway. By planting here and there we make the
area much smaller than it really is. Such planting is completely
lacking in artistic merit, and gives one the impression of a mess
rather than of a garden.
In a well planned garden one always finds a great deal of open
space. On large estates it is possible to go from one open area to
another, connected by trails through naturally wooded areas or
through masses of especially planted trees and shrubs. But in the
back yard of a small city lot it is hardly possible to have more
than one open area, which becomes more or less the center of the
garden. There is usually room for only one or two shade trees,
the placement of which will depend to a great extent on what
special features are planned. Trees should not be planted where
they will drop their leaves into a swimming pool, nor should they
be planted so close to the house that large branches will eventually
spread over the roof to create excessively moist conditions during
the rainy season. Nor should any tree be planted so close to the
lot line that its branches spread far over on to the lot of a neighbor.
Trees that become huge, such as rubber trees, create dangerous
situations when they reach maturity. One Ficus benjamin is capa-
ble of covering most of the ground of the back yard of an average
city lot. Its roots are aggressive, spreading out under neighboring
lots and sometimes traveling as far as two hundred feet to invade
neighbors' septic tank drains. These huge trees create serious haz-
ards during hurricanes, because their branches, of tremendous size
and weight, are quite brittle and are usually broken up by high
wind. A number of more appropriate trees for the small garden
may be found in the section Trees and Their Uses.
Make Front Yard Simple
Planting of the front yard should be just as simple, or even more
so, than the back yard: We must forget the landscape scenes we
like so well in parks and about formally planted estates. A home
is not a tourist attraction; it is a place to live in relaxed surround-
ings. It is not a reception hall for a monarch. Formality in planting
should be avoided, but we do not mean to suggest that planting be
done haphazardly. A few well placed shrubs and trees in the
front yard will do more for the appearance of a house than scores
of hibiscus, ixoras, acalyphas, and crotons, which clutter so many
front yards. It is all right to use some colorful plants, but they
should play a secondary part in the planting. Just as with the back
yard garden only really tough plants should be used for hedges,
screens, and in other basic plantings, use only long tested shrubs
Actually there is little opportunity to make an outstanding garden
in the modern front yard. A city lot is small anyway, and after
space for driveways is taken out very little room is left for grass,
trees, or shrubs. The automobile is a part of any home grounds
today. Thus the planning of the driveway deserves a great deal of
attention. Wherever possible, there should be ample space in a
front yard to turn an automobile around. Straight driveways that
lead from a street to a carport or garage, forcing one to back a car
out into the street, create a hazard and should be avoided if pos-
sible. The importance of correct planning of driveways cannot be
Each home has its own problems. The landscape architect, who
also is trained as an engineer, should be given the job of laying
out the driveway so that it may go well with the house and grounds
as well as being functional. The asphalt concrete now being used
to make driveways soon bleaches under the sun and loses the black
color which makes it look so objectionable at first. For concrete
driveways, green color can be mixed with the finish, so that it
blends in with the surroundings. Paved driveways, when expertly
planned, can save the homeowner a great deal of time from lawn
care. In fact, it is possible to plan the driveway in such a way
that grass need not be planted in the front yard.
If the driveway is to be circular, the center can be filled with a
ground cover, such as wedelia or jasminum. Or, it may be given
over to a few slender palms or to several small trees, with the
ground covered with brown river gravel. Shrubbery may be massed
along the borders of the lot, and low ground cover types of plants
may be used in the remaining space. Or gravel can be used close
to the driveway to give persons getting in and out of automobiles
a place to walk.
There are many solutions to the front yard problem. But first
we must get away from conventional ideas. Why do we need grass
in front of the house? Why do we need beds of flowers? Who are
we trying to impress? Why not plan first for comfort and safety?
We could surely find a little space to put in a few plants suitable
for the location. There will always be room for a hedge or a few
screening plants. There should be ample room close to the house
for a few well chosen foundation shrubs. There may be room for
one or two small trees in the front yard. Above all, we should
avoid the planting of twins in the front yard, such as two hibiscus
on either side of the walk, two sheared bougainvilleas, two conical
arbor vitae, two palms, two ixoras, or two crotons. We should
avoid lining driveways or walks in front of small homes with palms
or other plants. What purpose does such planting serve? Why
line driveways and walks with low formal hedges? Why plant
huge ficus trees in the front yard to overwhelm the house? Why
fill the front yard with numerous kinds of shrubs which must be
kept rounded by the pruning shears of commercial gardeners?
Simple plantings and an adequate, open driveway, are especially
suited for modern living. The automobile most certainly deserves a
place in any plan for the front yard, and that not only goes for our
own automobile but the automobiles of our friends who come to
So far we have discussed only garden planning in general. No
thought has been given to special features. Yet, nearly every gar-
den has one or more of them: a swimming pool, a patio, outdoor
cooking area, play area for children, a rock garden, lily pond,
vegetable or annual garden, or a tropical fruit collection. Nor
should we forget the hobbyist, such as the rare plant collector, or
the orchid grower. These special features are often developed after
the main garden is designed and planted. It is helpful in selecting
planting materials for screening and background if a rough idea of
future plans can be known in advance. Even if a swimming pool or
patio is to be added far in the future, some indication of the loca-
tion should be made while the house and garden plans are made.
How to build lily ponds, construct walks or how to lay out swim-
ming pools is beyond the scope of this book. Books on garden archi-
tecture may be found in public libraries or inexpensive ones bought
which illustrate examples of garden construction, including slat
houses, tool houses, outdoor cooking areas, and patios. We should
caution here that many of the structures illustrated in these books,
and in many magazines, are not acceptable under Florida zoning
laws. The zoning laws of some cities and counties forbid the con-
struction of slat houses or glass houses. The light plywood storage
houses and work sheds, often seen illustrated in magazines, become
dangerous hazards in hurricanes, because they quickly blow to
pieces and their parts are scattered over the neighborhood. Plywood
is strong, but it must be used according to building code require-
ments so that structures made of it do not blow apart during storms.
Outdoor furniture, fences, plant boxes and other things exposed to
the weather do not last long in Florida unless made of pressure-
treated wood or concrete. Redwood may last for several years if
it does not come in contact with the ground. But even treated wood
In general, it is best to avoid unusual designs. Circular stepping
stones running this way and that way through the grass from
the street to the front door may be rather unusual, but is this kind
of walk practical? Perhaps in time we might get tired of these cir-
cles, especially after we have to edge the grass from around them
for a summer. If circular stepping stones must be used, it is ad-
visable to consult a landscape architect and perhaps get him to
The same suggestion might be made for winding walks. Few
things are more ridiculous than a walk which winds through the
grass of one's front yard. Why the curve? What is the curving
walk avoiding? Certainly not the grass. Perhaps there may be an
occasion when a curving walk through a green lawn may be ap-
propriate, but ordinarily only an artist could lay out such a design.
The same is true of free-form swimming pools. Such pools can be
quite practical when built in a patio and laid out by an expert. But
it must appear to have a reason for its existence. If there is no
reason, then a rectangular pool might look much better. In general,
a round or rectangular lily pool is much to be preferred to the so-
called informal pool, laid out ostensibly to resemble a portion of a
winding stream. The winding stream idea may be all right, if we
can cope with it. Usually the pool looks contrived. If it fails to give
the impression of a part of a winding stream, it may look ridiculous.
A conventional garden pool is usually quite satisfactory, especial-
ly if we make it large enough and deep enough to plant with col-
orful water lilies. Filling a pool with all kinds of aquatic plants
should be avoided, unless one really has a fairly large bog pond
which looks like a bog pond and which contains enough soil, or
mud, for the growth of bog plants.
Plants Should Seem Right
When we try to imitate nature, such as making a desert garden,
or a bog pond, considerable restraint must be exercised. What
could be more out of place than a hibiscus or a croton in a desert
garden, or an agave or yucca growing on the edge of a bog pond?
Here we are dealing with a subject known as ecology. Plants in
nature form their own communities, and these communities vary
throughout the world according to the climate and the soil. We
don't find bog plants growing in deserts, nor do we find desert
plants growing in swamps. If we go in for special gardens which
we might call "natural gardens," then we must do our best to make
them appear natural. There is nothing wrong with the use of desert
type plants from Africa, Arizona, and Australia, all in the same
sandy area. Likewise there is nothing wrong with putting bog
plants from all over the world in a bog pond.
Appropriate background is just as important as community as-
sociation, because it is hard to separate plant communities from
the background. The dry garden, for instance, should be removed
from any lush tropical background. The yucca makes a satisfactory
background for it. Sometimes dry gardens are built against a wall,
such as a south or west wall within a patio where both direct and
reflecting sunlight make it very difficult to grow other things. Broad-
leaf evergreens might form the background for the bog pond. But
sometimes a planting of native scrub willow, as seen growing around
Everglades ponds, may be appropriate if the area is large enough.
These willows lose their leaves for a few weeks during the winter,
but when their new foliage comes out in February or March it
remains a bright new yellow-green for several weeks, making a
striking contrast against the darker background foliage. Another
effective plant for a pond border is the native cocoplum. It should
be planted where its sprawling branches will dip into the water.
But it must be remembered that the cocoplum eventually grows
into a large shrub, and is not suitable for a small pond. But here
we get into scale, one of the most important elements of design, and
which we will discuss.
Study of Design Important
The theory of design covers all forms of art, including flower
arranging, painting, architecture, landscape architecture, and the
laying out of super-highways. Many books are available on de-
sign theory, covering the subject from the most simple approach to
the most abstract conceptions of the various schools of design. Un-
fortunately, most home owners have no educational background in
design, which, like botany, is not taught in public schools. So many
persons know little about either design or about plants that they
have no basis for realizing how little they do know. When we are
completely lacking in knowledge of a subject, the more likely we
are to look upon it as a simple thing, easy to master with a little
effort. But garden designing, like any other kind of designing, is
not easy even for experts. Nor is gardening easy. Both designing
and gardening take years of study and experience if one is to
master them. Thus the home owner, who generally tries to cope
with the problems of designing and planting a garden faces a
doubly difficult situation. About all we can hope to accomplish
here is to make the reader appreciate the need for further study.
Here is an outline of the features of garden design:
COMPOSITION is the arrangement of all features in a garden,
including plants and structures, so that a pleasing relationship is
attained. Here we have an interplay of space, form, texture, and
color. How to achieve good composition requires knowledge of
scale, balance, accent, rhythm, and contrast.
SCALE is the relationship in size of parts of a plan. A huge
rubber tree dominating a small house is obviously out of scale.
Large trees go with large houses. The same is generally true of
palms. Medium sized trees and palms should be selected for small
homes on city lots. Thus we immediately find ourselves getting into
a problem where both knowledge of design and knowledge of
plants come in handy.
BALANCE is also a relationship between parts of a plan, but
it is a quality felt rather than to be measured. Something tells the
mind whether the elements in a landscape scene are in balance.
Balance may be formal or informal. Many home owners try to
achieve formality by placing identical palms or arbor vitae on
either side of an entrance, or identical coconuts on either side of
a walk near the street. Elementary formal balance may be easy
to obtain in an amateurish way, but fine formal gardens are de-
signed only by experts.
Informal balance is more difficult to achieve. Woodland scenes
which give us so much enjoyment are examples of the way in-
formal balance is obtained in nature. Masses of trees in one part
of a scene balance with hills, glades or islands of trees in another
part of the scene, forming, altogether, a balanced and pleasing
picture. When the landscape architect masses several large shrubs
on one side of a garden to offset the effects of a single spreading
tree on the other side, he is striving for the same kind of balance
one sees in nature. The inexperienced gardener may sense some-
thing is wrong in a garden in which there is a lack of balance,
but his lack of knowledge of design may prevent him from solving
ACCENT is used to break monotony in the balanced landscape.
It can be a plant, a gate, a rustic seat, a pool, or a fountain.
RHYTHM is the repetition or a sequence of lines closely tied to
the element of balance. Rhythm can be obtained with steps, pav-
ing blocks, or benches, as well as in the proper placing of plants of
similar color and texture in relation one to another. How to create
rhythm may be difficult for the amateur gardener. But we might
offer one illustration which might help: if a patio is made of large
rectangular stepping stones, adjoining plant beds are likely to seem
right if made of the same rectangular form.
CONTRAST can be achieved through the use of texture, color,
form, and shadow, as well as in the comparative heights of plants.
In most instances contrast is an accidental result of garden planting
and development rather than planning.
COLOR plays an important role in all gardens. It should be used
with restraint. When richness is overdone, all the other elements
of design are lost, and one winds up with glaring monotony.
TEXTURE is a more subtle element, but plays an important
role in the gardens of sensitive designers. Foliage texture can re-
lieve the monotony of plant masses. Transition between foliage
textures creates contrast, and even may add a sense of rhythm
through repetition. Thus shrubs should be selected as much for
the texture of their foliage as for their form or the color of their
LIGHT and SHADOW, like color and texture, are elements that
can be used to add interest to a garden. And they are the only
elements that are constantly changing, as the sun moves. Examples
are the changing shadow of a yucca on a wall, the lengthening
shadows of shrubbery late in the day, or the sunlight playing on
bright green foliage rustled by a breeze.
FORM and SPACE work together to give us the effect of three
dimensions. Habits of trees and shrubbery must be known before
they can be effectively grouped together, or planted in relation to
one another. There are many plant forms, and every plant natural-
ly takes on a certain form under varying conditions of growth. We
must know which plants and which forms are best for the effect we
wish to create. Forms are upright or sprawling, weeping or viney,
round or explosive. It is through the use of the different possible
forms in relation one to another that we create the strongest feeling
of three dimensions. And it is in the use of these different forms
that we combine all the elements of composition to attain pleasing
Drawing Plans to Scale
With the hope of doing a fair job, but with the realization that
perfection may be elusive, the home owner should be ready now
to go ahead with plans for the landscaping of his place. Details
should be drawn to scale. This is not so difficult if graph or engi-
neer's paper is used. Each small square can represent a square
foot of ground. If one sheet doesn't have enough squares, paste
several sheets together, or enough so that the full size of the lot
can be laid out. Now draw in the plan of the house, walks, drive-
way, and also the location of the septic tank and drainfield, power
and telephone lines. Next put in existing trees and shrubbery, as
well as any large trees which hang over from adjacent lots. Draw
an arrow to indicate the prevailing southeast breeze and another
arrow to indicate the northwest wind of winter. Mark east and
west so that sun and shadows are kept in mind as the sun moves
Now with the existing things indicated, it is time to make de-
cisions about the design of the garden and the placement of trees
and shrubbery. The foot-square areas of the graph paper should
remind one that plants do cover space; that a tree which some day
may be thirty feet across must be planted at least fifteen feet from
the lot line if it is not to invade the air space over a neighbor's lot.
And not even a small shrub should be set directly on the lot line.
The rest is up to the designer. He must decide on the kinds of
plants, how many plants will be used, and how to place them.
Every person, even the best designer, will tackle the problem dif-
ferently. So the amateur, trying to lay out his first garden, should
not worry about whether his plan will come out exactly like one
by a landscape architect. One thing is sure. The amateur's time
costs nothing, and graph paper is inexpensive. He can keep on de-
signing until he comes up with something that is pleasing-at least
Many plants, like this ginger, are increased by division
A well maintained courtyard adds immensely to worth of home
Florida's soils are very poor. More fertilizer must be used here
than in any other state. It is hardly possible to produce ornamentals
or commercial crops without help from fertilizer. The soils of north
Florida are poor enough, but the farther one travels southward
down the peninsula the poorer the soil becomes. About all we can
brag about in south Florida is the climate. What we have tradi-
tionally called soil is usually nothing but sand or limestone rock.
Fortunately, this sand and rock can be made productive within
a short time through the use of organic materials, mulching with
leaves, grass clippings, wood shavings, peat moss, and any other
plant particles which are subject to decay. Decay can be hastened
through the use of fertilizer.
To understand how soil can be improved let us take a look at a
tropical jungle. Matheson Hammock is a good example. We find
the floor of the hammock covered with leaves. The scene is not
greatly different from any other tropical jungle. Even most of the
plants are of tropical origin, except the live oak which is repre-
sented here by several noble specimens. If we scratch down into
the brown covering of leaves on the floor of the hammock, we get
a picture of what has been happening for a very long time. Only
the leaves on the surface still have their original forms. Deeper we
find progressive decay until the dark particles can no longer be
identified as leaves. Beneath this we find a dark sand mixed with
a black material which, for all appearances, might be a muck.
Digging a little further we come to what appears to be solid lime-
stone. What we have are a few inches of soil and decaying organic
matter lying on the surface of the rock, the result of many years of
leaf fall and leaf decay.
Looking at this thin layer of humus a little closer, we find that it
is filled with a network of roots of the many species of trees grow-
ing about, pigeon plum, mastic, red stopper, Spanish stopper, stran-
gler fig, and ironwood. If a poisonwood tree is growing nearby, its
roots also may be part of this network, and the hands of one digging
into the humus may later break out with a rash, similar to the rash
which develops after contact with poison ivy. The competition be-
tween roots is tremendous. They penetrate every nook and crevice
in search of nitrogen and minerals. If a root dies another root im-
mediately takes its place.
Soil is Full of Life
More takes place within this shallow humus than meets the eye.
We may uncover an earthworm or an unfamiliar bug in our dig-
ging, but it is impossible for us to see the multitude of microscopic
animals, bacteria, and fungi which live in this humus. Through
their actions the organic matter is broken down and returned to the
original soil solution from which it came. Thus new leaves are
produced and in time they fall and join the debris on top of the
soil already undergoing the processes of decay. Here the new
leaves are attacked by microorganisms and in time are converted
to humus. In the processes, nitrogen and minerals are released, as
well as acids and other compounds, and these percolate through
the overlying materials into the black soil, where they are absorbed
by tree roots. This is a simplified picture of what takes place.
The whole story is a complicated one which is not yet completely
understood by scientists who have spent their lives studying such
problems. But at least we have gained enough insight into these
processes for us to be able to duplicate nature's methods in our
The conditions which exist in Matheson Hammock may have
been hundreds of years in the making. The owner of a new home
on a raw subdivision lot cannot wait for the processes of nature to
run their course. He needs to transform his poor sand or limestone
into productive soil in the shortest time possible. For he has visions
of his home being set off at once by a strikingly picturesque garden,
with green lawn, and with borders of massive shrubbery, as well
as shade trees, fruit trees, and perhaps beds of flowering plants.
So often an attempt is made to develop this admittedly idealistic
garden before any effort is made to solve the soil problems. With
a few scrawny shrubs purchased at the lowest prices possible, and
with as many cuttings as can be obtained from friends and neigh-
bors, the garden is launched-with ninety-nine per cent hope and
the remaining one per cent divided between effort and knowledge.
