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Growing Roses in Florida
Roses have long been admired for their fragrance and symbolic, beautiful flowers. In Florida these lovely plants will bloom year-round, making them a wonderful addition to any garden. The key to growing roses successfully in Florida is to select a rose variety that has demonstrated superior pest tolerance and landscape performance in Florida gardens.
The ‘Knock-Out’ series of roses and the ‘Drift Rose’ series are easy to grow and disease resistant. These low maintenance roses are shrub like and produce an open, informal bloom in repeat cycles of about every five weeks throughout the year.
Hybrid tea, grandiflora, floribunda and polyantha are rose varieties that produce an assortment of lovely, florist quality blooms. Certain cultivars of these roses will perform very well in Florida when they have been grafted during nursery production onto a hardy, proven rootstock such as the favored Fortuniana rootstock. The Fortuniana rootstock’s nematode resistant, extensive root system has successfully adapted to our soil and is a superior rootstock for providing the water and nutrients necessary for the success and long term survival of these hybrid roses.
Successful rose plants begin by selecting the right cultivar. Secondly, the rose must be planted in a location which will provide it with at least six hours of daily sunlight. It should be planted with enriched, high quality soil and the root ball should be one to two inches above grade. Roses require regular watering and soil with good drainage. They will perform best with monthly fertilization, preferably with a controlled release fertilizer containing microelements and formulated for roses.
Most importantly, when gardening with these lovely plants, “take time to smell the roses”.
Before You Plant
These steps apply to all large plants. (Some of this information was obtained from Bachman’s Planting Guide.)
• Choose a plant fits the site.
• Look up! Determine if the mature plant will interfere with power/phone lines or anything else overhead.
• Locate wiring, pipes or utilities before digging by calling Sunshine State One Call at telephone number #811.
• Handle plants carefully and them by grasping the container, NOT the branches or trunks.
• Prune out any broken branches and remove any tags on the plant.
How to Install Your New Plants
Dig a wide (at least 50% larger than the root ball), shallow hole for your new plant. PLANT THE ROOT BALL approximately 10% ABOVE GRADE. Place the dirt from the hole around the rootball, NOT on top of the new planting. Even one inch of dirt on top of the new root ball can suffocate the plant.
If plantings are made during the dry months or at sites without irrigation, it may be advantageous to create a soil “dam” around your new plant that can hold water. Once the plant is established or the rainy season arrives, the dam can be raked away so water will slope away from the new plant.
It is NOT necessary to pull the roots away from the rootball before planting. Disturbing the roots can cause stress to the plant and defoliate or even kill the new plant. If a plant is rootbound, make several shallow vertical cuts on the sides of the rootball before planting. Significantly rootbound plants may not attain optimal growth. We strive to carry only “fresh” plants recently acquired from the grower.
New plantings will need to be treated with care and attention. We recommend that these plants should be watered daily for the first month; every other day for the next thirty days; and every third day for the following month. Plants should be carefully monitored during the first year to make sure that they are not stressed by lack of water as they become established. Establishment may take several months depending on the kind of plant and environmental conditions. ALL plants will need regular fertilization.
What Is A Sustainable Plant or Landscape?
Sustainable plants and landscapes are what we call, SmartPlants and SmartScapes.
Florida’s unique climate of intense rain, heat and humidity, followed often by drought and cold create an often daunting challenge for those wishing to create successful gardens and landscapes.
An key objective of Riverland Nursery is to provide the knowledge needed for our customers to select plants that will flourish with minimal water and care. These include native Florida plants, as well as non-natives that have the characteristics needed for long-term success.
Many plants that we showcase and recommend are wildlife attractants. These are plants that attract various types of birds, hummingbirds and butterflies that can make your garden and landscape an educational and joyful experience.
Make sure to visit our Cold Tolerant Plants and Florida Native Plant gardens to see the large variety of these hardy, sustainable, and beautiful plants.
South Florida has experienced significant development in the last decade which has put pressure on our amount of available water in our aquafirs that are used for irrigation and drinking. Approximately 50% of the water that is consumed is for irrigation. In addition, we have had lower rainfall amounts than normal over the last few years. The result has been chronic water shortages to various degrees.
Download a great guide with some water saving tips here.
Most people are unaware that Palm Beach was three weeks away from running out of fresh water earlier this summer! It is critical for the future of our communities, that we design "smarter" landscapes which use less turf , grouping and using plants that require less water, and using more efficient irrigation systems such as drip.
Planting zones, also called hardiness zones, divide the U.S., Mexico and Canada into 11 areas. Each of the gardening zones is based on a 10 degree Fahrenheit difference in the average annual MINIMUM temperature.
