Florida Nurserymen announce their 2003 plants of the year


Published: Saturday, February 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 10:52 p.m.
The Florida Nurserymen & Growers Association launched a program in 1998 to promote plants for commercial and residential landscapes.
Criteria to be chosen include good pest resistance, easy maintenance and being fairly easy to propagate.
The idea behind it was to introduce Florida gardeners to plants they may not have considered purchasing before. So to perk up your landscape, give these 2003 winners a try:
  • Stokes aster: The Stokesia laevis grows about a foot tall, and the flower stalk may reach 2 feet. The 2- to 4-inch fringed flowers range in color from deep blue to lavender, pink and white. It blooms for several weeks during late spring and early summer, and is a butterfly attractor. While perennial, it may defoliate when temperatures drop below 24 degrees. Propagation is by division.
    It was named after Dr. Jonathan Stokes, an early 19th century English writer and botanist, who was a friend of Linnaeus' son.
  • Sandpaper vine or Purple Wreath Vine: The Petrea volubilis may be a bit frost tender in North Florida. It is a fast-growing evergreen vine with large, coarse leaves and foot-long racemes of amethyst flowers that resemble wisteria. The flowers lasts a couple of days but the blue calices remain much longer, slowly turning gray.
    It thrives in full sun and tolerates drought once established. It is native to central America, and likes warm and humid conditions. Mulch and use fertilizer for acid plants if your soil is alkaline. It can spread to 35 feet, may be maintained 10 to 15 feet tall and wide.
  • Evergreen paspalum: Crown grass, Paspalum quadrifarium, is a tall (34 inches) ornamental grass that maintains a dark green color all year. When sufficiently watered, the blades are broad; if it gets dry, they roll up and take on a blue-green appearance. It is moderately salt tolerant.
    Native to Uruguay, this attractive bunch grass was introduced through California. It is sometimes known as P. quadrifolium or quadrifolia. It is disturbing to note that it is classified as a noxious weed in Australia.
  • Yesterday-today-tomorrow: The Brunfelsia grandiflora looks like an old-fashioned plant, and is grown in a lot of greenhouses in Europe. It is an evergreen shrub that grows up to 8 feet tall and wide. Masses of flowers are produced all summer, opening purplish blue, fading to light blue and then turning white - with all three colors on the plant at the same time. Prune after flowering for bushiness. The berries are poisonous to pets.
  • Beautyberry: Callicarpa americana is a native, deciduous shrub that thrives in shade, but flowers and fruits more prolifically in the sun. It grows between 4 to 7 feet tall and wide. The small pinkish-white flowers appear at leaf axils and are attractive to butterflies. Showier are the clusters of brilliant violet to magenta fruits that replace them and encircle the stems at 3- to 6-inch intervals.
  • `Little Gem' magnolia: This is compact version of the Southern magnolia, growing 30-40 feet tall and 10-15 feet wide. The dark green leaves are rusty brown on the undersides. Fragrant white blooms 6-8 inches across appear in spring and then emerge sporadically through late summer.
  • Schefflera `Luseane': The tight growth and miniature leaves of Schefflera arboricola `Luseane' is best used indoors in our zone, but farther south, it can be used as an outdoor shrub or low hedge. Its slow growth also makes it suitable for training and for bonsai.
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