We discussed in the preceding chapter how to go about planning
a garden. The next step is the planting; but one cannot expect
shrubs and trees set out in poor soil to make much headway, even
if they survive. We can overcome the soil problem to some extent
by purchasing full-sized shrubs and trees, and keep these in good
growing condition with the aid of fertilizers and ample moisture,
with perhaps an occasional application of a nutritional spray con-
taining zinc and manganese to correct mineral deficiencies. Most
homeowners don't have money to plant mature shrubs and trees.
They must start out in a small way with small plants. Thus the
building of a good foundation for these small plants to encourage
healthy growth is very important.
How to Make Compost
One of the first things the owner of a new house should do is
to start a compost pile. One can find as many directions for mak-
ing a compost heap as there are people who make them. The sim-
plest way is to pile up grass clippings, leaves and any other or-
ganic particles obtainable. Scatter fertilizer over the pile periodi-
cally as it is being built and keep it moistened to promote bacterial
action. A better way is to put down a layer of fresh organic ma-
terials about a foot deep. Add to this an inch of pit sand or builder's
sand, plus half a dozen handfuls of fertilizer and several coffee cans
of pulverized sheep manure or cow manure. Then add another layer
of organic materials and sand and fertilizer, until you have a flat-
tened heap five or six feet high. Cover as many square feet of
ground area as may be needed for the amount of composting ma-
terials available. Compost heaps should not be permitted to dry out.
Decay is brought about by microorganisms, which must have mois-
ture for their complicated chemistry. Where there is no moisture,
decay does not take place at all, and where there is little moisture
decay is slow. Decay is most rapid in well moistened, well aerated
After several weeks, when decay near the bottom of the heap
is well underway, the heap should be turned upside down. As soon
as the materials decay enough to fall apart when picked up with
a pitch fork they are ready for use. By now it will be noted that
the heap is probably one third its original size. Compost is basic
material for soil-building. It can be incorporated with the soil
when shrubs or trees are planted, while the rougher particles of
the material can be used for mulching after the planting is done.
Compost, in itself, does not contain enough nutrients, or does
not release nutrients fast enough, for rapid growth of trees and
shrubs. Additional fertilizer may be necessary to push young plants
along toward maturity. But in the meantime you are building
soil and creating ideal conditions for healthy plant growth. Just
how rapidly such favorable soil conditions are developed will
depend to a large extent on the gardener's own efforts. Unless
humus is being continually replenished, it disappears after a few
years, and the original poor conditions return. In a warm climate
humus is broken down rapidly by microorganisms. This is why
muck or peat disappears rapidly after it is applied to a lawn as a
top dressing. We often hear it said that the "muck blew away."
What happens is that the muck is broken down by microorganisms
and the molecules returned to their original form, either entering
the soil in solution or entering the atmosphere as a gas. Organic
materials are made up mainly of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and
minerals. When organic structures, or molecules, are broken down
each of these elements goes its own way, and the original material
which we recognize as peat, muck, or leaf particles disappears com-
The processes through which this action take place are much
more rapid in warmer areas of the world than in the cooler areas.
The popular belief that the tropics are so rich in humus is largely
myth. Organic material on the floor of a tropical jungle is broken
down rapidly and disappears. The destruction of the humus is
much more rapid after the jungle covering has been removed, as
when land is cleared for agriculture. The humus completely disap-
pears within a year or two, and the land is abandoned to return
to jungle growth. After several years the soil is renewed, and
once again is begun the cycle of clearing, cultivating, and abandon-
In the cooler areas of the world the soil retains its humus much
longer under cultivation than it does in the tropics. Contrary to
common belief, humus may accumulate to a greater depth in north-
ern forests, in grassy plains, and in bogs than in similar areas in
the tropics. Most of our garden peat is obtained from the cooler
areas of the world, where immense deposits have been created
through partial decay of organic matter, especially certain mosses
in swampy areas. These peat areas may eventually subside after
being drained and cultivated; but in the warmer areas of the world
where peat exists, it disappears rapidly following drainage and
cultivation. A good example is what has happened in the Ever-
glades, where rich peat deposits have subsided as much as eight
feet in less than forty years of cultivation. Eventually the subsidence
will be complete, if the present methods of cultivation are followed,
and the area will have to be abandoned as an important farming
Thus, it is obvious that humus is never a permanent thing if
it is used; and it certainly is of no value to the gardener unless his
plants are making use of it. In older gardens, however, there need
not be so much concern for the loss of humus, as it is being con-
stantly replaced through the decay of roots of existing plants, and
Humus is especially needed where gardens are made in limestone
soil. The humus releases a constant supply of acid when the soil
is moist, thus reducing the alkalinity and making available minerals
that limestone soil tends to fix in chemical compounds which cannot
be absorbed by plant roots. The acid may change these compounds
into soluble forms which become available to plants. Thus the
constant chemical changes that acids and bacteria bring about in
humus-laden limestone soil offer to plant roots a never ending
source of minerals.
On the other hand, in some areas of Florida the soil is highly
acid, especially in Florida's palmetto and gallberry flat woods.
While many plants thrive in acid soil, especially plants like ixora,
whose foliage turns yellow when planted in limestone soil, other
plants may not thrive under such highly acid conditions.
Soil analyses are made to determine whether soil is acid, alkaline,
or neutral. The relative acidity or alkalinity of soil is measured by
means of a pH scale. The figure 7 on the pH scale is neutral. Thus
if we have a neutral soil, one which is neither acid nor alkaline,
we say its pH is 7. If after testing soil we come up with a higher
figure than 7 we say the soil is alkaline, and if the figure is lower
than 7 we say the soil is acid.
If we have a limestone soil we can be certain that it is alkaline.
Use of composts, mulches, peat moss, and cow or sheep manure
help to overcome soil alkalinity. As organic matter in limestone soil
is increased, individual rock particles become coated with algae,
fungi, and other organisms. Thus the soil becomes less highly alka-
line and approaches neutral on the pH scale. If the soil taken from
the floor of a south Florida hammock is tested it generally will be
found to be on the acid side of the pH scale. If a soil is highly
alkaline, as in cases where a building lot has recently been cleared
and where there is a great deal of free lime in the soil, liberal use
of sulphur along with fertilizer and organic materials will help to
reduce the alkalinity. If one is trying to grow acid-loving plants
in limestone soil, such as ixoras or azaleas, application of aluminum
sulphate may be required to obtain the degree of acidity the plants
Once a limestone soil has mellowed, following the accumulation
of organic matter over a period of a few years, it becomes adaptable
to a wide number of plants which would not thrive in raw lime-
stone. On the other hand, in flatwoods areas, where the soil was
originally acid, the accumulation of humus may increase the acidity
and thus some minor correction through the use of lime may be
necessary. Most ornamental plants, however, prefer soil which is
slightly acid. This should always be kept in mind when the ques-
tion comes up about the use of lime. Over-use of lime can cause
serious soil problems.
Where ever one makes a garden, its quality in the end will be
determined by the amount of effort put into the job. The only
way to become an experienced gardener is to work with plants
and soils, learning as much by the mistakes one makes as from the
satisfying successes which one's efforts sometimes bring.
Use of Fertilizers
It doesn't take much experience in Florida gardening to learn
that plants cannot be grown very well without fertilizer. Plants
require nitrogen and minerals in quantities which the soil is not
able to provide. Fertilizer is used to supplement plant needs.
Fertilizers are mixed today in an almost endless number of
analyses. To understand their chemistry requires long years of
schooling. This is not necessary for the gardener who needs mainly
to know that his plants do require periodic applications of a bal-
anced fertilizer. But it is helpful to know something about the me-
chanical action of fertilizer and the response of plants to it.
The terms "general purpose fertilizer" or "balanced fertilizer"
are used to designate types which can be applied to most garden
plants, including grass, shrubs, and trees. Such mixtures have rela-
tively equal percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash. A
very popular mixture is 6-6-6. These figures represent the per-
centages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash, always, in the order
listed. A 4-7-5 mixture means that it contains four per cent nitrogen,
seven per cent phosphorus, and five per cent potash. But there
can be a difference in quality even though the analyses may be
The higher the organic content of fertilizer the higher the price
will be. The lowest-cost fertilizer will be one which is completely
lacking in organic matter. An example would be a mixture whose
nitrogen is derived from ammonium sulphate or ammonium nitrate.
A fertilizer whose nitrogen is derived from such organic sources
as sludge, tankage, tobacco stems, in addition to ammonium sul-
phate and ammonium nitrate, can be expected to be more costly.
Organic sources may make up thirty to fifty per cent of the nitrogen
analysis in a mixture. The higher the organic content the higher
the cost is likely to be. Ammonium sulphate and ammonium ni-
trate, called chemical nitrogen, are readily soluble in water, and
because of this they are quickly washed through the upper soil
level by heavy rainfall or irrigation. Organic nitrogen, on the other
hand, is not readily soluble, but breaks down slowly over a period
of weeks or months, releasing small amounts of nitrogen throughout
this time. Neither phosphorus nor potash is lost through leaching
as rapidly as nitrogen is lost. In recent years a synthetic organic
nitrogen has come into wide use. It is referred to by chemists as
ureaform nitrogen. Like natural organic nitrogen it breaks down
slowly in the soil, being released in small amounts over several
In addition to the dry type of fertilizer, usually sold in 25-, 50-,
and 100-pound bags, two other kinds have come into use since
World War II. They are soluble and liquid, highly concentrated,
and usually sold in small containers. The soluble type is dissolved
in water before being applied. The liquid form is diluted in water
before being applied. Both types are widely used for fertilizing
orchids, house plants, and even for lawns by running them through
a sprinkler system. Both are more expensive than the bulk type.
They leach rapidly in the soil and must be replaced frequently.
Their convenience, however, is a major selling point and they have
come into wide use. When applied according to directions they
do not burn plants, and are thus usually much safer to use than the
How to Apply Fertilizer
It is difficult to give directions for applying fertilizer, except in a
very general way. Analyses vary from 4-7-5 to 12-12-12 and 20-20-
20. It is a common practice to scatter fertilizer on top of the soil
and wash it into the ground through irrigation. Only when pre-
paring the soil for planting grass, shrubs, or trees is fertilizer in-
corporated with the soil. When fertilizing trees and shrubs on shal-
low, limestone soil it is necessary to spread it out over an area
covered by the canopy of the tree's foliage. In limestone soil it is
seldom possible for a tree to develop a tap root. Consequently the
roots spread out within the top six or eight inches of the soil in a
pancake of roots, almost perfectly flat on the bottom, and spread-
ing out for a considerable distance. The fertilizer should reach to
the limits of the tree's root system.
Few veteran gardeners try to measure the exact amount of ferti-
lizer applied to a shrub or a tree. The material is scattered evenly
over the soil, either by hand or with the aid of a fertilizer distribu-
tor. A thirty-foot tall mango tree might receive twenty-five pounds
of a 6-6-6 fertilizer at a single application. This is roughly a fourth
of a hundred-pound bag. The tree may receive three applications
a year, or a total of seventy-five pounds. A shade tree which has
reached a desired size may not require any fertilizer, if it is in good
condition and does not produce heavy crops of flowers or fruits.
After a flowering tree or a fruit tree produces a heavy crop it should
be entitled to a fairly heavy application of fertilizer to assist in
building it up for the next crop. Young trees are fertilized lightly
and often, as we attempt to push their growth.
After the desired size is attained, we may need to fertilize only
enough to maintain plants in good condition. Many a gardener
makes the serious mistake of fertilizing grass, shrubbery, and trees
on schedule three or four times a year, applying large amounts of
plant food whether it is needed or not. This results in heavy
growth, and consequently drastic pruning must be done.
In general, a 6-6-6 fertilizer is applied to grass at the rate of
about twenty to twenty-five pounds per thousand square feet. A
light application would be half this amount. In the vicinity of trees
or shrubs, the application should be increased, of course. Beneath
trees or shrubs, the application can be doubled. A small tree cover-
ing a 100-square foot area, or an area ten by ten feet, may receive
about five pounds.
Fertilizer should never be applied close to the trunk of a tree or
a shrub. Severe burning of the trunk as well as the larger roots
may result. Where small trees or shrubs have been newly planted,
there is little need to make large applications of fertilizer over a
wide area about each plant. Roots are confined to a rather small
area as yet, and applications should be fairly light but made at
short intervals of one to two months. As a plant becomes estab-
lished, fertilizer can be spread a little farther out as the roots spread
out, and eventually applications can be increased in amount and
reduced in number to two or three a year. Further information
about fertilizing can be found in chapters dealing with lawn grasses
and fruit trees.
It is necessary to provide some method of irrigation for every
garden. Irrigation systems vary in extent from a couple of faucets
to which a garden hose can be attached, to elaborate systems which
are cut on automatically when the moisture content of the soil
declines to a certain level. Many automatic systems are timed to
cut on early in the day, in order that irrigation can be completed
before the owner sits down to breakfast. Such systems make life
easier for the gardener, but they are not necessary. It is necessary,
however, to have plenty of water available if we are to grow a wide
number of different kinds of plants.
Our ornamentals come from many parts of the world, where the
rainfall may vary from 15 to 20 inches a year to as much as 150
inches a year. The rainfall may be evenly distributed throughout
the year or it may all come during a rainy season of five or six
months, leaving the rest of the year with little or no rainfall. Rain-
fall patterns and their effects on gardening are discussed in the
chapter on Climate and the Gardener.
It is helpful to know a plant's origin and the kind of climate to
which it is adapted. But this is hardly possible for the gardener
to know except perhaps in a few instances. Furthermore, gardens
are set up so that all plants are treated relatively the same way,
and the gardener, usually with limited horticultural knowledge,
naturally expects plants to react the same way. Plants, however, are
not like this. They refuse to perform as the gardener may expect
them to perform. Plants from areas of low rainfall may not survive
under constant moist conditions. Flowering trees from areas of
the world where there are distinct wet and dry seasons may not
flower if they receive almost constant irrigation and the soil is never
permitted to become dry. This is true of many of the cassias and
acacias. The mango may not fruit well if it receives a constant
source of moisture. Few mangos are grown in the tropics where
there is heavy rainfall throughout the year. The better mangos
are produced in tropical and semi-tropical areas where there are
marked dry and wet seasons.
Wherever possible, plants should receive moisture conditions to
which they are best adapted. Cacti, aloes, kalanchoes, and the
euphorbias, such as the colorful crown-of-thorns (Euphorbia milii)
should be planted in a well drained location, such as in an elevated
boulder garden, and should be protected from over-watering. It
is, however, impossible to protect such plants from the long periods
of heavy rainfall south Florida experiences during the rainy season.
Thus the plants must be grown in well drained, well aerated soil.
But dry-land plants do require moisture. In deserts where it never
rains more than perhaps a trace, as along the coast of Peru, no
plant life is seen except along water courses. Thus, during periods
of long drought, desert type plants should receive an occasional
irrigation. The irrigations should be done thoroughly, with the soil
moistened to a foot or more. No additional irrigation may be
needed for several weeks.
Very often it is not over-watering which injures plants, but the
frequency of watering which does the greater harm. Where sprin-
kler systems are run for a short time each day, keeping the top inch
or so of the soil moist, two types of injury are likely to result. First,
the roots of plants tend to develop close to the surface. Secondly,
perfect conditions are set up for several kinds of fungi to become
established. Fungi attack the leaves of grass and ornamentals, as
well as the roots of many plants. Over-watering may encourage
the development of fungi in the roots of citrus, avocados, and hi-
biscus, often resulting in their deaths.
Until a plant is established it requires frequent watering, be-
cause it does not have an extensive root system to absorb moisture.
A newly set out shrub or tree may require water every other day
for a couple of weeks. How often will depend to a large extent
on the type of soil and to the time of planting. A plant should be
watered more often during dry weather, especially if there is lots of
wind, than during humid weather. On the other hand, many a
young plant has been lost because the owner neglected to water
frequently enough during the rainy esason. Sometimes a shower
may give the impression that the garden is well watered, but if
one scratches beneath the moist surface one may find dry soil
beneath. A newly set out plant should be watered on schedule
except when at least one inch of rain has fallen.
For well established plants-plants which have been in the soil
for at least a year-frequent irrigation is not necessary. If most
shrubs and trees receive a thorough irrigation once a month during
the dry season they should never suffer. Once-a-week watering is
usually enough for grass, if an inch of water is put down when
irrigation is done.
Water is taken up by plant roots. Inexperienced gardeners may
spray their plants with a garden hose nozzle and believe they can
do a good job of watering. But plants absorb little moisture through
their leaves. They are not helped much by irrigation unless the
soil is moistened to the depth where roots exist.
Much can be learned about plants by observing them during dry
periods. Many plants wilt when the soil becomes dry. Other plants
may shed their leaves. Plants in new growth may be benefited by
irrigation during dry periods. Fruit trees may require periodic ir-
rigation after the setting of fruit in order for the crop to develop.
Ornamentals such as bougainvilleas and cassias, which flower best
after going through a prolonged dry period, apparently are helped
by irrigation after flowers begin to open.
Moisture can be conserved in the soil by eliminating weeds.
Mulching aids the soil to retain moisture by slowing down evapo-
ration. Windbreaks also help to reduce the loss of moisture in
plants through transpiration. Cold weather affects the moisture
tremendously. When the thermometer falls below 40 degrees, the
leaves of plants may lose their moisture faster than they can absorb
it from the soil. Thus injury may be suffered by the leaves of plants
and grasses. For this reason it is a good idea to irrigate the garden
thoroughly when a cold spell is reported on the way.
Preparing for Frost
Frost is a common winter visitor to south Florida, except for a
very narrow strip along the coastline of the southernmost part of
the peninsula and in the Florida keys. Hardly a winter passes that
frost doesn't invade the southern part of the peninsula, covering
most of the Everglades and reaching down as far as the outskirts
of Homestead. The temperature may drop to freezing in open, un-
protected areas on the outskirts of Miami. At least once in a decade
freezing weather pushes its way to the shore of Biscayne Bay, and
tender tropical plants and lawn grasses are brown for weeks there-
The gardener should know something about the weather char-
acteristics in the area where he lives. As a rule, the closer one gets
to the coastline the warmer it is during cold spells. For instance,
when the temperature drops to 30 degrees on the outskirts of Miami
the temperature along Biscayne Bay may be 34 to 36 degrees. When
the temperature drops to 30 degrees, many tender tropical plants
may be injured or killed, especially if the low temperature persists
for several hours.
