Ralph Anderson, Van Chaplin
Save money by planting the tubers of these tropical plants in partial shade to full sun. If you are placing the tubers in very sandy soil, mix in some organic matter such as compost or peat to help retain moisture. Water several times a week to help plants get established. Too busy for tubers? Need quick color? Purchase transplants in 6-inch pots for an instant effect. Foliage colors range from almost pure white to variations of rose and red. Fancy-leaf types have large, heart-shaped foliage. Good selections for full sun include ‘Florida Sweetheart’ and ‘White Queen.’ Lance-leaf types include ‘Pink Symphony’ (pictured) and ‘White Wing.’ Good strap-leaf forms include ‘Red Frill’ and ‘Pink Gem.’ Feed plants every two months with a fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro Liquid All Purpose Plant Food 12-4-8.
Tropical Flowers―Freeze danger is past, and even North Floridians can enjoy tropical blooms from now through fall with shrubs such as bush allamanda, yellow bells (Tecoma stans), and firebush (Hamelia patens). Plant parrot heliconia (Heliconia psittacorum) for lush foliage and exotic flowers. Selections such as ‘Andromeda’ and ‘Lady Di’ can be grown in full sun or partial shade. Cover fences with pink-flowering mandevilla and yellow-flowering allamanda vines.
Lawns―If you didn’t feed your lawn in March, apply a phosphorus-free fertilizer such as Pennington Centipede & St. Augustine Lawn Food 18-0-18 this month. Spread the fertilizer at the rate of 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Water in the fertilizer with ¼ inch of water.
Vegetable Gardens―If you have a sunny space, seed snap beans, pole beans, lima beans, okra, sweet corn, Southern peas, summer squashes, and melons. Set out transplants of tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, and peppers.
Fragrant Blooms―Perfume your garden this spring by adding gardenias. Some of our favorites include ‘Kleim’s Hardy,’ ‘August Beauty,’ ‘Mystery,’ ‘First Love,’ ‘Radicans,’ ‘Frostproof,’ and ‘Jubilation.’
Flowering Lawn―Perennial (or ornamental) peanut is an excellent alternative to lawn grass on areas such as slopes and medians that won’t receive much foot traffic. Planted in full sun, ornamental peanut continually produces cheerful yellow blooms and spreads rapidly to cover the ground.
Showy Shrub―Plant a Brazilian red cloak (Megaskepasma erythrochlamys) for spectacular red flower plumes from winter to spring. Give it light shade, and expect it to grow 4 to 5 feet tall.