For the thousands of you who haven’t written in to learn about the Florida Flower Hall of Fame, this scribbling is for you. I have two flowers that I have installed onto the pedestle as Hall of Famers. These are flowers, not bushes. I differentiate by whether or not the stems turn woody. Not sure how regular biologists would handle the distinction. To make my list there are a few requirements. Individually the requirements are not too tough but collectively, the list of candidates dwindle rapidly. That’s why only two made it.
First requirement is that they have nearly constant, very colorful, very profilic blooms. So anything that last only a month or two or six is out of the running from the get go. Second, they must be virtually carefree. If you have to dawdle over them – water, fertilizer, mulch – they’re scrubbed. They have to be tough and survive through floods, droughts, heat, and cold in the essentially barren Florida soil. And finally, they have to self propogate so you only have to plant them once. Self propogate means they either seed themselves or you can break off a stem, stick it in the ground and have it grow a new plant. You have to admit that’s a tough set of criteria.
Two plants made it through the hurdles. One does best in the sun; one does best in the shade. So between the two, you can cover all the bases. The sun lover is called a Periwinkle in Florida – Vinca elsewhere. They come in dozens of colors and shades. Each plant will support loads of flowers almost constantly and they reseed so easily that you just have to look around to see a new seedling and move it to a new spot. If a single plant outgrows it’s particular spot, you can trim it back, stick the clippings in the ground and oila!, a new plant. I never worry about whether or not they’re getting enough or too much water, wonder if they need fertilizer – they don’t- or whether the bugs are eating them. I have to assume they taste bad or something.
The shade lover is, of course, the Impatiens. Everything I said about the periwinkle is true for the Impatiens. It is a little more cold sensitive but in my 4 year experience, because they are planted in shady, sheltered spots, they tend to survive a killing frost. And if the plant does crater, it has dropped enough seeds in the same spot to replicate itself quickly.
With both of these flowers you an plant them directly into the ground or use them in hanging baskets and planters. Both have an incredible range of color selections so you can literally make a one time purchase of the colors you want and then just move the progeny around from spot to spot as they appear to change the look of the landscaping. Start with a couple 18 plant flats filled with a variety of colors and you’re set for life. Try that with your petunias! Some varieties of marigolds come close I will admit, but so far, none I’ve tried reach perfection. I’d love to find one that does since alas, no yellow or orange Periwinkles or Impatiens.