It is coldest near ground level. A small plant with no protection
between it and the sky is certain to be at the mercy of frost on a
cold night. A tree with spreading branches may suffer no injury
from frost, except during hard freezes. The temperature is always
higher beneath the canopy of a tree than in an open lawn on a
cold night. The most tender foliage plants grown on the floor of a
jungle may escape injury from cold even on nights when the tem-
perature drops to below 30 degrees in open areas. Under the pro-
tective canopy of trees the temperature may not drop below 38.
Gardens in which there are several large trees are not likely to
suffer much injury from cold except when south Florida is visited
by a prolonged freeze, such as the area had in 1917, 1934, 1940, and
1958. Even then, tender plants growing under the protection of
large trees may come through with little injury. If a freeze is ac-
companied by wind, severe damage may be done to plants even
though they are under a canopy. The damage will be lessened,
however, if a garden is protected by hedges or other screening on
the northwest side. Keeping the soil moist also increases the pro-
By keeping up with weather bureau forecasts, it is possible to
know one or two days in advance when cold weather is likely to
strike south Florida. Thus the gardener is given plenty of time to
How to Protect Plants
There are several ways to protect gardens and plants from cold
damage. Small plants can be covered. Grove owners use bean
hampers to cover year-old avocado trees. A young mango tree may
be protected by covering its trunk with a bundle of grass or with
any other kind of insulating material. The young mango tree is
especially susceptible to freeze damage and likely to be killed by
freezing weather until the tree has developed a canopy several feet
Rapid loss of moisture during cold weather is one of the main
causes of lawns turning brown. If a lawn has been thoroughly wa-
tered the day before a cold wave is scheduled to move in, it will
have a better chance of pulling through with small damage than if
the soil is excessively dry. We don't have to worry about the ground
freezing in south Florida, so we can safely water at the approach
of cold weather.
Hungry plants are more susceptible to cold damage than robust
plants. This is one good reason for making a fall fertilizer applica-
tion, after the rainy season ends around the first of November.
Ordinarily plants and grasses will be low in minerals and nitrogen
at this time, after several weeks of leaching rainfall. A light
to medium application of a balanced fertilizer will make up the
losses of nitrogen and minerals and prepare plants for cool weather.
Heavy applications of fertilizer normally should not be made in the
fall, as this may encourage new growth. However, it is not always
possible to keep plants dormant throughout the winter, because
if the temperature remains fairly high and tropical plants receive
moisture they are likely to put out new growth. When in new
growth plants are more susceptible to cold damage than when
they are in mature foliage.
Except during hard freezes, it is entirely safe to run sprinklers
over the lawn and shrubbery early in the morning to wash frost
off the foliage. This will tend to prevent injury, which is almost
certain to follow if the frost persists until the sun comes up. During
hard freezes the water put out by sprinklers may turn into ice. This
is especially likely where one uses a hand-held nozzle, and goes
about spraying a mist onto the grass and shrubbery. Where one
has a heavy sprinkler system, capable of turning out large amounts
of water, there is little danger of the water turning into ice.
All weeds and mulch should be cleared from around small plants
before a freeze. Mulch beneath larger trees which have formed a
canopy does not matter. But there is good reason for removing
mulch from around small plants. During the day the earth absorbs
heat from the sun and releases it during the night. Weeds and
mulch absorb little heat and consequently have little to give off
at night. Freshly cultivated plants, as in a vegetable garden, are
more likely to be injured by frost than where the soil has a crusty
surface. A crusty surface can be quickly formed by irrigation.
It is good to have an accurate thermometer on hand to check the
temperature which drops rapidly during a cold spell as soon as the
sun sets. By checking the thermometer it is possible to get some
idea about what temperature we are likely to have during the night.
Here is a rule of thumb which might be remembered: If by 7 p.m.
the temperature has dropped to 49 degrees, the chances are that
it will drop to the vicinity of 32 degrees by sunrise. A temperature
of 48 degrees at 7 p.m. indicates that at sunrise it may have 31 de-
grees, and so on. The temperature, however, can be influenced
by several things. A light breeze may come up after midnight to
halt the plunge of the thermometer. If clouds form they will reduce
radiation of heat from the earth and thus prevent frost.
A hundred kinds of tropical fruits can be grown in Florida
Tomatoes and other vegetables are planted in the fall
The supply of plants may be increased in several ways, from
seeds, by rooting cuttings, by airlayering, and by division.
Seeds vary in size from the dust-like particles removed from
orchid seed pods, to the fruit of the coconut. The smaller the seed
the more difficulty one is likely to have in growing it. Orchid seeds
are planted in a special medium, in sterile flasks. Seeds of many
annual flowers are so fine that once they are scattered in the soil
they cannot be distinguished from the dark particles of -humus.
Small seeds are best planted in flats or in pots of sterile soil.
Small amounts of soil can be sterilized in the oven of a stove, by
putting it in a large container and adding a small amount of water
to create steam. Quick results are obtained if the pan is covered.
About twenty minutes of steaming should be enough to kill all
microorganisms, soil insects, and weed seeds.
Larger seeds, from palms or ornamental shrubs, may be planted
in flats of soil, made by combining perlite or crushed granite with
a small amount of well pulverized and screened sphagnum moss.
When individual seeds sprout they can be lifted and placed in
containers of good soil. The original planting medium contains no
nutrients and if plants are left temporarily in such mixtures as per-
lite and sphagnum, they should be fed with liquid or soluble ferti-
lizer. Young seedlings should be grown in as much light as they
can take. If grown in deep shade they become leggy and weak.
Most young plants thrive best when grown under slats or plastic
which provide about forty per cent shade. In the fall and winter,
when annuals and vegetables are planted in seed flats for later
transplanting to garden rows or beds, they should be grown in
full sun from the beginning.
A great many ornamental plants may be propagated from cut-
tings, either mature wood cuttings or from tip cuttings which are
selected just before new growth reaches maturity. There are few
plants which cannot be propagated if the cuttings are kept under
mist. Nurserymen use automatic systems for cutting on mist at reg-
ular intervals over cutting beds. Root-inducing hormones aid in
the rooting of difficult plants. Cuttings must be placed in a medium
which is well drained, yet which retains sufficient moisture to pre-
vent the cuttings from drying out between waterings. A mixture
of perlite and either sphagnum or peat moss makes a suitable
medium. It may be helpful to cover cutting flats with transparent
plastic in order to aid in the holding of moisture. If plastic is used
it is usually possible to root cuttings on which a few leaves have
been retained. This hastens the rooting process.
How to Airlayer
Airlayering is usually the best system for the homeowner to use
for propagating plants, for two reasons. First, it is easy to do once
the method has been learned, and, secondly, fairly large plants can
be so propagated. A branch of suitable size and shape is selected,
preferably one whose foliage receives sun most of the day. The be-
ginner will do well to start out with rather small branches, the
size of a pencil or a little bigger. At a point on the branch where
you wish to induce roots to grow the bark is ringed in two places,
about an inch and a half apart. The bark between the ringed
areas is now removed, down to the wood. No part of the soft inner
bark must be left. This can be scraped off the wood with the knife
blade, if any of it persists after the outer bark is taken off. This
soft inner bark is the cambium layer, and if any is left in the girdled
area a bridge will be formed over the gap and rooting may not
take place. Next, take a handful of moist sphagnum from a bucket
of water and squeeze out enough of the water so that the sphagnum
no longer drips, but is still quite wet. Distribute this around the
girdled part of the branch, and cover with a sheet of aluminum foil,
large enough for over-lapping, then twist both ends around the
Roots should begin to form about the girdled area in six or eight
weeks. After the sphagnum is full of roots, the branch can be cut
just below the aluminum foil-between the aluminum foil and the
trunk of the tree-with the aid of sharp clippers. Now very care-
fully remove the aluminum foil and set out the new plant in a
container of rich soil. Extreme care must be exercised to prevent
injury to the roots. Soil should be washed into the container and
about the roots with the aid of a garden hose.
Keep the young plant in part shade for several days, until it be-
comes established, and then carefully remove it to full sun. Under
normal conditions it should be ready to plant out in a permanent
location within a couple of months. Again care must be exercised
when removing the plant from its container which by now should
be full of roots. If handled roughly, not only will many of the
roots be damaged, but there is danger of breaking the entire root
system from the plant stem.
Most plants can be propagated by the airlayering method. The
best month to induce rooting of airlayered branches probably is
in May, June, or July, but many gardeners use this method of
propagation at all times of the year. One of the main reasons for
lack of success with airlayering is the failure to do a good job of
girdling the branch before the moss is put on. If, after six weeks
no roots have formed, the girdled area should be examined to see
if it has calloused over. If so, the girdling should be done over and
fresh sphagnum put on.
Propagation by Division
Many plants are propagated by division, such as the banana,
bamboo, the rhapis cluster palm, and most bulb plants. Banana
plants are usually increased by removing suckers from the base of
an old tree or old clump of trees. Bamboo is usually propagated
by the removal of a small portion of a larger clump. Sometimes
three or four large bamboo stalks, or culms, are included in the por-
tion of roots and underground stems removed. The tall bamboo
stems are cut back to within three or four feet of the ground and
this section is carefully dug from the old clump and transplanted.
This method of propagating bamboo is by no means easy. The roots
and underground stems are very tough, and both an ax and a
good grubbing hoe, as well as strong muscles, are needed for the
The rhapis palm also is propagated by the removal of three or
four stalks along with their underground stems and roots, from an
older clump. These new plants will be very weak, however, and
should be kept in containers until they are well established before
being planted in a permanent location. This may take six months.
Gingers and heliconias are propagated from division, but ordinarily
this method of propagation is not recommended for the strelitzia.
Division of the strelitzia can be done only with great difficulty. It
is better to buy vigorous young plants from a nurseryman rather
than to mutilate a fine old clump in order to get a few off-shoots.
Propagation by division is best done in the early part of the
growing season, except in the case of such bulbs as the daylily
which flower in late spring. Normally both the daylily and the
amaryllis are divided in August. These plants need not be divided,
however, unless they have been growing in the same bed for sev-
eral years and are very dense.
Budding and Grafting
Fruit trees and outstanding flowering trees are often propagated
by budding or grafting. Many plants may not thrive on their own
roots. For instance, the gardenia is nearly always budded or grafted
onto the root stock of an African species of gardenia before it is
planted outdoors in south Florida. The cultivated gardenia re-
quires an acid soil and does not do well on its own roots in limestone
soil. It also is highly susceptible to nematode damage when grown
on its own roots. The African species (Gardenia thunbergia) is
affected little by either limestone or nematodes.
Although the sweet orange may be propagated by airlayering, it
does not thrive under most conditions on its own roots. In lime-
stone soil it grow best on Cleopatra tangerine stock, while in low,
moist which is subject to flooding, it does best on sour orange
The mango may be propagated by airlayering, which is the meth-
od used in India, but few homeowners have enough background
in horticulture7-and patience-to propagate mangos by this method.
Usually budded trees are purchased from nurserymen. The lychee
is easy to propagate by airlayering, while the carambola and the
sapodilla are somewhat more difficult.
Numerous methods of budding and grafting are used for the
propagation of mangos, avocados, citrus, and other trees. These
methods are covered by several texts, including bulletins published
by the Agricultural Experiment Station at Gainesville. These may
by consulted in libraries or at county agents' offices. However,
methods of budding and grafting are usually learned through prac-
tical demonstration rather than from the reading of texts. Begin-
ners interested in learning this art should start with plants which
are easy to graft, such as hibiscus and the loquat. The budding of
the mango is much more difficult, and the budding of a sapodilla
is a job for the expert horticulturist.
The quality of your Florida garden will de-
pend more upon your own efforts than upon
the natural growth of plants in a favorable
<' j .
Shrubby plants must be carefully selected for each location
A hrub's tolerance of pruning is an important consideration
A shrub's tolerance of pruning is an important consideration
SHRUBS AND THEIR USES
The shrub is the most important plant in any landscape plan.
Trees, palms, vines, ground covers, and annuals are of secondary
importance. Ordinarily a small garden can support two or three
trees at the most, unless the trees are very small. Only a few palms,
such as Rhapis excelsa and Chrysalidocarpus lutescens, are suitable
for screening or for background planting. One can do without
annuals or roses or ground covers in a garden, but one could hardly
do without shrubs.
There are many kinds of shrubs, in many forms, textures, and
colors. They vary greatly in growth habit. Many become small
trees if left unpruned. Others are low and sprawling, and may be
listed also under ground covers. Some are viney in growth habit,
such as the jasminums, and may be listed under vines as well as
under shrubs and ground covers. Even certain foliage plants may be
listed under shrubbery, including the monstera, banana, dracaena,
and alpinia. The suckering palm Rhapis excelsa, and also the pan-
danus, are used as shrubs. Several fruit trees may be included,
such as the cattley guava, one of the most useful of background
shrubs or small trees, and the Barbados cherry, which is as colorful
when in fruit as many flowering trees.
Landscaping can be done by using no other plants except shrubs
and grass. Shrubs serve many purposes; for screens and hedges,
for foundation plantings, and for accent, for facing taller shrubs,
for ground covers, and for color or unusual form. They should be
chosen carefully. When several kinds are planted together they
should be selected for agreeable form, texture, and color. Marked
incongruity in shrubbery plantings can give the impression of a
weedy garden. Some knowledge about the growth of each shrub
Large shrubs, used for background or to screen objectionable
views, should be planted some distance from the property line so
that their branches will not extend over on a neighbor's lot. A cat-
tley guava will reach eight to ten feet high, unless severely pruned,
and it will develop a spread of close to eight feet. Thus it should
be planted a minimum of four feet from the property line. It should
be remembered that zoning laws in some municipalities prohibit
hedges above five feet, but three or four cattley guavas, set in a
group to be used as a screen against a particularly objectionable
view or to muffle noise from a neighbor's air conditioning equip-
ment, are usually permissible. Where there is not enough space
for spreading shrubs, the common aralia (Polyscias guilfoylei) may
be used. It grows upright, with little spread, and can be planted
within eighteen inches of a lot line. In time, without trimming, the
aralia becomes woody and ugly.
Use Appropriate Shrubs
Planting of large shrubs, such as hibiscus, ligustrum or ixora, be-
neath windows, so that they constantly must be cut back or rounded
with pruning shears, should be avoided. There are many low
growing plants which can be used for such locations, including
plumbago, holly-leaf malpighia, jasminums, and the sprawling
forms of carissa, which need little pruning.
Where formal, sheared hedges are desired the gardener has a
choice of several species. The more common ones used for this
purpose are the Surinam cherry (Eugenia uniflora), Murraya exoti-
ca, Ixora coccinea, Ligustrum japonicum, Ligustrum sinense, and
Pittosporum tobira. Where very tall clipped hedges are desired,
Ficus retusa and Ficus benjamin may be used. Although it is
not widely planted in Florida, the commercial olive (Olea europaea)
makes a very good clipped hedge.
For the purpose of general description rather than exact botanical
classification, shrubs might be divided into two groups, hardwoods
and softwoods. Examples of hardwood shrubs are carissa, Surinam
cherry, cocoplum, severinia, jacquinia, ligustrum, malpighia, mur-
raya, cattley guava, and podocarpus. Softwood shrubs are acalypha,
aralia, night and day blooming jasmines, clerodendron, crotons,
duranta, crape jasmine, hibiscus, Turk's cap, dwarf poinciana, thry-
allis, and vitex.
Plants of the hardwood species are almost invariably superior
in form and texture to plants of the softwood species. The hard-
wood species are slower growers, require less pruning, tolerate
pruning better, are generally heartier and less subject to diseases
and insect troubles than the softwood plants. As with everything,
there are exceptions. Some of the most interesting plant forms and
leaf textures are found in a softwood group, the aralias. Aralia
elegantissimum is an example.
Because of their slow growth the hardwood species generally are
more costly to buy than the softwood species. Nurserymen propa-
gate few of them. Eugenia coronata is an example. However, in
recent years nurserymen have learned a great deal about how to
hurry the growth of plants and the difference in costs of shrubs is
not so great as it used to be. Cost is based mainly on how long
a plant must be kept in the nursery. The hardwood species, being
more difficult to propagate, used to be grown mainly from seeds.
Young seedlings were very slow to grow. Now most plants are
propagated from cuttings under mist.
Many Plants Difficult to Find
A list of tropical plants which could be used as shrubs would run
into hundreds of species. Nurseries, however, propagate a rela-
tively small number. The landscape architect, when planning a
garden, must stick with plants which are available. The home-
owner must do the same, unless he is willing to search for propa-
gating material and grow his own. If he is interested enough he
can find the species from which he might obtain airlayers or seeds,
as for instance, the many very fine native plants which grow in
To use plants well in a landscape requires a great deal of knowl-
edge about the plants themselves. One must know the ultimate
size and the rapidity of growth of a plant and whether it takes
pruning well. And, of course, each plant has its own character and
qualities which one can get to know only from long association and
observation. It is next to impossible to recommend, in every in-
stance, the exact plants to be used in a given situation. Much de-
pends on the sun or wind exposure, the type of architecture, the
taste of the homeowner, and upon the relationship of other plants
Shrubs vary greatly in character, and the gardener should con-
sider this when selecting them for planting. They might be classi-
fied according to business, color of flowers or fruit, and texture,
and color of foliage. It is obvious that there is a great deal of
difference in character between a hibiscus and a carissa. The dwarf
poinciana is very different in character from either of these. It
might be possible without reference to exact botany, to group
plants, in a simple descriptive way, in one of these three categories.
For instance, any shrub with color and leaf texture similar to
that of the hibiscus might be listed in the "hibiscus character"
group. Such plants might be the Turk's cap (malvaviscus), night-
blooming and day-blooming jasmines, clerodendron, poinsettia,
chenille plant, roselle, and datura. These are rapid growers, and
their characters are so similar in a number of ways that they fre-
quently can be used together in landscape design and planting.
In the carissa group, which includes many plants that may be
slower in growth than those in the hibiscus group, we might include
the ligustrum, Surinam cherry, citrus, members of the myrtle family
such as the native eugenias, and cattley guava, several kinds of
ixora and also the cocoplum. Their foliage is stiffer and more glossy
than that of the hibiscus group. Color, form, and texture are so
similar that they might be planted near one another without being
In the third group, the dwarf poinciana, we have a number of
fairly straggly plants with either fine foliage or open foliage which
sets them apart from other bushy members of the hibiscus or
carissas. With the dwarf poinciana one might include the jumbie
bean, coral plant, scrub acacia (Acacia farnesiana), parkinsonia,
calliandra, and several cassia species.