Planting Zones 1 and 2a, are the coldest and represent Canada. The U.S. falls within zones 2 through 10. Hawaii and Mexico are represented by zone 11, the hottest score.
Suitable hardiness means a plant can be expected to grow in the zone’s temperature extremes, as determined by the LOWEST average annual temperature.
As an example: If a plant is recommended for a range of zones 5 – 9, the plant is suitable for growing in zones 5,6,7,8 and 9. The Planting Zone chart should be used only as a guideline to help select the right plant for your location. The Planting Zone map is updated every 10 years and the new map will be published this year. It is likely that the zones will be moved downward to reflect the cooler weather that we have experienced the last several years.
How is your soil?
Southwest Florida soils are generally sandy. Sandy soil is ideal for plant success in south Florida. because of the amount of rain that we receive during the summer months. Most of our plants like "dry feet" and many will not prosper or will even die if drainage is poor. You generally do not need to amend the soil if it is primarily sand.
Compacted soil with rocks and shells drain poorly. If you have these soil conditions you may benefit from a good soil amendment. We have had excellent results at the nursery and in our landscape projects using Fafard's Organic Soil Growers Conditioner. This dark, rich composted pine bark holds moisture, breaks up hard, dense soil, and stimulates root growth. Mix it half and with the existing soil.
Growers of citrus and other edible plants usually use containers containing rich, fertile soil. These plants may benefit from using a soil amendment when they are installed, and may experience less transplant stress as the roots become extablished into the existing soil. Other soil amendment products can be used such as worm castings, and manure. Remember, it is important to mix these amendment products with the existing soil. Too rich of soil can create significant stress on newly installed plants.
The Importance of Plant Nutrition
Healthy plants spring from rich soil. Naturally fertile soils are found in other parts of the United States but most of the soil in SW Florida is made of sand, seasoned with lime rock, and peppered with shells. If it looks like it used to be the ocean floor, your are right. Plant growth and success is greatly influenced by the application of proper nutrients to our soil.
The amount of "data" and advice on plant nutrition is dizzying and often contradictory. This is a summary of various articles by experts on Florida plant nutrition that we hope will be easy to understand and provide great results.
The amount of salt that you put on your steak and how you like it done is strictly a matter of taste. But plants don't have opinions, they have needs. The following describes the nutritional needs of plants and how gardeners can provide them.
Fertilizers and Nutrients
One of the most common questions asked by our customers is about what kind of fertilizer to use, how to keep their plants healthy when they are away during the summer, and the benefits of using organic vs. inorganic fertilizers. This is a subject that has overwhelming amounts of information available, much of it contradictory.
SW Florida soils are unique in that they are generally sandy, alkaline, and very nutrient poor. Add in our heavy summer rains and regular irrigation, and you can imagine how soil amendments and fertilizers leach into groundwater and waterways. Most of us are from “somewhere else” and are used to different soils, nutritional needs, and fertilizers.
Nutrient deficiencies are much more easily prevented than corrected once they occur. The correction of nutrient deficiencies in palm trees can take as long as two to three years for some elements. Florida’s soils have very low capacities to retain these elements in the root zone during periods of heavy rainfall or irrigation.
Unwanted Garden Pests
Probably the most frequently asked questions from our customers are about insect activities in their gardens. There are many good online websites about pests and how to control them. This is a summary of several informative articles distributed by the University of FL, IFAS Extension. We will list various websites at the end of this article to allow those who wish more information.
Pests of ornamental plants may be divided into five groups according to the way they damage plants.
Visitors to Riverland Nursery are amazed at the number of butterflies in our gardens. Creating a landscape or garden that attracts and nurtures butterflies is a rewarding and exciting experience. In order to successfully attract butterflies and have them stay in the garden, both nectar and larval food plants are needed. The colorful nectar flowers provice the energy the adults require to live and thrive. The butterflies lay their eggs on the larval host plants and when the caterpillars hatch , they proceed to eat the host plant. (The plant may look a little ragged for awhile.) Each butterfly species requires a specific set of larval plants. Caterpillars are picky eaters, subsequently, planting a variety of larval and nectar plants is essential for creating a garden that attracts a variety of butterflies.
