Do you have a place in your yard that gets full sun, no irrigation, very well drained, the grass is always full of weeds, and simply looks bad? May I suggest a small project, such as making a rock garden in this area. South Florida as ample pieces of limestone rock just below the surface of the soil which can be dug up and utilized on the surface. Also, if there is any construction nearby, such as home building, you usually can obtain varying sizes of rock. Contour the area so it’s not perfectly level, place the rocks as you see fit, and now you have an area ready to plant. Using drought tolerant plants such as succulents, certain bromeliads, and cactus you can beautify an area which previously was a headache. Plus, as an added bonus, you have also eliminated an area of grass that you no longer have to mow. Below are some photos of plants Richard Lyons Nursery has in stock which would be suitable for this project.
The Jamaican Poinsettia is native to Jamaica, and a relative of the Christmas Poinsettia. Unlike the poinsettia you buy at Christmas, this large shrub or small tree, 12-15′, flowers year round. However, like the Christmas Poinsettia, flowering is dependent on no external light sources being present. So, no porch lights or security lights can shine on this tree at night in order for it to flower. In Jamaica, this small tree grows in limestone soils with little rainfall, so it makes an ideal candidate for S. Florida, when planted in a sunny location.
We have various sizes ranging from small seedlings to flowering size specimens. Come take a look at one growing in the ground to give you an idea what to expect.
The Jujube tree is a fruit tree in the Rhamnaceae, or Buckthorn Family, that grows very well in S. Florida. Its origin is southern Asia and has been cultivated in China for 4000 years where there are 400 known varieties. It can attain a height of 20′ and 12′ wide with shiny green foliage, and bears a small oval fruit in late November – January. The fruit is eaten fresh when it is still smooth and green. It has the consistency and taste of an apple. It later matures to a purplish-black. It is at this stage when it is dried and becomes chewy with a date-like consistency, giving it the common name of Red Dates. This tree is extremely cold tolerant, surviving temperatures down to about 5 degrees F.
In China, jujube tea can be found along with juice and a vinegar used to make pickles. A wine is also made from the fruit. Chinese medicine uses the fruit to kill internal parasites, promote liver function, and improve the pulmonary system. In Iranian cuisine, the dried fruits are eaten as a snack.
Jujubes were first introduced into the United States in the late 1800’s, but quickly fell out of favor due to the fact that the variety introduced was best suited for drying and not eaten fresh. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that a variety was introduced, and cultivated for eating fresh off the tree. Most recently, in 2007, two more varieties were introduced for fresh fruit. It seems unclear which cultivars are being sold in the nursery trade today, however, it is known that the following named cultivars: ‘Sugar Cane’, ‘Li’, ‘Sherwood’, ‘Chico’, and ‘Honey Jar’ are the best ones for eating fresh, with ‘Honey Jar’ being the smallest and juiciest. ‘Lang’ and ‘Shanxi Li’ are best for drying and eating like dates. One thing is clear though, this tiny fruit has 20x more vitamin C than citrus fruit.
Richard Lyons’ Nursery sells the fresh fruit in season which would be right now, as well as trees in 3gal. and 7gal. containers.
Mandarin Hat or China Hat Plant (Holmskioldia sanguinea) is well named due to the flower shape. It does in fact resemble a hat from the far east. This Asian shrub flowers most heavily between October and May. This is ideal for South Florida since this shrub is an excellent hummingbird nectar source and that is the time when the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is present here.
If you want to maintain the plant’s compactness, do some selective pruning after it flowers. In addition to the red and orange varieties, there is a lesser grown yellow variety. I would say hummingbirds seem to hone in on the red and orange flowers more than the yellow variety.
Richard Lyons Nursery currently has this plant in stock now and it is in full bloom.
It is a good time of year to check in on a winter bloomer that attracts hummingbirds, the Powderpuff shrub (Calliandra). Attaining a height of 6-12′, the red and white varieties only bloom in the winter, while the pink variety blooms year round. Just like the Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow shrub featured a couple of weeks ago, The Powderpuff shrub is aptly named. The flowers consisting of many stamens form a ball resembling a ‘Powderpuff’.
Richard Lyons Nursery has all three varieties for sale.