Create Own Categories
The gardener can make up his own plant groups, including shrubs
that seem to go together harmoniously, according to his sense of
values. We have not listed, for instance, such plants as the acalypha
or the croton. Nor have we discussed the varieties of bougainvillea
which can be trained as shrubs. These are among the more brilliant
plants, and their use offers still another problem. They have their
places in the tropical garden, and deserve wide use, but many
gardeners make the mistake of giving over their gardens entirely
to gaudy plants. In general, the colorful plants should be reserved
for planting after the basic shrubs and trees have become estab-
Most certainly the gardener should not be so extreme as to
make a choice from only one group and neglect the others, in order
to develop a purist's garden in which there was no contrast in
shrub form or unlikeness in texture. In fact, the best garden will
have all categories in order to provide a never-ending variation.
How far to go with this sort of thing-just exactly where to stop-
is a problem that can be answered only by the gardener himself;
and this will be determined by his experience and his taste.
But it does not follow that one who has had a considerable
amount of experience as a gardener will have superior taste. For
there are persons who have good taste in gardening although they
have never planted a shrub or pulled a weed. These are observing
people who have spent much time studying and enjoying gardens
everywhere they go. Their sense of what is right in landscape de-
sign may be far superior to that of gardeners who have spent much
of their lives growing and caring for plants.
When planning and planting a garden, it is good to look into
the future, when the tiny plants you set out, wondering if they will
ever get started, become so large that they must be constantly
pruned to be kept under control. The landscape architect, when
drawing up the plans for the garden of a wealthy homeowner, can
use fully developed trees and shrubs. He can place background
shrubs where they belong, an eight-foot cattley guava here, and
several six-foot ligustrums there. In front of these he can set just
the right kind of facing shrubs, of just the right size, and so on
until he has the right effect. Such a plan is first drawn on paper,
then specifications are prepared for use by the landscape contractor
who does the planting. When the owner moves in, he has a land-
scaped garden as fine as though several years had been spent in
Not everyone can afford such a completely landscaped garden.
Eight-foot plants, moved from nurseries by tree trucks, cost a great
deal of money, and labor is expensive. But even the smallest cattley
guava or the smallest ligustrum eventually gets to be six or eight
feet tall. They represent an investment in patience. But if such
plants are not set in the right place from the beginning, they can
become problems as they reach maturity.
Suppose plants which eventually will become large shrubs are
set where they have no freedom for growth, such as beneath win-
dows, or in places where they spread out over walks or driveways.
This means cutting back one or more times a year. They cannot
develop a natural form, and they become the sheared and character-
less specimens which are so numerous in south Florida, even in
gardens where the owners can afford to do better. Thus, when
planting a shrub it is a good idea to know what its ultimate size
will be and to make allowances for full development of character.
Value of Windbreaks
As suggested elsewhere, only tough plants should be used for
windbreaks or for background. These plants serve not only as
background for your fine ornamentals, but they serve as a defense
against cold winds. In older gardens the first planted shrubs be-
come small trees. Two or more facer shrubs can be planted in front
of these, in a sort of mother-child effect. This system, if used in
an orderly way about one's garden could become monotonous, but
the chances for such an orderly development of a one-two-three
planting of tall, medium, and low shrubs is hardly likely. Further-
more, such plantings can be broken up by palms, trees, and shrubs
of various shapes and leaf textures.
Every shrub should be chosen for a purpose, as well as for the
effect which you wish to achieve. No shrub should be planted
without first considering whether it will associate well with other
plants in the landscape, and especially with near-by plants.
Below is a list of shrubs, as well as small trees which are com-
monly used as shrubs. Descriptions are not complete enough to
make identifications. Plants should be seen before purchased rather
than be selected from description. This information should be help-
ful when one is trying to find out the average size of plants and
something of their characteristics. Methods of propagation also
are indicated. Most of the plants listed here can be found by
shopping among nurseries. The slower a plant is in growth the
more difficult it is to find. But occasionally one finds a nurseryman
who will have one or more of these very difficult plants, despite-
their slow growth. Those which the shopper cannot find, if he
wants them, he will have to propagate himself.
ACALYPHA HISPITA. Chenille plant. Height five feet, spread
four feet. Upright and dense. Rapid growing, softwood. Leaves
large and bright green. Flowers tassel-like and bright red. Used
for hedge and accent. Cuttings.
ACALYPHA WILKESIANA. Erroneously called red aralia or
croton. Height five feet, spread four feet. Upright and dense.
Rapid growing, softwood. Leaves large, red or bronze. Used for
hedge, filler or accent. Cuttings.
ARALIA ELEGANTISSIMUM. Height to eight feet, making
small tree if not controlled. Mature leaves large, glossy green, with
interesting pattern. Used as background shrub or several together
for screening. Grows too tall to be planted near foundations, but
is widely used for this purpose. Seeds, cuttings or airlayering.
ARALIA, COMMON. See Polycias guilfoylei.
ARDISIA. Several species of this hardwood shrub. Ardisia crispa
is best known. Height five to seven feet. Spread four feet. Fast
grower. Glossy green leaves. Flowers in white clusters. Fruit red,
turning black. Used for screening, hedge or background shrub, in
sun or shade. Seeds.
BAUHINIA GALPINI. Half-climbing, sprawling hardwood.
Height six feet, spread eight to ten feet. Leaves medium green.
Flowers red, in summer. Of use only where large sprawling plant
desired. Can be trained on wall or fence. Airlayering or seeds.
BIXA ORELLANA. Height ten feet, spread eight feet. Rapid
growing softwood, making a small tree. Leaves large, heart-shaped.
Flowers rose. Fruits spiny, bright red. Of use where large accent
plant desired. Seeds.
BRUNFELSIA AMERICANA. Height five feet, spread three to
four feet. Spreading, open shrub. Leaves glossy green. Flowers
white, turning pale yellow, borne in clusters. Does well in shade.
BRUNFELSIA CALYCINA. Height four feet, spread five feet.
Spreading, dense shrub. Flowers rich purple. Does well in shade.
Seeds, cuttings or root sprouts.
CALLIANDRA. Several species, four to seven feet tall, with
equal spread. Leaves fine. Flowers bright red or pale pink. Used
as accent plant, but difficult to fit into landscape because of form
and texture of small leaves. Seeds.
CARISSA GRANDIFLORA. Several varieties of this hardwood
shrub, including such names as Boxwood Beauty, Linki, and Bonsai.
Seedlings, very spiny, grow to eight feet, with five-foot spread.
Named varieties are sprawling, two to four feet high. Leaves stiff
and dark green. Fruit glossy red, edible. Sprawling varieties widely
used by landscape architects as facer or filler plants, ground covers,
foundation plants, and in planter boxes. Can be grown from seeds,
but varieties can be maintained only if propagated by airlayering
or by cuttings.
CESTRUM DIURNUM. Day-blooming jasmine. Height to eight
feet, spread four feet. Rapid growing, brittle softwood, tending to
be leggy. White flowers fragrant in daytime. Fruit black. Of use
only as background plant, but little used because of openness.
Seeds, cuttings or airlayering.
CESTRUM NOCTURNUM. Night-blooming jasmine. Height
to eight feet, spread four feet. Rapid growing, brittle softwood re-
sembling- day-blooming jasmine. Greenish white flowers are very
fragrant at night. Fruit white. Of little value as landscape plant,
but widely used for fragrance of flowers. Seeds, cuttings or air-
CHAMAEDOREA SPECIES. See Palms.
CHRYSALIDOCARPUS LUTESCENS. See Palms.
CHRYSOBALANUS ICACO. Cocoplum. Height to seven feet.
Variable hardwood, slow from seeds but faster from cuttings and
airlayers. One of outstanding shrubs propagated. Foliage glossy
green. New leaves on some varieties reddish. Fruit black or pink.
Pulp and kernel edible. Used by landscape architects for back-
ground, screening or as sheared hedge. Seeds, cuttings under mist,
CLERODENDRUM. Several species, three to six feet tall, often
tending to become weedy in appearance and in aggressiveness.
Grown for white or red flowers and also for unusual ornamental
fruit. The clerodendrums are hardly suitable for permanent plant-
ing, being difficult to maintain in a desirable form. They are usually
planted to provide quick color. Most of them thrive in full sun or
part shade. Root sprouts, seeds, or cuttings.
COCCOLOBA DIVERSIFOLIA. Pigeon plum. This is a native
which is a relative of the seagrape. It is a fairly rapid growing tree,
but can be kept under control by pruning. Its large glossy leaves
are produced in dense numbers and the small tree should be ex-
cellent for screening. Easily propagated by airlayering. Large
branches may be taken.
COCCULUS LAURIFOLIUS. Here is another dense growing
shrub, with slender shiny, very dark green leaves. Takes pruning
well, and although it makes a tree in time if left unpruned, it can
be kept at desired height. Airlayering.
CODIAEUM VARIEGATUM. Croton. There is an almost end-
less list of varieties of this colorful and popular shrub, four to six
feet tall and up to four feet of spread. Color combinations of
greens, yellows, reds, and browns. Varieties differ in tolerance to
sun and shade; but most crotons do best in part shade. Crotons
must be used with great care or they will steal the show and upset
the best landscape plan with their often too brilliant colors. Air-
layering or hardwood cuttings. Nurserymen propagate tip cuttings
CONOCARPUS ERECTUS. Buttonwood. Although this native
of the salt flats and seashores of Florida and the Caribbean becomes
a large tree, it is widely used for background or where high screen-
ing is desired. Two varieties are propagated by nurserymen, one
with medium light green leaves and one with silvery leaves. Air-
layering or cuttings.
DOMBEYA NATALENSIS. Rapid growing softwood shrub to
eight feet, with almost equal spread. Large heart-shaped leaves,
similar to hibiscus tree, with many clusters of pink flowers. Suitable
only for temporary use. The dombeya is susceptible to nematodes,
and even when grown well this shrubby tree becomes weedy in
DOVYALIS HYBRID. Florida apricot. Abyssinian gooseberry.
This desirable shrubby tree will reach twelve feet in height, with
equal spread, and takes pruning well. Light green in foliage and
suitable for screening. Produces excellent fruit for eating out of
hand. Propagated by airlayering or seeds.
DURANTA REPENS. Golden dewdrop. Willowy, sprawling
shrub to eight feet, with equal spread. Panicles of lilac-colored
flowers are followed by bright orange fruits, from which plant de-
rives its common name. Because of its open branches and small
foliage, this plant is hardly suitable for use as a screen, and it
seems to go well with few other common shrubs. It is best used
as a large, sprawling shrub where such a form is desirable. It is
not suitable for a small place. Seeds or airlayering.
EHRETIA MICROPHYLLA. Tea plant. False tea. Philippine
tea. An irregular shrub which is easily kept in place by pruning.
Especially suitable for shady or semi-shady locations, but grows
best in full sun. Small leaves are a shiny deep green. Flowers
and fruits are insignificant. This plant is seldom seen in nurseries
any more, but used to be quite popular. Seeds.
ERVATAMIA CORONARIA. Crape jasmine. Tabernaemontana.
A free flowering shrub which is often confused with the gardenia.
Grows to four or five feet, with equal spread when properly trained.
The main objection to this shrub is that it tends to drop its lower
leaves. Its large glossy green leaves are enough to recommend this
plant, but it also produces an abundance of white, waxy flowers up
to nearly two inches in diameter. Hardly suitable for screening or
for use where dense shrubbery mass effects are sought. Thrives in
shade and on north side of house. Airlaye;ing or cuttings.
EUGENIA BRASILIENSIS. Eugenia dombeya. Grumichama.
A hardy evergreen shrubby tree, but very slow in growth. Pro-
duced from seeds taken from dark black edible fruits.
EUGENIA BUXIFOLIA. This has been a favorite native plant
used for years by the Dade County Park Department for screen-
ing and background planting. Small, glossy green foliage is dense.
Tree takes pruning well and can be kept at any size desired. Growth
slow in early stage, but once established, growth is fairly rapid.
Like most of the other eugenias, this one is seldom found in
EUGENIA CORONATA. Another desirable background shrub
with deep green foliage, but very slow to grow. Like Eugenia bra-
siliensis, this one should not be planted where a quick effect is
required but should be set in a place where you can afford to wait.
It might be used in front of a planting of aralias. The aralias may
be removed after the better shrub has matured. Seeds.
EUGENIA UNIFLORA. Florida cherry. Surinam cherry. A
desirable fruit producing shrub growing to twelve feet or more with
eight-foot spread. Lends self to pruning and can be maintained as
a clipped hedge if desired. Thus shrub is best used where rather
large background shrubbery masses or screens are required. Foliage
glossy green. Fruit crimson. Also covers itself in spring with
creamy white flowers. Seeds.
EUPHORBIA PULCHERRIMA. Poinsettia. Height to six feet,
spread about five, with form depending on correct pruning.
This is one of the first plants tried by the newcomer to Florida.
For a permanent position in the landscape, the poinsettia has its
limitations. It does not fit well with many other shrubs, and is
such a rapid grower that during much of the year it resembles a
weed. Instead of incorporating the poinsettia as a permanent plant
in the landscape, it might be better to grow it in containers and
bring it out for display while in bloom at Christmas time. Easy
to propagate from mature cuttings taken in late winter or early
FORTUNELLA JAPONICA. Kumquat. Height to eight or ten
feet, spread to four or five feet. This citrus is a slender growing
tree with deep green foliage, and is very decorative when filled with
orange-yellow fruit. Best used where an accent plant is needed.
May be propagated from seed, but budded trees ar more de-
GARDENIA JASMINOIDES. Height to eight feet, with almost
equal spread, when grown as a grafted plant. Because it is sub-
ject to nematode attack and also requires an acid soil, the gardenia
should never be planted on its own roots in Florida. Nurserymen
graft it onto the root system of a wild African gardenia. Several
varieties are available. When used well the gardenia can be a
striking shrub in the landscape, but should be planted so that it
has plenty of room for growth. May be propagated from cuttings,
but such plants can be grown only in peat moss.
HIBISCUS. Height to twelve feet, spread to eight feet, but
most varieties are smaller. Over 5,000 hibiscus hybrids have been
developed in Hawaii, and well over 500 varieties have been listed
by the American Hibiscus Society as being cultivated in Florida.
But only a few hibiscus varieties are used in permanent landscape
planting. So many of the hybrids produce striking individual flow-
ers, but the plants may be weak and thin of foliage. Only the
proven, vigorous varieties should be used for basic planting, such
as for hedges, screening or for background. Gardeners especially
interested in hibiscus should set aside a special area for a collection
of varieties. Nurserymen who specialize in supplying plants for
landscape architects and landscape contractors usually carry the
more vigorous kinds of hibiscus, which have been selected because
of their special vigor and lasting ability. The LaFrance is an exam-
ple of a variety which was selected because of its vigor and re-
sistance to the multitude of troubles which befall this group of
plants. The more vigorous hibiscus may be propagated from cut-
tings or by airlayering. Many of the weaker hybrids must be
grafted onto the rootstock of vigorous varieties, such as the common
red hibiscus, as they do poorly on their own roots.
IXORA. Several species and varieties of this colorful tropical
shrub are in wide cultivation in south Florida. Most common is
Ixora coccinea, an almost ever-flowering species which is commonly
used for sheared hedges. It is one of the few plants which flowers
well when maintained under sheared conditions. More popular as
an individual shrub is the giant flowering type, Ixora macrothyrsa,
which produces flower clusters eight inches across. Several vari-
eties are on the market, their flowers ranging in color from yellow
to pink, orange, orange-scarlet, and scarlet. Plants reach eight feet
or more in height, when permitted to grow freely, with a spread
about equal to the height. Another species, Ixora parviflora, makes
a small tree, but can be trained as a sprawling shrub. This is a
very desirable plant when well grown, because of its glossy, deep
green leaves. It will thrive in part shade. All ixoras are propagated
from cuttings or by airlayering.
JAQUINIA ARMILLARIS. Height to seven feet with five foot
spread. Leaves gray green, fruit scarlet. An excellent shrub for
planting near the seashore, but very slow in growth. Seeds.
JASMINUM AMPLEXICAULE. Jasminum ilicifolium. Jasminum
undulatum. A strong growing viney shrub that is similar in grow-
ing habit to Jasminum gracile and is frequently used by landscape
architects. The pointed, glossy green leaves reach four inches in
length. The white flowers, over one inch in diameter, burst out
of pink tinted buds, and are in evidence most of the year. Cuttings.
ing vine is grown mainly as a shrub or ground cover, and is de-
sirable for its evergreen, lustrous foliage and its freedom from
sirable for its evergreen, lustrous foliage and its freedom from
pests. It thrives in full sun or in part shade, and is a fairly rapid
grower. Clusters of small, white flowers are produced at intervals.
JASMINUM PUBESCENS. Star jasmine. A sprawling or climb-
ing plant widely grown as a low shrub. Successful both for ground
cover or for sprawling, facer type of shrub. Recommended for
outdoor planting boxes. Grows well in full sun or part shade. Pro-
duces clusters of white, star-shaped flowers most of the year.
JATROPHA HASTATA. Height to five feet, open in form and
outdoor planting boxes. Grows well in full sun or part shade. Pro-
duced over long periods. Seeds or cuttings.
JATROPHA MULTIFIDA. Height to fifteen feet with almost
equal spread. Rapid growing shrub with leaves nearly a foot across.
Flowers scarlet. Should be considered a temporary plant in the
landscape. It quickly becomes weedy. Seeds.
LEUCOPHYLLUM FRUTESCENS. Leucophyllum texanum.
Texas silver-leaf. Sprawling, dense shrub to six feet, with small
silvery leaves. Rose-violet flowers are produced several times a year.
Thrives best in full sun. Slow grower and for this reason only a
few nurserymen carry. Prices usually are high. This very fine
shrub, well adapted to south Florida, is a notable exception to the
rule that semi-desert plants do not thrive in a moist climate. It is
native to the Southwest and Mexico. Seeds. Nurserymen often
order small plants from Texas.
LIGUSTRUM JAPONICUM. Ligustrum lucidum. Wax privet.
Height to fifteen feet, spread to eight or ten feet. Strong growing,
hardy, excellent background shrub or small tree. More often grown
as hedge plant, sometimes sheared. Leaves deep green and waxy.
Growth compact. When grown as a tree it is covered with clusters
of creamy white flowers once a year. Cuttings or airlayering.
LIGUSTRUM SINENSE. Chinese privet. Height to twelve feet,
with growth more upright than Ligustrum japonicum. Leaves glossy
green, but smaller than leaves of L. japonicum. Foliage dense.
Takes clipping well. Cutting or airlayering.
MALPIGHIA COCCIGERA. Holly-leaf malpighia. Height to
four feet, with equal spread. Some varieties, such as Low Boy, are
much lower, with height to two feet and spread to four feet. The
malpighia is one of the better shrubs for south Florida. Low-grow-
ing varieties are widely used for ground covers. Leaves small and
holly-like in form. Persistent bloomer, producing pink flowers, fol-
lowed by a small bright red fruit. Seeds, airlayering, and cuttings
MALPIGHIA GLABRA. Barbados cherry. West Indian cherry.
