Ixoras are Tried and True
With 545 registered varieties, Ixoras have been a South Florida landscape staple since the 1930's. Ixora coccinea, an upright dense grower that stays full of orange/red blooms most of the year, is found in many older hedges that are still around. Ixora 'Super King' is another great large shrub that produces deep red clusters of star-shaped flowers that can reach 6 to 8 inches across. The new hybrid 'Nora Grant' with coral-colored large flowers is also quite popular. These varieties can be maintained as 6-to-8 foot informal hedges easily, but they can also be trimmed less often and allowed to reach 12 feet plus to produce a wall of large bright blooms. For smaller shrubs with abundant flowers, the Taiwanese dwarfs are a good choice. These Ixoras only grow to 3 feet and are available in red, orange, yellow, and pink. Slightly larger varieties like 'Maui' and 'Singapore Yellow' are great in mass plantings or as single potted specimens. Ixoras like moderate watering and require regular fertilization and additional iron supplements annually to stay nice and green.
To celebrate St. Patrick's Day, all Ixoras are 20% off from now until Sunday the 19th
New Plant Additions
As we continue to expand our plant selection, we have added several new comers:
Eugenia monticola, also called Rodwood or Birdcherry, is basically an erect grower that can reach 20 feet, which makes it a good choice for hedges or tall specimen plantings. Though native to the islands, it does well in South Florida. Clusters of white flowers in the spring are followed by clusters of small, purple berries that birds enjoy. It is a relative of the white stopper and also has the same "skunky" smell.
The Wooly Teabush (Melochia tomentosa) is a drought-tolerant shrub that grows only to 3 feet tall. Magenta-colored flowers appear repeatedly throughout the year making it a great attractor of bees, butterflies, and birds. Its silver-colored foliage is striking by itself, but when combined with its bright flowers, the Wooly Teabush is irresistible.
This great shrub, the Blue Honeybell Bush (Freylinia tropica), comes to us from South Africa. Its slender spreading branches and growth habit make it a good choice for screening or as a potted specimen. It can be grown in full sun or partial shade to 5-6 feet tall by 2-3 feet wide. Its best feature is the abundance of small blue flowers it produces in the spring that last until summer. This new plant will make a great addition to any garden.
Fertilizing for Spring
March is an excellent time to feed your trees, plants, shrubs and lawn. Remember to pull mulch or pine needles away from any plants when applying fertilizer; it can be replaced after fertilization is complete. Whether you use an organic or a synthetic fertilizer, applying the proper amount is extremely important. On average, for trees, palms and large woody shrubs, one pound of fertilizer for every 3 feet of height is standard. Smaller plants need less, so adjust accordingly by size. Four applications a year are recommended as most slow-release fertilizers are formulated to last 3-4 months. The slow-release prills are dissolved by heat and humidity, so expect the fertilizer to last closer to 3 months in the hot rainy season and up to 4 months in the cool dry season. Choosing a good quality brand with high percentages of minor elements is important as these nutrients are needed by plants in addition to N (nitrogen), P (phosphorus), and K (potassium). SmartyPlants offers both synthetic and organic fertilizers as well as specific formulas for fruit trees, vegetables, annuals, sod, and other plants. Remember your house plants as well; take them out, spray them with water to remove dust, and fertilize them using a slow-release well-rounded fertilizer.
Flowering Trees Show Signs of Spring
Spring is just around the corner and Dixie Highway is about to erupt with the brilliant yellow flowers on the numerous Tabebuia argenteas. Also called Yellow Tabebuia or Silver Trumpet trees, these displays of yellow flower clusters are spectacular. The trees are also distinguished by their craggy, cork-like bark and twisted trunks and branches. Though they have a short bloom period of a few weeks, there is hardly another specimen tree that creates such beauty while it lasts.
Other early-spring bloomers are Tibouchinas. Three that do well in South Florida are Tibouchina granulosa or Purple Glory tree, Tibouchina urvilleana or Princess Flower, and Tibouchina lepidota, a smaller variety that grows to four feet. This variety was developed in Australia in the 1960s. It has become very popular in South Florida given we have the same climate. Three times a year, Tibouchinas all create a display of deep, rich purple flowers. Help them to stay healthy and to bloom prolifically by fertilizing them regularly. SmartyPlants currently offers Tibouchina lepidota in tree or standard form and also a newer hybrid called Hibble Dibble. This new hybrid has showy large light-purple flowers that call on pollinators. We plan to have Purple Glory trees later in the week as well.
