They’re not just for South Florida. Plant tropicals such as ‘Red Velvet’ mandevilla, yellow bells (Tecoma stans), bush allamanda (Allamanda schottii), or peregrina (Jatropha integerrima) in the ground (even in North Florida), and they will flower until late October. Other good choices include firebush (Hamelia patens) and parrot heliconia (Heliconia psittacorum). Tropicals perform well in our heat and humidity. Winter freezes can kill them to the ground, but with a little heavy mulch for winter protection, they can resprout the following spring. You can also grow tropicals in large containers. Bring the pots inside a garage or other protected location on nights that drop below 32 degrees for several hours. Move them back outdoors the rest of the time.
North and Central
• Beautiful lawns--Keep an eye on your sod. As summer rains begin, so can gray leaf spot disease on St. Augustine grass. The disease favors periods of 12 or more hours of moisture or high humidity. Avoid watering the lawn in the evening. Also avoid fertilizing or weed control now, as these practices can increase the severity of the disease. If the disease becomes severe, call a professional lawn-care company to apply effective fungicides such as Insignia or Heritage.
• Crepe myrtles--Plant these stars of summer in full sun for the best flowering. Your choice of selections should depend not only on color but also on the size and form needed. For example, ‘Sioux’ has a very upright, narrow form, whereas ‘Natchez’ forms a broad, rounded tree. Selections such as ‘Acoma,’ ‘Cheyenne,’ and ‘Tonto’ don’t grow taller than 12 feet.
• Annuals--Good ones that will tolerate the heat include purslanes (shown at left), trailing torenias, melampodiums, fanflowers (Scaevola aemula), scarlet sages, ornamental peppers, sun coleus, ‘Brazilian Red Hots’ alternantheras, and Profusion Series zinnias. Central and South
• Oleander care--Ragged or chewed leaves usually indicate damage from oleander caterpillars. If the caterpillars are still clustered together on the affected limbs, just prune out those limbs. If the caterpillars have spread, spray with a Bacillus thuringiensis insecticide, such as Dipel, or drench with Bayer Advanced Tree & Shrub Insect Control.
• Royal poinciana--Plant one of these spectacular flowering trees, and enjoy the masses of red flowers every summer. It’s tolerant of most soil types and is a fast grower, reaching up to 40 feet tall with an even greater spread. It needs full sun to flower well.