Acerola. Height to twelve feet, spread to ten. This shrub, or small
tree, produces several crops of bright red, vitamin-loaded fruit in
spring and summer. Can be used as a background shrub or as a
hedge, but if sheared its fruiting will be reduced. It is best grown
as a large round-headed shrub. Seeds, airlayering, or cuttings under
MALPIGHIA SPECIES. This is a species of malpighia intro-
duced several years ago by the Fairchild Tropical Garden. It is
a vigorous grower but somewhat smaller in every way than Mal-
pighia glabra. Its abundance of small red fruits make it highly
ornamental. There is even a smaller form of the Malpighia glabra.
It gets to be only about three feet high and is sold as a dwarf
variety of Malpighia glabra. Seeds or airlayering.
MALVAVISCUS GRANDIFLORUS. Sleeping hibiscus. Turk's
cap. Height to seven feet, with equal spread. Foliage light green.
Grown chiefly for its pendulous flowers which never fully open.
Growth is as 'vigorous as that of a weed. Should not be planted
on a small place. Cuttings.
MURRAYA EXOTICA. Orange jasmine. Chalcas. Height to
ten feet, spread to eight feet. Small tree suitable for background
or screen, or may be used as sheared shrub or hedge. Leaves small
and glossy light green, but produced densely on healthy plants.
Masses of white flowers, followed by orange-red fruit. Seeds or
NERIUM OLEANDER. Common oleander. Height to ten feet,
spread to eight. Elongated, glossy green foliage. Grown mainly for
flowers, of which there are several colors. White and pink are the
most common seen. Chief objection is the plant's highly toxic char-
acter. Flowers or leaves eaten by cattle or children may cause
OCHROSIA ELLIPTICA. Kopsia. Upright or spreading shrub
to eight feet. Leaves a bright glossy green. Fruit, the size and
shape of that of a carissa, is bright scarlet. Outstanding background
shrub or screen, but in early stage is slow grower. Seeds.
PANDANAS. Screw pine. Several species of this useful plant are
propagated for landscape use in south Florida, but Pandanus utilis
is most widely sought because its leaves are preferred for weaving.
Screw pines reach fifteen feet high or more in height, becoming
small trees in time, with bare lower trunk and branches. They are,
however, often used where dense screening is desired, especially
a screening which cannot be easily penetrated. Aerial roots de-
velop on old specimens, reaching to the ground and serving as
props. A picturesque effect results, and some of these very old
plants make rather bizarre specimens. Seeds and branch cuttings.
PEDILANTHUS TITHYMALOIDES. A succulent type of plant,
which although not a true shrub, is often grown in dense clumps as
a shrub. Four or five feet in height, with deep green leaves and
red flowers in terminal groups. Requires little care. Cuttings.
PENTAS LANCEOLATA. A most superior plant where quick
shrubby growth and quick color is desired. Plant, however, is short-
lived. Height to four feet with equal spread. Flowers in red, pink,
lavender, and white. Terminal clusters should be removed as
quickly as flowers fade to induce continuous flower production.
PITTOSPORUM TOBIRA. Outstanding landscape shrub. Takes
pruning well, but must be kept clean of thrips and scale insects.
May be used as a sprawling shrub, as a hedge or as a small tree.
Both dark green and variegated varieties available. Popular plant
in landscapes which have Oriental influence. Withstands salt spray.
Cuttings or airlayering.
PLUMBAGO CAPENSIS. A sprawling plant with small light
green leaves and blue or white flowers. Height to two or three
feet, with equal spread. Thrives in full sun, although it does grow
in some shade. Might be grown as ground cover where blue flow-
ers are desired. Cuttings.
PLUMERIA RUBRA. Frangipani. Spreading small tree or large
shrub to fifteen feet or more. Should be grown as tree, except
where special effects desired. Because leaves are subject to fungus
this tree is without foliage a large part of the year. Therefore care
must be exercised in its use. Grown mainly for large clusters of
pink, yellow or white flowers. Cuttings.
POINCIANA PULCHERRIMA. Dwarf poinciana. Leggy, strag-
gly small tree to ten feet. Grown mainly for its brilliant orange and
red flowers. Should not be used as part of shrubbery masses but
as a separate small tree for its bloom. Seeds.
POLYSCIAS GUILFOYLEI. Aralia. A common, easy to propa-
gate hedge plant growing to ten feet but with slender form. Should
be planted rather closely together for best effects. Several forms
propagated in south Florida, including one with white leaf margins
and several with finely cut leaves resembling bonsai plants. Rela-
tively free from insects and rapid in growth. Large cuttings may be
planted in permanent hedge location. Set back eighteen inches from
PSIDIUM CATTLEIANUM. Cattley guava. Strawberry guava.
One of the finest ornamental large shrubs for Florida landscape de-
sign, making a first-rate background plant or screen. Heavy growth
of glossy green leaves. White flowers are ornamental, as well as
red-purple fruits. Takes pruning well. Its color-a bit of gray in its
green leaves-makes it ideal as a background mass for lower plants.
Its thriftiness and adaptability make it deal for the home where
plants cannot be given constant care. Airlayering or seeds.
PUNICA GRANATUM. Pomegranate. In south Florida this
large shrub can be grown only as an ornamental, since it seldom
produces fruit of good flavor. Height to eight feet, with six-foot
spread. Grown mainly for brilliant orange-red flowers and decora-
tive fruits. Must be grown in good soil and given good care if one
expects to maintain an outstanding ornamental. Airlayering or
RHAPIS EXCELSA. See Palms.
RUSSELIA EQUISETIFORMIS. Coral plant. Although hardly
a true shrub, this vigorous plant will grow to four feet if given
suitable conditions. Grows under the most adverse soil conditions,
and should be more widely used as a ground cover. Grown mainly
for its prolific production of bright red or coral flowers. Leaves are
scale-like in size and may not be discerned by a non-botanist. Grow
only in full sun for best effects. Cuttings or division.
STENOLOBIUM STANS. Yellow elder. Yellow tecoma. A
never failing shrub or small tree to fifteen feet, with spread depend-
ing on how skillfully pruned. A great profusion of yellow flowers
in winter, even after a severe pruning. Volunteers in vacant lots and
pinewoods. Straggly and leggy if not pruned. Seeds or cuttings.
TETRAPANAX PAPYRIFERUS. Chinese rice-paper plant.
Grown mainly for the bizarre character of its leaves which are a
foot wide. Young leaves are covered with white felt, but as leaves
mature only lower surface retains this character. It is a rapid
grower and has greener color in part shade than when grown in
sun. Produces large clusters of creamy, wooly flowers. Propagated
from suckers or from seeds.
THEVETIA PERUVIANA. Yellow oleander. Lucky nut. Makes
a small spreading tree if not pruned. Dense foliage makes it ex-
cellent for screening or background planting. All parts of this plant,
including its fruits, are highly poisonous. Trumpet-like flowers,
three inches long, are yellow. Seeds.
THRYALLIS GLAUCA. Golden thryallis. A weak, sprawling
shrub to eight feet, irregular when unpruned. Produces a profusion
of yellow flowers. Because of its form and the yellow-green color
of its leaves this plant may be difficult to grow mixed with other
THUNBERGIA ERECTA. Slender shrub which lends itself to
pruning and may be trained as a low bushy hedge. Grown mainly
for its blue flowers which have yellow throats, produced most of
the year. Grows in full sun or in part shade, and thrives on the
north side. Cuttings.
TRIPHASIA TRIFOLIA. Limeberry. An armed citrus relative
that is widely used for screening and hedges. Grows to ten feet,
with almost equal spread. Difficult for intruders to penetrate be-
cause of sharp thorns. Excellent background shrub. Withstands
pruning well and may be kept low. Fruit dark maroon when ripe.
Seeds or airlayering.
VITEX NEGUNDO. Chaste tree. A spreading gray-foliage
shrub to twelve feet or more. Grows in sun or semi-shade, but its
blue flowers are produced prolificly only in sun. Since vitex makes
a large shrub, it should be planted six feet from buildings or walks
unless drastic pruning is planned. Sometimes used as a trimmed
hedge. Underside of leaf is light gray. Seeds, cuttings, or airlayering.
No other hobby is more rewarding than
horticulture. The collecting and growing of
rare or interesting plants has attracted physi-
cians and scientists for centuries.
Flowering Tabebuia pallida gives a spring look to Florida
Chorisia speciosa bears its colorful flowers on bare branches
TREES AND THEIR USES
No garden can be complete without trees. Although shrubs may
be the most important plants in any landscape plan, from a practi-
cal standpoint, it is hard to imagine an outstanding garden with-
out trees. They provide more than shade. Trees add a feeling of
the forest that man seems to need. The most luxurious home, dec-
orated with costly furniture and with all the trappings associated
with the best taste and modern affluence, never seems quite right
unless there are a few trees about-trees to provide background,
to cast their changing shadows over the lawn, and to shed a leaf
now and then to remind us that we are not completely apart from
With the advent of the air conditioned home, perhaps shade
trees no longer seem so important as they used to be. And it is
now possible to insulate a house so well that the planting of trees
to protect the roof and walls from the summer sun may no longer
be necessary. Yet trees are just as necessary in the landscape as
they were before air conditioning, or before it was possible to build
the perfectly insulated house. These developments merely give
us more freedom in the placement of trees, so that they may serve
us better than ever.
Without trees a house stands bare and raw on its bit of land.
Our eyes are carried to power poles, to the roof tops of neighboring
houses, or perhaps to box-like commercial buildings blocks away.
There is nothing to hide an ugly or uninteresting landscape. Trees
can be used to frame a house and to set it apart from other houses
up and down the street. And trees are especially desirable for
creating individuality and charm in a monotonous new subdivision
with block after block of the same kind of uninteresting houses.
Space For Trees Limited
Since a tree is meant to be a permanent thing, its selection and
planting should be done with great care. On the average city lot
there is room for only a few trees. We should avoid planting those
which we know will eventually make huge specimens, covering the
small lot with solid shade and engulfing the house itself with ex-
panding branches and dense foliage. Such are the large rubber
trees (Ficus benjamin and Ficus altissima), woman's tongue tree
(Albizzia lebbeck), and the bischofia.
A tree's tolerance to cold and to strong winds should be con-
sidered. The spathodea, clusia, and cordia are recommended only
for the warmer areas of south Florida. Many trees, especially the
flowering ones, shed their leaves in winter and may remain bare
of foliage for several weeks. There is no tree, however, which does
not shed leaves, either a few at a time throughout the year, or all
at once, as do the pongam and mahogany.
In addition there is no tree which, if it attains any size at all, does
not develop a root system extensive enough to invade nearby septic
tank drain fields. The far-reaching roots of a ficus may fill up septic
tank drains in adjoining neighbors' lots.
Fruit Trees Also Ornamental
Tropical fruit trees should not be overlooked as ornamentals. The
mango, avocado, sapodilla, lychee, and star apple make as fine an
appearance as do many of the non-productive trees. The sapodilla
is a robust tree and withstands strong wind about as well as any
other wind-resistant tree. Even more striking than the sapodilla is
the lychee, which, when covered with bright red fruit, is just as
eye-catching as any flowering tree.
While there is no such thing as a hurricane-proof tree, the tama-
rind probably comes closer to being in this category than any other.
Additional trees which tolerate fairly high wind with superficial
damage are Terminalia arjuna, Pongamia pinnata, Albizzia lebbeck,
Lysiloma sabicu, Mimusops roxburghii, bucida, and calophyllum.
Even the most storm-resistant tree may be uprooted, however,
if it has failed to develop a strong, well distributed root system.
When setting out a young tree, all twisted or irregular roots should
be cut off. If a young tree has been kept too long in a small con-
tainer, it may develop a gnarled and twisted root system beyond
repair. Such a tree should not be planted, unless it is so rare as to
When selecting trees which eventually may reach thirty feet
or so in height, it is a good idea to buy trees as large as one can
afford. These should be field-grown trees, delivered with a ball of
roots covered by burlap, and with their tops cut back somewhat in
order to help insure survival. Plantings should by made in well
prepared holes, and young trees should be temporarily staked or
fixed firmly with the help of stay ropes or guy wires. If wire is
used, short pieces of old rubber hose should be cut to cover the
end of the wire which is bound around the tree, in order to prevent
injury to the bark. A well grown eight-foot tree will develop rap-
idly and soon reach fair size, whereas if one plants only a switch
it may take several years to reach even an eight-foot height.
The placing of trees for best effect is always a problem which
deserves a good deal of thought, because after a tree has attained
a few years of growth it is difficult to transplant. It is a mistake to
set a tree close to a property line. The tree is certain to reach
maturity in time and spread its branches over onto neighboring
property. Many persons, however, do make this mistake. It should
always be kept in mind that your neighbor has a right to cut back
to the property line any branches which extend beyond his line.
If you have a fruit tree such as a mango or avocado whose branches
extend over on a neighbor, it is advisable to share the crop with
him, since he has a right to any fruit produced on his side anyway.
Trees should not be set close to the house, so that branches may
be dashed against the roof during windstorms. Nor should trees
be set near screened patios, because the falling leaves will be dif-
ficult to remove from the screen top. Trees planted near swimming
pools are almost certain to become a nuisance, even if their branches
do not extend over the pool. Leaves may blow for several feet as
they fall, or may even be tumbled across the lawn and into a pool.
Trees Require Space to Spread
In general, the placement of trees will depend upon what one
really wants. If a spacious green lawn is desired, then several shade
trees planted over the yard are certain to destroy the effect. In
such instances it is best to plant trees in the background, near the
borders. A tree that will eventually make a thirty-foot spread should
be planted at least fifteen feet from the lot line.
Nor should trees be massed close together, unless one has in
mind a jungle effect. If so, the selection of the trees should be
done with care, so that a light shade may be produced for the
growing of such jungle plants as philodendrons and anthuriums on
the ground and orchids on tree branches. The live oak is by far
the best nurse tree for the jungle garden. Those who intend to
develop such a garden should search for a building lot on which
there are several live oaks of sufficient spread to provide a suitable
canopy. Orchids, certain ferns, and bromeliads grow well on the
trunk and branches of the live oak. But any tree which produces
a fairly open shade and has rough bark might do just as well. Two
such trees are the common buttonwood and calabash.
Many a tree is planted because a homeowner saw one in bloom
and admired it. This, however, should not be the main reason for
planting a tree-because it is striking when in bloom. A tree is in
bloom only for a few weeks out of the year. While some trees may
be beautiful while in bloom, they may be unsightly at other times,
and one may have good reason to wonder whether their short pe-
riod of glory is worth putting up with their objectionable qualities
the rest of the year. Such trees are the bombax, cochlospermum,
and the erythrina. Although it is a blaze of glory for a month the
poinciana is without foliage for several weeks during late winter
and spring; its large black seed pods continue to drop for months
after they reach maturity, and ever little windstorm leaves a mess
If one is particularly interested in making a collection of flower-
ing trees, it is wise to buy budded varieties when available. These
are select trees and likely to be much more dependable than seed-
ling trees, although the cost may be somewhat more. But one
should not worry about a little extra cost when so much space on
expensive property is given to a tree. The space should be filled by
the very best tree the owner is able to obtain-at least in the owner's
Below is a list and short description of trees most widely planted
in south Florida. No attempt has been made to describe them so
that the reader may be able to recognize them on sight. Much
effort will be necessary on the part of homeowners in searching for
and choosing desirable trees. Many may be seen in nurseries. Oth-
ers may be studied in parks and botanical gardens. One should
not be surprised if a nurseryman has never heard of the name of
a tree mentioned. There are many hundreds of tropical trees of
which only a few are propagated. Nurserymen propagate the trees
for which they get the most demand, or trees with which they are
themselves will acquainted and which they particularly admire.
A number of native trees are very desirable for landscape plant-
ing, but they are unavailable, or are rarely seen in nurseries. Among
the outstanding natives which are seldom propagated by nursery-
men, and which we have not included on our list below, are the
red stopper (Eugenia confusa), wild cinnamon Canella winteranaa),
ironwood (Krugiodendron ferreum), and lignum-vitae (Guaiacum
officinale). One native tree is included which nurserymen are be-
ginning to propagate because it is easy to grow, and because of
its outstanding qualities the pigeon plum (Coccoloba diversi-
folia). It is a common tree of the south Florida hammocks and
the West Indies. It is easily propagated by airlayering, is a reason-
ably rapid grower, and is free of serious pests. Moreover, it is one
of the most handsome of our tropical broadleaf evergreen trees and
deserves to be carried by landscape nurserymen.
In general, the list below can be expected to serve as only a
rough guide to the trees which thrive in south Florida, and espe-
cially which one might have reasonable hope of obtaining. Sug-
gested heights that trees may attain refer to trees grown in south
Florida. In the more fertile tropics the same trees may attain twice
the size they may reach in Florida.
ACACIA AURICULAEFORMIS. Earleaf acacia. A rapid grow-
ing willowy tree to about twenty feet. Not wind resistant. Propa-
gated from seeds.
ACHRAS ZAPOTA. Sapodilla. Tough-wooded evergreen tree
to forty feet. Widely grown in tropics for apple-size brown fruit.
Although the tree is never bare of its leathery leaves, its periodic
shedding of a few leaves at a time makes the sapodilla unpopular
with those who like a well-swept lawn. Usually grown from seed,
but budded varieties are recommended where superior fruit pro-
duction is desired.
ALBIZZIA LEBBECK. Woman's tongue tree. A very large,
spreading tree to sixty feet, with extensive root system, noted for
its resistance to strong wind. The tree sheds its mimosa-like foliage
in late winter and remains bare of leaves for several weeks. Dry
bean-like pods persist, however, and their clattering in the wind
has given rise to the tree's common name. Seeds or airlayering.
BAUHINIA BLAKEANA. Blake's bauhinia. Hong Kong orchid
tree. A medium-large spreading tree recently introduced from the
Orient which has proved to be widely popular because of its long
production in fall and winter of large rose-purple flowers which re-
semble cattleya orchids. Careful training of this tree in its early
stage is necessary for the development of a shapely specimen. Sheds
foliage in spring. Must be propagated by airlayering, as it does not
BAUHINIA PURPUREA. Fall flowering orchid tree. Medium-
large, producing large quantities of purple flowers in the fall. Less
desirable than Hong Kong orchid tree. Airlayering or seeds.
BAUHINIA VARIEGATA. Poor man's orchid tree. Medium size,
producing large quantities of orchid-like bloom in the spring on
bare branches. One of the most striking flowering trees in Florida.
Widely popular for parkway planting. A white variety also is avail-
able. Airlayering or seeds.