Tuesday, February 14th is Valentine's Day. SmartyPlants has a wide variety of "one-of-a-kind" gifts. While cut flowers and chocolates may last a week, give your special someone the gift that may last for years. Fairy Gardens, foliage dish gardens, wind chimes, bromeliads on driftwood, or tillandsias in shells are all unique choices. For the traditional rose giver, try the 'Florida Cracer' rose. It is the antique rose called Louis Philippe, which climbs to about 6 feet. Alternately, the 'Picnic Rose' is a mounding rose bush that grows to 3 to 4 feet. It resists the insects and fungus that attack hybrid roses, and it is an excellent rose for a border hedge or potted specimen.
Lake Worth Festival of Trees
The 12th Annual Festival of Trees will be held on Saturday, February 18th, from 9:00am to 3:00pm at the Cultural Plaza at 414 Lake Ave in downtown Lake Worth. This year the festival theme is "Birds, Bees, and Trees". This event is free to the public and makes for a pleasant day. Four brief talks are also scheduled. SmartyPlants will be at their usual spot on the southwest corner across from TooJays. Stop by and see us.
As we welcome the New Year, we also welcome our migratory feathered friends from the freezing north. Many bird species use South Florida as a stopover for their travels to warmer winter climates. Enjoy spotting bluejays, cardinals, or hummingbirds making their way through your garden. Jays, sparrows, and cardinals are "frugivores", eating fruits and seeds. Robins, warblers, and woodpeckers are primarily "insectivores", dining on insects. And hummingbirds are solely "nectivores", feeding on nectar. No matter the size of your home or office, any balcony, terrace, or yard can be an inviting retreat for our feathered travelers.
Planting Florida-native trees and shrubs can provide a primary food source. Natives provide fruit, seeds, insects and shelter. Adding trees like Pigeon Plum, Seagrape, or Gumbo Limbo is a great place to start. Shrub additions like Mulberry, Cocoplum, Wild Coffee, Wax Myrtle, Tetrazygia, Spicewood, Firebush, Beautyberry, Myrsine, and Necklace Pod provide seeds, nectar, and insects. Who would have thought that dead trees are the best source of insects? Instead of removing a dead tree, use it to hang orchids and bromeliads, while allowing insects to make a home. You may just turn a dead tree into the best bird restaurant ever.
As for water sources, most people think of a conventional birdbath. While these do serve a function, the constant maintenance to provide a clean water source can make gardeners crazy. According to James A. Kushlan and Kirsten Hines (Attracting Birds to South Florida Gardens), the best place for a water feature is on or in the ground. You can place any shallow vessel like a terracotta saucer, pie pan, or garbage-can lid; and you can add some stones to provide different water depths and fill with water. This can be done on the lawn, under shrubs, or on a patio. As birds are attracted to water movement, a solar-powered pump can assist. Water-moving gadgets, like a filtration bubbler, can be found at aquarium-supply stores. Moving water also prevents mosquitoes from laying their eggs.
Do birds sleep? Why, yes they do! Taller trees or larger shrubs provide shelter from the weather and allow the birds to rest safely. Their outer leaves provide a canopy of protection by camouflage while their open inner branching acts as a sleeping perch. Weeping Podocarpus, though not a Florida native, is one of many excellent birding trees.
Following these tips to provide food, water, and shelter will bring new flying additions to your garden and help our friends on their way to warm horizons!
Plant of the Month
Red Firespike (Odontonema strictum) and purple Firespike (Odontonema callistachyum) are covered in flower buds and are looking awesome this winter! They are one of the main nectar sources for butterflies and hummingbirds. These plants normally grow in an upright habit to about 5 or 6 feet, which makes them a good choice for small spaces. As a bonus, they bloom off-and-on throughout the year, and they bloom in shade and sun. They are a part of the "fire-trio" along with Firebush and Firecracker that attract hummingbirds. Firespikes need moderate water and are best in part shade during the hot summer months.
20% off red and purple FIRESPIKE through January 31
Florida Native Wildflowers
Florida native wildflowers are beautiful, hardy, and make a wonderful addition to any landscape. In the wild, at this time of year, most of these colorful plants have bloomed and died back or are otherwise now at rest. However, the bounty of seeds they left behind during their last wildflower show is now starting to work its magic on forest floors, moist prairies, and beach dunes across the peninsula. Here in South Florida, wildflower seeds start to sprout in mid-winter, and so now is the time to sow them if you want to enjoy a symphony of color next spring, summer, and fall. We just stocked up on native wildflower seeds; the selection is diverse with a full spectrum of colors for both dry and moist conditions. Sow some seeds today; the butterflies, bees, and other native pollinators will love you for it!
New Items & Oldies But Goodies
SmartyPlants is re-stocked for the New Year with some of the oldies but goodies and with many new exciting and unique quality items. New arrivals include gorgeous fountains, colorful pots, unique statuary, musical wind chimes, and authentic Talavera pottery. We have increased our selection of fairies and accessories for our fairy gardens; and we have re-stocked our glass yard ornaments with flowers, glass bloom spikes, and colorful mushrooms. Come see for yourself; we look forward to your visit.