Options are almost endless, but these go-to plants will enhance any landscape Interested in gardening but don’t know how to get started? Here are five plants recommended by University of South Florida Botanical Gardens that will get your hands dirty and make passersby green with envy. Best of all, they thrive in Hillsborough County weather and soils:
Firebush (hamelia patens). What’s not to love about firebush? It’s a Florida native, has bright red tubular flowers, and is a favorite of the zebra longwing, the state butterfly. It flourishes in full or partial sun, and is easy to grow. Firebush can reach more than a dozen feet in height, but will come back nicely if trimmed in springtime to between five and eight feet.
Tropical almond (aloysia virgata). This small tree grows quickly, is an evergreen, and has a lovely fragrance. The blooms are not showy, but their pleasing scent floats past on a breeze, without overwhelming. The tree’s branches are arranged in tiers, and its leaves turn red, purple, or yellow before dropping in winter.
Pentas (pentas lanceolate). Everyone should have pentas in their yard. It blooms constantly and seldom has problems. Butterflies love it. Prune it back to fill out the plant, or to keep it at a preferred height. Don’t be misled by hybrids that are more annuals and have no value for butterflies. Stick to pentas lanceolata.
Croton. This hearty plant adds gorgeous, year-round color to any yard. It seldom has problems with insects or diseases, and can serve either as a specimen or foundation plant. Either way, its bold, variegated leaves draw admiring looks.
Hibiscus. This plant’s large, colorful blossoms add a tropical flair to any Florida landscape. Hibiscus blooms throughout the year, and the blossoms are available in a variety of colors and shapes. The plant is sensitive to cold weather, but temperatures must drop severely to kill them. It’s worth the effort to protect hibiscus in an occasional freeze.