BISCHOFIA JAVANICA. Large evergreen tree which is often
mistaken by superficial observers for a Ficus. Rapid growing and
withstands periodic flooding. Suitable only where a very large
shade tree is desired. Flowers not showy. Airlayering or seeds.
BOMBAX ELLIPTICUM. Pachira. Shaving brush tree. Small
tree with brittle branches, grown mainly for its large pink or white
flowers which resemble a shaving brush. The flowers, which ap-
pear on bare branches, open nightly and persist until mid-day.
The coppery red leaves which appear immediately after the flow-
ering period are almost as striking as the flowers themselves. Rec-
ommended for parks, botanical gardens, and large estates. Must
be grown from cuttings, as seeds are not produced in Florida.
BOMBAX MALABARICUM. Red bombax. Large tree to fifty
feet, producing an abundance of red flowers five inches across, on
bare branches in winter. Trunk and branches armed with sharp
BUCIDA BUCERAS. Black olive. Upright, well formed tree
to forty feet with foliage and conformation resembling a live oak.
Wind resistant. Flowers not showy. Widely popular shade tree.
Sheds leaves for a short period in spring. Airlayering or seeds.
CALLISTEMON VIMINALIS. Weeping bottlebrush. This is
one of the most successful of the several species of the bottlebrush
trees planted in south Florida. A somewhat slender but willowy
small tree, producing several crops of brilliant red flowers resem-
bling a bottle brush in form. Very striking and ornamental, but
more suitable for show and for screening than for use as a shade
tree. Airlayering or seeds.
CALOPHYLLUM ANTILLANUM. A very striking evergreen
tree with large bright green foliage, reaching thirty feet, with an
almost equal spread. Flowers not showy. Produces an abundance
of inedible yellow fruits nearly one inch in diameter, thus giving
it a reputation for being messy on account of the large amount of
fruit dropped. Withstands salt spray. Airlayering or seeds.
CALOPHYLLUM INOPHYLLUM. To casual observer this tree
may not be differentiated from Calophyllum antillanum. Laurel-
like leaves are similar on both trees, but those of Calophyllum in-
ophyllum are somewhat larger and thicker than those of Calophyl-
CANANGA ODORATA. The ylang-ylang. Best grown where a
large screening shrub is desired. Although the ylang-ylang does
make a fairly large tree in time, it is very brittle and is best held
down by pruning to ten or twelve feet in height. Texture of medium
green foliage interesting. Often grown for very fragrant flowers,
which are not showy but are unusual in form. Seeds.
CASSIA. Shower trees. Several species of the cassia or shower
trees are planted in Florida, including Cassia beareana, Cassia fis-
tula, Cassia javanica, Cassia nodosa, and Cassia siamea. Only an
expert botanist or horticulturist can differentiate between some of
these. Most popular is Cassia fistula, or the golden shower tree,
which reaches about twenty-five feet and covers itself with yellow
bloom in late spring and early summer. Cassia grandis, or pink
shower, is a medium-size spreading tree producing large quantities
of rose pink flowers in spring. Cassia nodosa resembles Cassia
grandis and is known as the pink and white shower, but when one
buys either of these trees one might find later that the tree pur-
chased is a Cassia javanica. Cassia fistula is easy to differentiate
from the others by its heavy clusters of bright yellow flowers. Air-
layering or seeds.
CHORISIA SPECIOSA. Floss silk tree. A relative of the bombax,
reaching forty feet in height and producing large numbers of showy
rose-pink flowers in spring. The Hatcher chorisia is an outstanding
variety of this tree. Airlayering. Hatcher variety is usually grafted
onto common chorisia stock.
CHRYSOPHYLLUM CAINITO. See Tropical Fruits.
CHRYSOPHYLLUM OLIVAEFORME. Satin leaf tree. Upright
native tree to thirty feet. Leaves copper colored underneath. Tree
wind resistant, but despite its attractiveness it is not recommended
for planting where its fruit might drop on patios. Growth in early
stage is very slow. Seeds.
CLUSIA ROSEA. A spreading tree reaching to about thirty feet,
but successfully grown only in warmer places near the coast. It is
in the Garcinia family, the same as the calophyllum, but the leaves
are stiffer and thicker and somewhat less green than the foliage of
the calophyllum. Sometimes grown as a large potted plant where
unusual character is demanded, such as in a large patio. Tolerates
shade. Large fleshy white flowers with pink tint, appearing to be
more artificial than real. Seeds or airlayering.
COCCOLOBA DIVERSIFOLIA. Pigeon plum. Striking native
hammock tree deserving wider planting for shade or as background.
Rapid growing and easily propagated by airlayering.
COCCOLOBA UVIFERA. Seagrape. Widely popular for its
resistance to salt spray, but is also widely grown inland. Its large
round leaves are as much as five inches in diameter, and are bright
red when new. The common name is derived from its clusters of
fruit resembling bunches of grapes. Airlayering or seeds.
COCHLOSPERMUM VITIFOLIUM. A slender tree grown for
its bright yellow flowers which are produced on the tips of bare
branches in winter and early spring. Single and yellow flowering
varieties available. Cuttings.
COLVILLEA RACEMOSA. Upright, to thirty feet, with foliage
resembling that of poinciana. Large plumes of scarlet and orange
flowers produced in late fall. Because tree does not produce many
seeds, it is still fairly rare in Florida.
CONOCARPUS ERECTUS. Buttonwood. Tall or spreading
green or gray leaved tree with reclining branches, depending on
how tree is trained, or under the conditions it is grown in nature.
Excellent tree for growing orchids and bromeliads on its branches.
Grown also as shrub. See Shrubs. Airlayering or transplanting from
CORDIA SEBESTENA. Geiger tree. Small upright tree to fif-
teen feet, grown for its clusters of yellow or orange flowers. A very
tender tree which is best grown near the coast or the Florida Keys.
CRESCENTIA CUJETE. Calabash. A small, open tree in south
Florida, widely in demand among orchid growers because these
plants do so well on its branches. Its fruit, which resembles a gourd,
is widely used in the tropics for making drinking cups. Seeds.
DELONIX REGIA. Royal poinciana. Spreading or upright tree
to forty feet, and widely planted throughout the tropics as one of
the world's most striking trees. The orange or scarlet flowers ap-
pear in May and June. The poinciana is looked upon as a messy
tree, first dropping its foliage in winter and remaining bare of
leaves for many weeks before flowering, and then, after dropping
its abundance of flowers, producing large numbers of heavy seed
pods which are in turn shed over a long period. It is best grown on
large estates, in parks, or parkways. Airlayering or seeds.
ERYTHRINA. Coral tree. Several of the coral trees have been
introduced, the best known being Erythrina variegata. This is an
upright tree reaching thirty feet, producing clusters of scarlet flow-
ers on the tips of branches. Unfortunately it is subject to twig bor-
ers which give it a "witch's bloom" appearance. Blooms in spring.
FICUS. Rubber trees. Wild fig. Banyan. Huge, spreading, fast
growing trees widely planted where quick effect is desired. Un-
fortunately these trees become much too large for small homes, and
their roots are so aggressive and so extensive that once a large ficus
takes over one can expect to have nothing else in a small garden.
Several kinds are planted, including Ficus altissma and Ficus elas-
tica, both of which have large leaves and are incorrectly called
banyans. The true banyan, Ficus benghalensis, is seldom seen out-
side of botanical gardens and parks. The most widely planted
species are Ficus benjamin, also known as Ficus exotica, and Ficus
retusa, usually sold under the name of Ficus nitida. Ficus benja-
mina is weeping in habit while Ficus retusa is more upright, but
both make tremendously large trees. Ficus religiosa, or sacred tree
of India, is often planted in parks and along parkways. The long
pointed, heart-shaped leaves, hanging on long petioles, are kept
in constant motion by the slightest breeze, reminding one of the
action of aspen leaves in the north. Ficus lyrata, or fiddle-leaf fig,
sold as a house plant in the north under the name of Ficus pan-
durata, is often planted outdoors in Florida. It eventually makes
a medium-large tree, up to forty feet in height. Ficus sycamorus,
or the sycamore fig mentioned in the Bible, may be seen only in
parks and botanical gardens. It produces large clusters of fig-like
fruit on the main trunk and on the larger branches. Ficus carica,
the cultivated fig, is grown in south Florida only in a limited way
because its leaves are subject to rust which makes them unsightly.
All ficus are easily propagated by airlayering.
GLIRICIDIA SEPIUM. Nurse tree. Madre de cacao. Mother
of cocoa. A small spreading but slightly ungainly tree widely
planted in the tropics as a living fenon or for shading coffee or
cocoa. Reaches twenty feet in height and covers itself with pink
flowers in spring. Cuttings.
GUAVA. See Tropical Fruits.
HARPULLIA ARBOREA. A rapid growing evergreen tree to
thirty feet, popular both for its shade and production of red capsule
fruit, which bursts open at maturity, revealing a single black shiny
seed inside. Seeds and possibly airlayering.
HIBISCUS ROSA-SINENSIS. Chinese hibiscus. Although the
Chinese or red hibiscus, so widely grown for hedges and screens,
is usually listed as a shrub, it also can be grown as a small tree.
If so trained it will reach fifteen to twenty feet in height. Cuttings
HIBISCUS TILIACEUS. This gnarled tree grows in thickets in
moist areas bordering salt marshes, but it also may be grown as a
small tree where quick results are wanted. Its long branches can
be trained to take any shape. Cuttings.
JACARANDA ACUTIFOLIA. This tree is hardy to central Flori-
da, where it is a more dependable flowering tree than it is in south
Florida. It does best in south Florida following cold winters. Its
blue flowers are produced in spring. The mimosa-like foliage pro-
duces a light shade. Airlayering or seeds.
KIGELIA PINNATA. Sausage tree. Spreading tree to thirty feet,
grown mainly for curious sausage-shaped fruits which reach two
feet or more in length. Flowers must be hand-pollinated early in
day to insure fruit setting. In native land, Abyssinia, pollinating is
done by bats at night. Flowers appear to be sterile to own pollen,
so pollen must be brought from a separate tree, as early after day-
light as practical because pollen does not retain its vigor very long.
LAGERSTROEMIA SPECIOSA. Queen's crape myrtle. Spreads
to thirty-five feet, producing dense clusters of pink flowers in early
summer. Flowers may be tinted with purple. This tough, wind
resistant tree should be more widely planted, but only select trees
should be propagated from cuttings or airlayering.
LYCHEE. See Litchi chinensis under Tropical Fruits.
LYSILOMA BAHAMENSIS. Common fast growing tree of south
Florida and the Bahamas with mimosa-like foliage. Propagated by
airlayering, and recommended where a quick effect is desired. Loses
leaves for a period during winter.
LYSILOMA SABICU. Lysiloma latisiliqua. Horseflesh tree. Cu-
ban lysiloma. A tough, spreading tree to thirty feet, with mimosa-
like foliage and producing a light shade. Fast growing and easily
propagated by airlayering.
MELALEUCA LEUCADENDRON. Cajeput. A slender tree
reaching forty feet in height, with small, narrow leaves and pro-
ducing an abundance of white flowers three or four times a year.
Grows in any soil. Can be made to take a bushy form if train-
ing is started in time. Often used as a wind break or background
tree, and occasionally as a large specimen "shrub" rather than as a
shade tree. When planted in moist places the tree eventually be-
comes very large and spreading. Seeds.
MANGO. See Tropical Fruits.
MIMUSOPS ROXBURGHII. Lucuma roxburghii. An evergreen
tree with large stiff leaves, and reaching about twenty feet high.
Particularly suitable for screening and for planting near the sea
coast, where it is almost as tolerant to salt spray as noronhia. Be-
cause it produces an abundance of orange-yellow fruits, over an
inch in diameter, it is usually looked upon as a messy tree. Seeds.
NORONHIA EMARGINATIA. A medium-size evergreen tree
popular among landscape architects for planting near sea shore.
Large stiff leaves resemble those of calophyllum, but are lighter in
color. Flowers not particularly showy but very fragrant. Seeds.
MUNTINGIA CALABURA. See Tropical Fruits.
OLEA EUROPAEA. Olive. Although this striking tree does not
produce fruit in Florida, it does make a fine small spreading tree.
It is very easy to propagate from cuttings or airlayering. Foliage
is silvery green. Old trees develop a very unusual character.
PARKINSONIA ACULEATA. Jerusalem thorn. Sometimes called
the transparent tree, the parkinsonia is widely used by landscape
architects because when planted in front of buildings it does not
hide the lines of the building in the background. It reaches fifteen
to twenty feet in height with almost equal spread. Yellow bloom
add to its attractiveness. Seeds.
PELTOPHORUM INERME. Yellow poinciana. Upright in
growth habit, reaching forty feet. The feathery foliage resembles
that of the poinciana. Golden yellow flowers are produced in the
top of the tree in summer.
PLUMERIA RUBRA. Frangipani. Several species and varieties of
frangipani are cultivated in Florida for their clusters of colorful
flowers. Tree may reach twenty feet in height but are usually seen
as much smaller specimens. Flowers may be white, red, pink or
grayish yellow. Large cuttings stuck into the ground will root.
PODOCARPUS MACROPHYLLA. An evergreen conifer reach-
ing twenty feet in height. Used as a sheared hedge. Seeds, soft-
wood cuttings, or airlayering.
PONGAMIA PINNATA. Pongam. A wind resistant, densely
foliaged tree to thirty-five feet, with almost equal spread. Widely
used for shade. Sheds leaves in spring, following immediately with
new foliage. Flowers not showy, but new bright green leaves in
April remind one strongly of spring in the north. Seeds or airlay-
QUERCUS VIRGINIANA. Live oak. This splendid tree which
grows everywhere throughout the southeastern states, is much at
home in south Florida. Many so called scrub live oaks are removed
from lots cleared for home building which, if left and carefully
tended, would make majestic trees. Because of its popularity as a
nurse tree for orchids and bromeliads, the live oak may be found
in many plant nurseries. Although slow growing at first, the live
oak grows fast after about the third year, if pushed with adequate
moisture and fertilizer. Seeds.
SCHEFFLERA ACTINOPHYLLA. Queensland umbrella tree.
Propagated for many years under the name of Brassaia actinophylla,
this plant was widely sold for indoor culture throughout the north.
It still is, but other plants are now making inroads on its popularity.
In south Florida it makes a spreading tree over thirty feet tall.
Although used mainly as a shade tree and for its striking evergreen
foliage, it does produces brilliant clusters of bright red flowers in
the early summer. Airlayering, cuttings or seeds.
SCHINUS TEREBINTHIFOLIUS. Brazilian pepper tree. Christ-
mas berry. Florida holly. The last common name is unfortunate,
because this tree is not a holly. It is a fairly small tree in south
Florida reaching about twenty-five feet in height with almost equal
spread. Bright red fruits are produced in abundance at Christmas
time. Unfortunately, some trees produce only male flowers and
therefore do not fruit. Usually grown from seeds, but to insure
producing a good fruiting specimen it is best to propagate select
trees by airlayering.
SPATHODEA CAMPANULATA. African tulip tree. Fast grow-
ing tree to about thirty feet, grown mainly for its abundant clusters
of large bright red flowers which are produced mainly in summer.
Because of its susceptibility to cold damage, this tree should be
planted only in the more protected places near the coasts, or in the
Florida Keys. It is also subject to damage from high wind. Seeds.
SWIETENIA MAHOGANI. A native tree growing to forty feet
in height and widely planted as a street tree. The mahogany loses
its leaves for awhile in the spring and immediately puts on a new
crop of bright green leaves, which may be eaten by a web-making
caterpillar. Prompt spraying with an insecticide will control this
SYZYGIUM CUMINI. Jambolan plum. A rapid growing mem-
ber of the myrtle family, reaching forty feet in height with a thirty-
foot spread. Although a striking tree with large evergreen foliage,
its abundant production of purple fruit, over an inch in length,
makes it impractical as a dooryard shade tree. Fruit edible but
has a flavor objectionable to many persons. Seeds.
TABEBUIA ARGENTIA. Silver trumpet tree. Tree of gold. A
slender, irregularly shaped tree with light green or silvery foliage,
and grown mainly for its golden yellow bloom in spring. Seeds.
TABEBUIA PALLIDA. Pink trumpet tree. A small tree reach-
ing twenty feet in height, and losing its leaves for awhile in spring
just before it puts on an abundance of pink trumpet-like flowers
on bare branches. Seeds.
TABEBUIA PENTAPHYLLA. Pink trumpet tree. To most per-
sons this tree resembles Tabebuia pallida, but it makes a larger
tree in Florida, thirty feet or more in height. Seeds.
TAMARINDUS INDICA. Tamarind. A forty-foot tree with
almost equal spread at maturity, and noted for its resistance to
high wind. Its feathery foliage produces light shade. The abundant
pea-like flowers, produced in late spring, are followed by brown
pods containing a dark brown, almost candy-like material, in which
the seeds are imbedded. The acid-sweet substance is enjoyed by
children and is widely used in cooking in the tropics. Seeds.
TERMINALIA CATAPPA. Tropical almond. Large tree reach-
ing forty feet, noted for the autumn colors of its large foliage after
the onset of cool weather in south Florida. The leaves turn a bright
red before dropping. Seeds.
TERMINALIA ARJUNA. Wild almond. This spreading tree,
reaching forty feet, is so different in appearance from its relative,
Terminalia catappa, that only a botanist would note the similarity.
It is widely planted as street tree because of its form, its resistance
to pests, and also because of its resistance to high wind. Seeds.
Rampant Congea keeps its pink color for weeks in spring
Individual flowers of Solandra longiflora are spectacular
Tropical vines give Florida much of its color. There is no time
of the year when one or more climbers are not in bloom. All put
together- the bougainvillea, allamanda, congea, and solandra-
you might think they would make a gaudy collection of colors
indeed. Yet, scarlets, pinks, yellows, purples, and blues are planted
throughout south Florida gardens, and, somehow, in their masses
of bloom, only the sensitive, color-conscious person notices the
clash. However, a more careful selection of color combinations
would improve these gaudy gardens.
The most widely grown of the vines in Florida is the bougain-
villea. It probably owes much of its popularity to the fact that
it puts on its showest bloom in winter. Next in popularity is the
yellow allamanda, covered with its large bloom from spring until
fall. Also popular is the flame vine, running over the roofs of
many Florida homes, and putting on its flame colored flowers in
There are vines for every purpose and vines with flowers of
every color. Vines can be used in many ways, on walls and fences,
on pergolas and porches where shade is wanted. Many vines, like
the beaumontia, cryptostegia, and the Rangoon creeper (Quisqualis
indica) have luxurious foliage and are suggestive of the lush tropics
when grown in areas where they have freedom to develop. Most
vines, however, do not thrive in shady areas, or if they do, they
bloom very poorly. In such areas, as in jungle gardens, the flower-
ing climbers should be avoided, and such climbers as the philoden-
dron and pothos should be planted.