Plant some nectar plants and the butterflies will visit your yard. Add the larval plants and the butterflies will stick around and raise families in your yard. Some of our favorite nectar plants are: Penta, Jatropha, Firebush, Lantana, Blanket Flower, Dune Sunflower, Tampa Verbena, Red Firespike, Coral Honeysuckle and Fiddlewood. Important larval plants are: Wild Lime (Giant Swallowtail), Mexican Milkweed (Monarch), Sweet Bay Magnolia (Tiger Swallowtail), Corky Stem Passionvine (Zebra heliconia), Wild Petunia (Buckeye), Dutchman’s Pipevine (Polydamas Swallowtail) and Dill, Fennel, Parsley (Black Swallowtail).
For even more information about Butterfly Gardening visit the North American Butterfly Association's website or consider using this book as a great reference to get you started: Florida Butterfly Gardening By Marc C. Minno & Maria Minno
Using Trees for Energy Conservation
It is estimated that the potential value of “low energy” landscapes can result in a 20-30% reduction in energy consumption. Presently, residential energy use in Florida accounts for 23% of the total energy budget.
A major benefit of landscaping is to limit solar radiation on windows and exterior walls. In South Florida during the five-month period from mid-May to mid-September, temperatures exceed human comfort levels. Trees are the most effective form of plant material for limiting solar radiation. Proper placement should ensure maximum shading. Tree shade can be most effective on the surfaces of east and west sides of residences. Deciduous trees can be used effectively during winter months (Nov – February) when the warming effect of the sun can be beneficial.*
Visit us to view and evaluate the best tree options for your home.
*Information courtesy of the Dept. of Environmental Horticulture, IFAS, University of Florida.
Creating a Bird Habitat
Planting a garden or landscape that will attract birds to your yard is as simple as providing them with food, water, shelter and nesting spaces. Some birds eat berries and fruit, some eat nuts, some eat seeds, and some eat insects. Be sure not to use insecticides in your bird habitat, as they will destroy an important food source for the birds. The following lists include Florida native trees and shrubs known to attract a variety of birds to Florida landscapes. Most of these plants are growing in Riverland's demonstration gardens and are available for purchase.
Salt Tolerant Plants
Many homeowners in Southwest Florida live very near the Gulf of Mexico and other places with elevated salinity levels which often adversely affect plant success. Wells that have experienced some degree of saltwater intrusion can also present planting challenges. It may be useful to test your well water and to take soil samples. We have found that many retail pool stores will test water at no charge. Non-potable or greywater usually does not present a alinity issue.
We are often asked about plants which may be poisonous to pets, livestock or horses. There are several listings of toxic plants available online but they are lengthy and encompass many plants that aren’t grown in SW Florida.
This is a list of plants that are considered poisonous to dogs and cats to some degree that are found in our area. We have compiled this list from the www.petpoisonhelpline.com and the ASCPA websites. This is NOT a comprehensive list and should be used only as an initial and cursory source of information. If you believe that your pet has ingested a poisonous plant, call your veterinarian or your local emergency vet immediately. Asterisks (*) denote a higher degree of toxicity.
The degree of clinical signs of ingesting poison are often dependent on the species, age, breed, or size of your pet; and how much of the poisonous plant ingested.
Citrus and other edible plants are among the fastest growing areas at nurseries and garden centers. Homeowners realize the desirability of having access to various citrus cultivars throughout the year. Edible plants are generally not low maintenance and we hope that some of this information will be a good starting point to select citrus best suited to your needs and obtaining optimal growing success.
When and How to Plant Citrus
Containerized citrus trees can be planted throughout the year. Pick a spot with 50% or more sun on well-drained soil, preferably where it will have protection in winter from cold north and west winds. Avoid septic tanks and drain lines. Clear away any weeds or grass. If you are planting where another tree has been recently removed, you may have problems with fungal diseases spread from the old, decaying roots to the newly planted tree; termites may move from old wood to destroy the roots of the newly planted tree. Minimize these risks by removing the remaining old roots and debris.
Have water available. Dig the hole larger than the container. Carefully remove tree from the container. Inspect your roots for evidence of pot binding, a mass of roots growing in a spiral around the root ball, or J-rooting, horizontal growth of the main roots. Either of these conditions can affect future growth. If roots are pot bound, make several vertical slashes through the root ball, or carefully remove obviously crowded roots to allow the potting soil and roots to interact with the soil of your planting site. It may be easier to cut some of the roots with pruning shears and to pull them gently until they protrude from the ball. If roots are not pot bound, don't cut them. Roots should be moist before planting.
The soil and tree are likely to settle. Plant the root ball above the existing grade an inch or so. Backfill around the plant to half-fill the hole and press the soil down to remove air pockets. Water the hole thoroughly and allow the soil to settle. Backfill again to near the top of the hole, and firm the soil around the tree. Excessive mulch should NOT be used.