A large number of vines can be trained as shrubs, including the
several jasminums, cape honeysuckle, cryptostegia, Chinese hat
plant, and even the allamanda. A number of vines may be used as
ground covers, such as the jasminums again, Confederate jasmine
(Trachelospermum jasminoides), as well as a shrub type of alla-
manda, A. nerifolia. Most vines require something to run on, such
as a fence or a trellis, and they do their best flowering when they are
off the ground.
Trellises are often made of wood, but wood decays rapidly in
south Florida and should not be used unless it has been pressure-
treated. Even so, it can be expected to last only ten to fifteen
years when in contact with the soil. Where vines are to run over
arbors, it is best to have the upright supports made of poured
concrete rather than creosoted posts. The concrete posts can be
painted and be further covered by having vines trained up on
them. Horizontal supports for the vines can be made of pressure-
treated poles. It must be remembered that vines become very
heavy in time and that very strong support is needed.
Woody vines, such as the bougainvillea and petrea, can be
trained on walls by using aluminum wire to attach them to con-
crete nails previously driven into the concrete. Vines should not
be permitted to cover wooden walls in south Florida, where long
periods of dampness are likely to occur during the summer months.
Vines do require pruning, but pruning in itself does not insure
bloom. Probably the best time to do any heavy pruning is just
after a vine is through flowering. Vines which bloom in winter
and spring should certainly not be pruned heavily late in the
year. August should be about the last month for any pruning of
these vines, among which is the bougainvillea. Probably the best
way to insure the flowering of bougainvillea is to withhold both
fertilizer and irrigation during the fall and winter, then irrigate
when it is evident that the vines will have a full crop of flowers.
Pruning can be done in late spring or early summer, followed by
one of two applications of fertilizer to promote new growth. The
form of the new growth can be controlled by careful pruning.
The cultural requirement of vines is no different from those
of shrubs and trees. And many vines, like the shrubs and trees,
are subject to mineral deficiencies. One or more applications a
year of chelated iron to the allamanda and congea will help to
keep their leaves in healthy green color.
Below is a list of the more common vines grown in south Flor-
ida. None listed here is really rare in Florida, but few vines are
propagated by nurserymen. Thus it may be difficult to find more
than a few of them in plant nurseries. Easy to obtain should be
the allamanda, bougainvillea, jasminum, petrea, pyrostegia (flame
vine), and the thunbergia.
ALLAMANDA CATHARTICA. Yellow allamanda. A sprawling
vine which may be trained on trellises or fences. It has large
glossy leaves and produces golden yellow, bell-shaped flowers up
to four inches in diameter. Variety Hendersoni is the one most
widely planted. Flowering of well grown plants lasts from spring
until fall, with a scattering of bloom even in winter. A second
variety, Williamsi, produces much smaller flowers and blooms more
sparingly than Hendersoni. Airlayering or cuttings.
ALLAMANDA NERIIFOLIA. More of a shrub than Allamanda
cathartica. This species tends to bloom in late winter and spring.
Propagated from cuttings and from seeds when produced.
ALLAMANDA VIOLACEA. Purple allamanda. A sprawling,
shrubby plant which can be trained as a vine. Often confused
with the rubber vine, cryptostegia. Layering or cuttings.
ANTIGONON LEPTOPUS. Coral vine. An aggressive climber
producing large quantities of rose-pink flowers periodically through-
out the warm season. Vine becomes unsightly after flowering ends
in late fall, and may be cut back. Seeds freely and tends to
become a weed.
ARGYREIA SPECIOSA. Wooly morning glory. A large climber,
with heart-shaped leaves up to ten inches in diameter, and which
are covered with white felt beneath. The rose-purple morning
glory type flower has a deep purple throat. Blooms in spring and
summer. Layering or hardwood cuttings.
ARISTOLOCHIA. Several species of this vine with its un-
usual flowers are grown as oddities in Florida. One species is
known as pelican flower because its flower resembles the bird for
which gets its name. Another species is known as rooster flower.
Some of the aristolochia flowers attract flies by giving off the
odor of carrion. Cuttings or seeds.
BAUHINIA GALPINI. A sprawling shrub which can be trained
as a vine. See Shrubs.
BEAUMONTIA GRANDIFLORA. Trumpet vine. An immense
vine growing to great heights, eventually producing a woody trunk
several inches in diameter. This rampant climber is a handsome
vine at all times of the year, and is quite suited for pergolas where
a heavy shade is desired. Its large white flowers, the size and
shape of Easter lilies, are produced in spring. Airlayering.
BIGNONIA MAGNIFICA. (Arrabidaea magnifica.) A sprawling
shrub or vine with dark green, leathery leaves, and producing rose-
purple flowers, a few at a time throughout the warm months.
BOUGAINVILLEA GLABRA. Two varieties, Sanderiana, pur-
ple in color, and Crimson Lake, crimson in color. Sanderiana may
be grown as a sprawling shrub or sheared shrub. Crimson Lake
is more of an ungainly plant and does not take shearing. Its flowers
are produced along vigorous, heavy shoots which, if cut back late
in the fall, prevents the plant from coming into satisfactory bloom.
The variety Afterglow is similar to Crimson Lake in form but
produces yellow-orange flowers. The varieties of Bougainvillea
glabra may bloom periodically throughout the year, but their
heaviest bloom is likely to be in late winter or spring. Cuttings
BOUGAINVILLEA SPECTABILIS. An immense vine, capable
of reaching the top of a four-story building if trained on the wall.
Variety Lateritia, or Brick Red, is bright red in color. Blooming,
however, usually takes place but once a year, in the winter, when
the vine is completely hidden by its colorful flower bracts. Although
there are several varieties of bougainvillea in the nursery trade, it
has been difficult to place them in their proper species. Buyers
should consult nurserymen about a plant's growing and flowering
habits before purchasing it. Hardwood cuttings or airlayering.
CLERODENDRUM THOMSONIAE. Bleeding heart. This well
known vine produces large clusters of white bag-shaped flowers
which appear to bleed scarlet at their tips. Actually the individual
flower is scarlet and is almost covered by a bagshaped calyx. Blooms
in spring and summer. Cuttings.
COMBRETUM GRANDIFLORIUM. Showy combretum. A
vigorous grower, producing bright red flowers almost brush-like
in form. The new leaves, copper in color, are almost as striking
as the flowers. Blooms in spring. Cuttings or layering.
CONGEA TOMENTOSA. A heavy, strong climber covering
itself in late winter and spring with pink bloom of changing tint.
Actually it' is the bracts which stay on the vine for several weeks
after the individual flowers have finished blooming. Because the
congea is affected by iron deficiency when grown in limestone
soil, it is helped by one or more applications a year of a chelated
CRYPTOSTEGIA GRANDIFLORA. Rubber vine. A vigorous,
sprawling vine which may be trained as a shrub. It has funnel-
shaped purple flowers which are produced in small numbers
throughout the year. This vine is grown mainly for its large
glossy leaves. It appears to have few insect enemies. Layering
CYDISTA AEQUINOCTIALIS. Garlic vine. An attractive ever-
green vine producing panicles of pink flowers in spring and in
summer. The crushed leaves and flowers have the odor of garlic.
DERRIS SCANDENS. Malay jewel vine. This tremendous
climber is capable of growing to the tops of the tallest jungle
trees, producing a trunk itself a foot or more in diameter. It is
covered with clusters of fragrant white flowers periodically during
the warm season. Hardly suitable for the small garden. Seeds.
DOXANTHA UNGUIS-CATI. Cat's claw vine. Climbing with
claw-like tendrils, this vine can scale any wall. The vine produces
an abundance of bright yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers in the
spring, but they last only a few days. The seeds become widely
distributed and this vine is likely to become a weed.
FICUS PUMILA. Creeping fig. An evergreen vine, growing
on walls and producing an ivy-like effect. Not recommended for
planting about the home.
HOLMSKIOLDIA SANGUINEA. Chinese hat plant. A sprawl-
ing shrub which may be trained as a vine. Grown for its numerous
brilliant orange-red flowers that resemble old style Chinese or
Mandarin hats. Flowers much of the year, including winter.
HOYA CARNOSA. A slow growing vine which can be grown
only in soil which is free from nematodes. Grown for its clusters
of waxy, star-shaped flowers. It is best grown on the trunk of a
cabbage palm, where it can establish itself with the aid of aerial
roots which invade decaying leaf bases. An occasional application
of soluble fertilizer to the plant and to the palm trunk promotes
IPOMOEA. Morning glory. Although there are several species
of morning glories, familiar to most gardeners, one of the finest of
the group, Ipomoea horsfalliae, is seldom planted. It is a vigorous
grower and is one of the few vines which blooms well on the
north side of a building. The numerous clusters of purplish-red
flowers are produced several times a year, even in winter. This
species does not seem to produce seeds in south Florida, and
must be propagated by airlayering. The wood rose, Ipomoea
tuberosa, is more widely planted as an oddity than as an orna-
mental. It is an aggressive vine, producing bell-shaped yellow
flowers. The brown seed pod, which develops later, is surrounded
by open sepals which give the appearance of a dried rose.
JASMINUM. Several species, but grown mainly as sprawling
shrubs. See Shrubs.
PASSIFLORA. Several species of this twining vine, grown for
their edible fruits as well as for their unusual flowers. Passiflora
coccinea produces a brilliant red flower. Seeds or layering. See
PETREA VOLUBILIS. Purple wreath. A very popular vine
in southern Florida, reminding some persons of wisteria which
does not thrive in south Florida. Especially suitable for a trellis.
The purplish blue flowers are borne in racemes and remain on the
vines for several weeks. Flowering season is spring and summer
but sometimes a vine may produce flowers at any time of the year.
PODRANEA RICASOLIANA. A climber with open, small foli-
age and producing clusters of bell-shaped pink flowers striped
with red. A winter and spring bloomer. Cuttings or layering.
PORANA PANICULATA. Christmas vine. A tall climber, bear-
ing immense sprays of white flowers in November and December.
Seeds or layering.
PYROSTEGIA IGNEA. Flame vine. A widely grown twining
climber bearing a profusion of bright yellow tubular flowers in
spring and early summer. The orange-yellow flowers persist for
several weeks. It is often seen growing on the roofs of homes in
southern Florida. Layering.
QUISQUALIS INDICA. Rangoon creeper. An aggressive shrub-
by vine suitable for growing on arbors or stone walls. It will pile
up on a stone wall and form a dense, shrubby growth. Clusters
of pink to red flowers are produced in the summer. Layering.
SENECIO CONFUSUS. Mexican flame vine. This scraggly vine
produces masses of orange-red flowers mainly in spring and sum-
mer. Individual flowers are daisy-shaped and are about one inch
in diameter. Seeds or layering.
SOLANDRA LONGIFLORA. Bugle vine. Chalice flower. A
heavy, woody climber with glossy, green leaves and producing
large trumpet shaped flowers nearly a foot in length. Summer
and fall. Airlayering.
SOLANUM SEAFORTHIANUM. Brazilian night shade. A
small, open vine grown for its clusters of blue or purple-blue flow-
ers about an inch across. The flowers are followed by clusters of
small fruits, turning from green to red and then to black at matur-
ity. The fruits are enjoyed by birds. Seeds.
SOLANUM WENDLANDI. Costa Rican night shade. This is
a vigorous grower, producing large clusters of blue flowers in
spring and summer. Individual flowers are up to two inches in
STEPHANOTIS FLORIBUNDA. An evergreen vine grown for
its delicate, fragrant, creamy white flowers, which appear through-
out the summer. This vine must be grown in nematode-free soil.
TECOMARIA CAPENSIS. Cape honeysuckle. A shrubby vine
producing clusters of brilliant orange-red flowers, mainly in spring
and summer. Often grown as a shrub. Cuttings.
THUNBERGIA GRANDIFLORA. Bengal clock vine. A rapid
growing, tall climber especially suitable for arbors. The blue, bell-
shaped flowers appear at all months of the year. The white
flowering variety also is in cultivation. Layering.
TRACHELOSPERMUM JASMINOIDES. Confederate jasmine.
This evergreen vine covers itself with highly fragrant white star-
shaped flowers in spring and early summer. Layering.
Palms give tropical lushness to Florida or Bahamas gardens
Cluster palms are widely used in many landscape settings
Cluster palms are widely used in many landscape settings
Florida is rightly called the palm state. Palms dominate the scene
throughout much of the peninsula. Large colonies of picturesque
sabals stand for miles along the sand ridges of the east coast and
occupy large areas of flatwoods in central and south Florida. Saw
palmettos make up the understory scrub through miles of pine-
woods. Coconut and royal palms line the streets and waterways of
south Florida. Clusters of slender native thrinax and silver palms
adorn the keys from the mainland to Key West. Florida has eleven
How many kinds of palms there are has been estimated at various
times between 1,000 and 6,000 species. These plants are scattered
throughout the tropics, often in almost inaccessible places, where
botanists have been unable to collect them. The most recent esti-
mate of palm species was made by Dr. Harold E. Moore, Jr.,
Cornell University palm authority. In Principes, journal of the Palm
Society, he estimates the number at 2,640 species.
No other family of plants has more interesting, varied, and
graceful members than the palm family. In Florida we usually
think of the palm mainly as an ornamental, but it is one of the
world's most important food sources, furnishing a large percentage
of the population of the tropics with food, oil, and materials for
building shelter. Millions of dollars worth of palm products, includ-
ing oils, coconut meat, and fibers, are exported from the tropics to
the other parts of the world.
The largest collection of palm species in the Western Hemisphere
is at the Fairchild Tropical Garden, in Coral Gables, Fla., where
close to 500 kinds have been planted.
Although many palms grow in warmer areas of the Temperate
Zone Trachycarpus fortunei and Sabal palmetto are hardy as far
north as southern Virginia the palm is usually associated with
the tropics. The palm is cultivated throughout the world where it
is obtainable outdoors in warm climates and indoors in the cold
Palms vary greatly in size and form. There is a palm for every
purpose in the design of a tropical garden. Is there another tree
which could match the royal palm for formal planting, with its
tall columnar trunk? And what other tree could match the graceful
coconut, with its curving trunk and long, feather-shaped fronds?
If it is color one is seeking, there is nothing more striking than the
Merrill palm (Veitchia merrilli), with its clusters of bright scarlet
fruits at Christmas time. And for spectacular, massive production,
there are no flowers which can surpass the tremendous bloom clus-
ters of a sugar palm (Arenga pinnata) or the fishtail palm (Caryota
Palms vary in size from the four-foot Neanthe bella (Chamae-
dorea elegans) to the tall royal which may reach sixty to eighty
feet. Both shade-loving and sun-loving palms are available for the
landscape designers. Cluster palms are available for screening,
including Rhapis excelsa, Paurotis wrightii, Chrysalidocarpus lutes-
cens, Phoenix reclinata, Chamaerops humilis, and Nipa fruiticans.
The nipa palm lives in brackish swamps with mangrove and but-
tonwood. Gaussia princeps, which thrives among the rocks of the
haystack hills of western Cuba, may start out as an epiphyte, just
as a strangler fig may start out on the trunk of a cabbage palm or
on the branch of a live oak. The gaussia may start in a crevice
between rocks fifteen feet or more above a ledge of soil, where it
grows just as an orchid would grow until after several years when
its roots make contact with the soil below. The slender Gaussia
princeps thrives in South Florida and deserves wider planting
because of its adaptability to limestone soil, as well as for its color-
ful clusters of red fruit. The phoenix or date palms like the open
where they receive sun most of the day. Most other palms, however,
will thrive in part shade.
In choosing palms for planting in a small garden, species should
be selected which will not grow out of control. A palm cannot be
kept small by pruning. A Canary Island date palm eventually makes
a large specimen, and nothing will hold it back except time and
poor growing conditions. Likewise, a coconut planted beneath
power lines eventually will grow into the wires where its fronds
must be cut back, thus reducing this noble palm to a monstrosity.
Palms which die after flowering also should be avoided, unless one
has a very large place or is making a special collection. Caryota
urens and Arenga pinnata may be striking palms when they bloom.
But after progressively flowering from top to bottom, which takes
three to four years, the palm dies and must be removed. To get
rid of a dead arenga thirty feet high might not be so easy, if this
palm is growing among one's ornamentals in a small garden.
Palms may be used in many ways in the landscape. Like shrubs,
they may be used for screening or for background. Like trees, the
larger palms may be used for shade. As a texture plant the palm is
unsurpassed. The landscape designer can find palms to solve almost
any problem in the garden. But how to use palms well with other
plants, such as young palms with shrubbery, can be a difficult
problem. However, shrubbery may serve well as understory plants
after palms have developed trunks several feet high.
In the first place, however, it is generally best to plant together
palms of similar character. For instance, many kinds of shrubbery
or ground covers may be used at the base of a colony of slender
palms, such as Veitchia merrilli, Veitchia winin, Dictyosperma
album, Ptychosperma elegans, and the several species of Cocco-
thrinax and Thrinax. Where colonies of the native cabbage palm
exist on a building lot, every effort should be made to preserve as
many as possible. They make an excellent place to build a jungle
garden, with many kinds of orchids and bromeliads planted on the
trunks, and with philodendrons and anthuriums planted in the soil
at their base. Large single trunked palms, such as the Canary
Island date palm, and the slender Ptychosperma elegans, should
never be planted close together. They simply do not make a desir-
able or attractive association. One or the other will seem out of
Just as with trees and shrubbery, palms should not be planted
throughout the lawn, like candles on a green cake. Palms are best
restricted to borders, except for their charm and shade about patios
or where they are to be used for some special purpose, as in the
development of a jungle garden.
Palms can be hazardous. A coconut can cause serious injury if
it falls on one's head. A coconut can also make a sizeable dent in the
body of an automobile, or if it is planted close to a house, the
falling nut can break the tile of a roof. It may seem odd to think
of anyone being injured by a falling leaf, but the fronds of many
palms are very large and heavy. Thus large palms should not be
planted where they are likely to shed their large fruits or leaves
on people sitting beneath them. One has little cause to worry from
palms such as coccothrinax, thrinax, ptychosperma, arecastrum,
phoenix, sabal, or washingtonia.
Most palms are grown from seeds. Only one species, rhapis, is
generally propagated by division. Palm seeds vary from pea-size
to the huge double-coconut, the largest seed in the world, which
resembles two coconuts grown together. This palm, a native of the
Seychelles, unfortunately does not thrive in Florida. Thus the coco-
nut is our largest seed. When planting the coconut do not remove
it from its husk. To sprout coconuts, several of them can be placed
on the ground close together and covered with wood shavings, grass
clippings, or any other material which will hold moisture. Play a
sprinkler on the bed two or three times a week. A few sprouts should
begin to show after several weeks. After the nuts have sprouted
they may be planted in permanent locations.
Other palm seeds may be planted in clay pots or seed flats,
and should be slightly covered with the planting material. An excel-
lent material for planting seeds other than the coconut can be
made by mixing equal parts of coarse sand and perlite or crushed
granite, to which a small amount of shredded sphagnum is added.
No fertilizer need be added until after the seeds have sprouted.
The large seeds of the gingerbread palm (Hyphaene thebaica) and
borassus should be planted in the location where these palms are
to remain permanently, as they are very difficult to transplant or to
get started in containers. Some palms grow so slowly that it may
be necessary to keep them in containers for four to six years before
planting them in permanent locations.
Palms, like other plants, require fertilizer and water to grow
well in south Florida's poor soil. Palms must also be protected
from insects and diseases. Many of them require special treatments
to help them overcome nutritional deficiencies. Palms whose fronds
turn yellow despite regular applications of fertilizer may be helped
by sprays or drenches containing zinc, manganese, and chelated
iron. However, palms which require shade will turn yellow when
grown in full sun, and no amount of sprays or drenches will make
them develop green leaves.
Palms, more than most other plants, must be grown where they
can reach full development. They are usually most effective when
planted in the background, with sufficient open space left in front
of them so that one can enjoy the effects, both from a distance as
well as a close up view. There are no more magnificent plants in
the world than tthe palms, which deserve the family name, Prin-
cipes, given to this group by the father of modern botany, Linnaeus.
Below is a list of the more common palms and some of the rare
palms which are grown in South Florida. Most of them are available,
but the rare species may be found with some difficulty:
ACROCOMIA. Several species of heavy, spiney-trunked, feather-
leaved palms, twenty to sixty feet, including Acrocomia aculeata,
A. armentalis (has bulging trunk), A. mexicana, A. sclerocarpa, and
A. totai. The last named is one of the hardiest of palms, withstand-
ing temperatures as low as 14 degrees.
ADONIDIA. See Veitchia.
AIPHANES. Several species of slender spiney-trunked, feather-
leaved palms. Grown for colorful red fruit clusters. Not hardy.
ARCHONTOPHOENIX ALEXANDRAE. Alexandra palm. Slen-
der, graceful palm with feather leaves, to forty feet. About equal to
royal palm in hardiness.
ARECA. See Chrysalidocarpus lutescens.
ARECASTRUM ROMANZOFFIANUM. Cocos plumosa.
Feather-leaved palm widely planted throughout southern half of
Florida, reaching thirty-five feet.
ARENGA PINNATA. Sugar palm. Short lived single-trunk palm
with feather leaves, reaching thirty feet. Sap from fruit causes
severe itching if it comes into contact with skin. Handsome palm,
but dies after flowering. Large specimens may be seen at Fairchild
ASTROCARYUM. Several species of this sturdy, feather-leaf
palm. Slow growing but worth planting. Rare in Florida.
ATTALEA. See Orbigyna.
BACTRIS GASIPAES. Peach palm. Formerly known as Guili-
elma gasipaes. A spiney, multiple-trunked palm, yielding plum-size
yellow fruits which are used as food in Central America. Thirty
feet. Rare in Florida.
BISMARCKIA NOBILIS. Large, single-trunk, fan-leaf palm not
yet widely known in Florida. Sometimes grown under name of
BORASSUS FLABELLIFER. Palmyra palm. One of world's most
important and imposing palms. Its single, large trunk reaches nearly
one" hundred feet, with huge, black, fan-shaped fronds. Rare in
BUTIA CAPITATA. Hardy, slow growing palm thriving as far
north as south Georgia. Fruit edible.
CARYOTA MITIS. Fishtail cluster palm. Multiple-trunk palm
reaching thirty feet, widely used in south Florida landscape
CARYOTA URENS. Fishtail palm. Single-trunk palm reaching
forty feet, and dying after it finishes flowering.
CHAMAEDOREA. Several species of this palm, best known of
which are Chamaedorea elegans (Neanthe bella), C. erumpens and
C. seifrizii. A number of other chamaedorea species thrive in Florida
and deserve wider planting, including C. geonomiformis, C. gram-
inifolia, C. brachypo3a, and C. tepefilote. All chamaedorea species
CHAMAEROPS HUMILIS. A slow growing cluster palm which
thrives in southern California and throughout Florida. Rare in
Florida, where it seldom produces seeds.
CHRYSALIDOCARPUS LUTESCENS. Incorrectly called areca
palm. Popular cluster palm throughout south Florida, with many
yellow-green trunks displaying prominent rings. Yellow-green leaves
are feather-like. Two other cluster types of Chrysalidocarpus palms
are planted in Florida, but are rare. They are C. madagascariensis,
and also the cabada palm which is now listed only as Chrysalido-
carpus species, because its origin is as yet unknown. It appears to
be well adapted to south Florida soils and climate and promises to
be a popular palm. Its multiple trunks reach forty feet.
COCCOTHRINAX. Several species of this slow growing palm
from Florida and the West Indies, some of them being among the
most striking of the palm family. All have fan leaves which are
silvery underneath. They include Coccothrinax crinita, whose trunk
is covered with fiber; C. argentata, the silver palm of the south
Florida pinewoods and the Florida keys; C. Argentea, the West
Indian silver palm, and C. miraguama, a graceful Cuban silver
COCOS NUCIFERA. Coconut. Several varieties, including the
common coconut, dwarf green Malaya, dwarf orange Malaya and
dwarf yellow Malaya. The Malaya dwarf varieties are said to be
resistant to the nematode which has killed most of the common
coconut trees in Key West. The dwarf varieties come into produc-
tion earlier than the common coconut, but eventually grows about
as tall as any other coconut.
COPERNICIA. Several species of this interesting palm, mainly
from Cuba, are in the Fairchild Tropical Garden collection. They
are generally very slow growing and are not likely to be found in
any but nurseries specializing in palms. All are single trunked with
CORYPHA UMBRACULIFERA. Talipot palm. One of the larg-
est of palms, seldom seen in Florida outside of palm collections.
Reaches forty to sixty feet, then produces one immense inflorescence
at the top and dies.
DICTYOSPERMA ALBUM. Hurricane palm. A graceful slender
palm with feather-like leaves, reaching thirty feet, bending easily in
ELAEIS GUINEENSIS. African oil palm. A large feather-leaf
palm, important in tropics for its production of palm oil. Available
but seldom planted.
GAUSSIA PRINCEPS. A slender palm from western Cuba appar-
ently well adapted to Florida's limestone soil. Reaches twenty feet
and yields clusters of bright red fruit. Rare in Florida.
GUILIELMA GASIPAES. See Bactris gasipaes.
HETEROSPATHE ELATA. Tall, slender palm with feather-like
leaves. Grown in warmer areas along the coast, but rare.
HOWEIA. Two species of this graceful, slender-trunk palm with
feather-like leaves, Howeia belmoreana and H. forsteriana. Both
thrive in shade.
HYPHAENE. Called gingerbread palm because fruit resembles
gingerbread in color and flavor. Several species, of which Hyphaene
thebaica is the best known. A few other species of Hyphaene in-
troduced by the Fairchild Tropical Garden are not yet in cultivation.
LATANIA. This single-trunked, fan-leaved palm is represented
by three species, Latania borbonica, the red latan palm; L. loddi-
gesii, the blue latan palm, and L. verschaffeltii, the yellow latan
palm. These palms reach thirty feet in Florida, but are restricted
to the warmer areas along the coasts and in the Keys. Male and
female flowers are borne on separate palms.
LICUALA GRANDIS. A small, slender-trunked palm with very
graceful, round fan-shaped leaves. Does well in shade, but it is
very tender. Rare in Florida.
LICUALA SPINOSA. A cluster palm with divided fan-shaped
leaves, thriving in shady locations. Rare in Florida.
LIVISTONA CHINENSIS. Chinese fan palm. A common single-
trunked palm with large fan-shaped leaves resembling the foliage
of the common sabal. Hardy throughout much of Florida. Bears
large clusters of blue-green fruit.
LIVISTONA ROTUNDIFOLIA. Very slender single-trunked
palm and fan-shaped leaves. Prominent rings on trunk. Will grow
in sun or part shade. Somewhat rare but a promising palm for
MASCARENA. Hyophorbe. An odd, thick-trunked palm rep-
resented by two species in Florida, Mascarena legenicaulis, the
bottle palm, and M. verschaffeltii, the spindle palm. Not rare, but
grown only as an oddity.
NEODYPSIS DECARYI. A most unusual and striking tringular-
shaped palm introduced by the Fairchild Tropical Garden but not
yet in wide cultivation. A very promising palm for south Florida.
NIPA FRUITICANS. A cluster palm growing in brackish man-
grove swamps. Although rare in Florida, it thrives here and deserves
ORBIGNYA. A very large, slow growing palm which looks much
like the attalea and scheelea. Its feathery leaves may reach thirty
feet in length. Rare in Florida.
PAUROTIS WRIGHTII. A common but slow growing cluster palm
native to the Everglades National Park and Big Cypress Swamp. Its
multiple, slender trunks eventually make a large clump. The leaves
are fan-like. Generally transplanted from the wilds. Slow from seeds.
PHOENIX CANARIENSIS. Canary Island date palm. A large
palm with massive trunk and spreading top with feather-like leaves.
Hardy to south Georgia.
PHOENIX DACTYLIFERA. Date palm. Although this famous
palm, cultivated for thousands of years, will grow in Florida it will
not produce good fruits here. It requires a dry climate for depend-
able fruit production. Best varieties propagated from suckers.
PHOENIX RECLINATA. A cluster palm with many slender
trunks, widely popular among landscape architects. Like most other
date palms it will grow throughout the Florida peninsula.
PHOENIX ROEBELENII. The smallest of date palms, reaching
six to eight feet in height, with delicate feathery leaves.
PRITCHARDIA PACIFICA. A slender palm with stiff fan-
shaped leaves reaching thirty feet. Very tender to cold. A similar
species, Pritchardia thurstonii, is also planted in south Florida.
PSEUDOPHOENIX. A distinctive palm with gray-green color
in its single trunk and feather-like stiff leaves, represented by three
species in Florida, Pseudophoenix saonae, P. sargentii and P. vini-
fera. P. sargentii is believed to be a native palm of the Florida Keys,
and is found throughout the Bahamas and West Indies. The species
of pseudophoenix are very slow and are seldom planted except in
collections. These palms are easily transplanted if root-pruned
some weeks in advance of moving.
PTYCHOSPERMA ELEGANS. A slender graceful palm with
feather-like leaves, reaching thirty feet. Bears large clusters of
bright red fruit.
PTYCHOSPERMA MACARTHURI. A cluster palm with many
slender trunks, widely used in landscape planting. Bears large clus-
ters of bright red fruit.
PTYCHOSPERMA SPECIES. Taksi palm. A slender, graceful
palm from the Solomon Islands, introduced to Florida by Dr. David
Fairchild. Much like Ptychosperma elegans. Still rare but a prom-
RHAPIDOPHYLLUM HYSTRIX. Needle palm. A sprawling
cluster palm with bright green fan-like leaves, and armed with long
black spines near the leaf bases. Becoming popular in landscape
planting, the plants being removed from the wilds and trucked to
RHAPIS EXCELSA. Bamboo palm. A slender suckering palm
with dark green, deeply cut fan-like leaves, growing to twelve feet
or more. Used for screening, and especially desirable where there
is part shade. Hardy to north Florida.
ROYSTONEA REGIA. Royal palm. One of the world's most
noble palms, widely planted throughout the tropics. Reaches forty
to seventy feet. Botanists list several other species of Roystonea,
including Roystonea oleracea, the cabbage royal of South America
and Trinidad. This species is said to reach one hundred to one
hundred thirty feet.
SABAL PALMETTO. This is Florida's best known native palm.
It covers large areas of the east coast and the flatwoods of central
and southern Florida. Under favorable conditions it will reach sixty
feet or more but in extreme south Florida is seldom seen over thirty
feet. Many thousands of these palms are transplanted from the
wilds each year and used in landscape planting. A dozen other
Sabal species may be seen at the Fairchild Tropical Garden.
SERENOA REPENS. Saw palmetto. Locally known as scrub
palmetto. A common low growing palm with fan-like leaves in the
Florida pinewoods. Recovers quickly after being periodically
burned over. When protected from fire this palm develops an
upright trunk. Difficult to transplant. Because this palm is so com-
mon it is not looked upon as an ornamental, and is usually destroyed
when building lots are cleared. On the other hand, the saw pal-
metto's ornamental qualities may surpass those of many of the
exotics which homeowners use to replace it.
SYAGRUS. A slow growing palm of Central and South America,
seldom propagated as an ornamental.
THRINAX. Two species of this slender fan palm are native of
Florida, Thrinax microcarpa and Thrinax parviflora. T. microcarpa
is much the slower grower and may be differentiated from the
other thrinax by its gray-green leaves. Thrinax parviflora is a much
taller palm at maturity, and its leaves are a glossy green.
TRACHYCARPUS FORTUNEI. One of the hardiest of all palms,
growing throughout the southeastern states and as far north on the
West Coast as the Canadian border. Slow growing, with single
trunk and fan leaves.
VEITCHIA. Two newly discovered species of Veitchia palms
from New Hebrides recently have been added to this group of
popular ornamentals. Veitchia merrillii, formerly Adonidia merrillii,
has been in cultivation for several years in Florida and is now
widely planted for its clusters of bright red fruit, which mature at
Christmas. The two new species, recently named, are Veitchia
montgomeryana and Veitchia winin. These are all very fast growing
palms and are especially recommended for the small garden.
WASHINGTONIA ROBUSTA. This palm, a native of Mexico,
is commonly grown throughout Florida. Another species, Washing-
tonia filifera, a native of California, is almost rare in Florida. The
two palms resemble each other while young, but a mature W. fili-
fera has a stout trunk up to three feet in diameter near the base.
Both palms are distinguished by their habit of retaining their dead
leaves, which may persist for several years. The name honors George
ZOMBIA ANTILLARUM. A slow growing cluster palm with
many slender trunks armed with sharp spines. Its fan-shaped, deep
green, glossy leaves make this palm popular among collectors, but
its growth is so slow that nurserymen seldom carry it.
Plant form and leaf texture are as important
details in a garden as is color. To develop
and maintain the kind of garden which is
nearly always filled with bloom requires a
great deal of time and energy, or great cost
if one hires the work done. For this reason
we usually find more neglect in flower gardens
than in green gardens.
Choquette is one of many popular Florida avocado varieties
Lychee is one of tropics' most colorful fruiting trees
Tropical fruit producing trees and shrubs are among south
Florida's outstanding ornamentals. Citrus is, of course, the most
widely planted ornamental tree in the State. In the warmer parts
of south Florida a large number of tropical and semi-tropical fruit
bearing plants can be grown. Most of the tropical fruit trees
are broadleaf evergreens, holding their foliage all year. Several
of them, especially the eugenias, cattley guava, macadamia, star
apple, and garcinia, equal the strictly ornamental shrubs and small
trees for landscape planting. And several of Florida's large trees
are fruit producers, including the mango, sapodilla, jambolan plum,
tamarind, and the lychee. No flowering tree is more colorful than
a mango, lychee, or West Indian cherry when in full fruit.
Fruit producing trees and shrubs are sometimes used exclusively
to landscape home grounds, and very effectively. The carissa and
its several varieties are among south Florida's more popular
ornamental shrubs. The cattley guava is widely used as a back-
ground plant and for screening. The Surinum cherry is one of the
most commonly used shrubs for making hedges. The carambola,
star apple, longan, and Dovyalis abyssinica are densely foliaged
small trees recommended for use where a large screen or massive
background is desirable. For unusual trees we have Garcinia
livingstonei, the jackfruit, and the carob. Among the fruit pro-
ducers are two palms, the coconut and the butia. And three of
south Florida's most storm-resistant trees are fruit producers, the
tamarind, jambolan plum, and sapodilla. If large tropical foliage is
desired we have the banana and the monstera, two of the most tropi-
cal-like plants grown in Florida. If a ground cover in full sun is
wanted we can turn to the pineapple, excellent for this purpose.
Thus it is possible to restrict landscape planting to the use of
fruit producing plants and have as striking a result as it is possible
to attain with primarily ornamental trees and shrubs. If indoor
arrangement materials are wanted, tropical fruits equal any of
the most colorful flowers.
Some knowledge of tropical fruit trees and shrubs is needed
before we can use them effectively in a landscape plan however.
We need to know a plant's ultimate size, form, leaf color, and
texture, as well as the color of fruit; and we also need to know its
cultural requirements, its hardiness to cold, and its tolerance to
pruning. Not all tropical fruit trees will grow in south Florida. The
breadfruit is likely to be badly injured by temperatures below 40
degrees, while it is sure to be frozen to the ground if the tempera-
ture drops to 32 degrees. The soursop (Annona muricata) is suit-
able for planting only in the warmer areas along the coast of south
Florida and in the Florida Keys. This is a very effective evergreen
tree, but it is likely to shed all its foliage if the temperature drops
below 40 degrees.
A few trees, including the sugar apple, governor's plum, and
white sapote, shed their leaves in winter and are likely to be
without foliage for a few weeks. The common guava is objec-
tionable to many persons because it drops its heavy crops of fruits
to the ground, where they sour and give off the familiar penetrating
guava odor. Other trees which are objectionable because of this
habit are the jujube (Zizyphus mauritidna), jambolan plum, and
While most tropical fruit trees grow reasonably fast, a few
are very slow. The jaboticaba may take eight years to get as
tall as one's head, and may be ten to twelve years old before
it begins fruiting. The grumnichama is another slow grower,
especially in its young stage. It begins to bear about the fifth
year. The sapodilla is fairly slow in its younger stage, but after
it reaches five or six feet in height, growth tends to be much more
To plan, develop, and maintain the average kind of garden
requires some knowledge of plants. To keep a superbly planted
ornamental garden in good condition requires considerable knowl-
edge of gardening. The same is true for the fruit garden. One
really should be a good horticulturist and willing to read books
on garden subjects. For some reason, those who go in for fruit
production are likely to take the horticultural side more seriously
than those who grow only ornamentals. Perhaps a fruit grower is
more practical. Basically,. there is no difference between the
growing of ornamentals and the growing of fruit trees. To produce
high quality, colorful flowers or fruits the plants must be well
cared for. They must receive periodic applications of fertilizer,