By William C. Welch
Make your garden come alive with plants that attract these elegant winged creatures. Start with a favorite such as butterfly bush with beautiful flowers that both you and the butterflies will enjoy. Try a firebush (Hamelia patens). Although it is native to South Florida, firebush does well in North Florida also, returning each spring after winter freezes to a height of about 5 feet with an almost equal spread. Butterflies also love pentas, peregrinas (Jatropha integerrima), zinnias, cosmos, Cape plumbagos, verbenas, and hibiscus. Add dill, parsley, fennel, citrus, and milkweed (Asclepias sp.) as host plants for butterfly larvae to feed on. Create a place for butterflies to obtain moisture and minerals by sinking a shallow pan in the soil, filling it with coarse sand, and keeping it moist with a soaker hose or drip emitter. Finally, put a flat stone in a spot where they can bask in the sunshine when not visiting your flowers.
• Lawns―If you didn’t feed your grass in August, do it now. For centipede lawns, use a low-nitrogen fertilizer such as Pennington Lawn Winterizer 5-5-25. For St. Augustine and other grasses, use a no-phosphorus fertilizer such as Lesco Professional Turf Fertilizer 15-0-15 or Scotts Lawn Pro Fall Lawn Fertilizer 24-0-10.
North and Central
- Flowerbeds―As the night temperatures begin moderating, plant petunias, dianthus, nemesias, twinspurs, snapdragons, and chrysocephalums. These annuals will provide color throughout the fall and the milder periods of winter and then explode with bursts of color to brighten your spring. Add some fall-blooming perennials such as Cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis), Philippine violet (Barleria cristata), Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha), and cigar flower (Cuphea micropetala).
- Salad Garden―Select a sunny area, and seed some carrots, radishes, arugula, and mesclun. Keep the soil moist so the seeds will germinate. Set out transplants of lettuce (shown at above, left) for an instant garden.
- Divide Plants―Clumps of daylilies can be separated carefully with a garden fork after they are dug. Separate amaryllis bulblets by hand or with a long, sharp knife. Replant divisions 18 inches apart.
Central and South
- Frangipani―Plant one of these easy-to-grow trees (Plumeria sp.) that flower from April through November. The large leaves are up to 18 inches long, and flower color varies with species, from rose to white to yellow (shown at right). Pick a sunny-to-slightly shaded location that will allow the tree to grow up to 25 feet tall and wide. Most types drop their leaves during the cooler winter weather, so consider this when you decide on placement in the landscape. Avoid heavy fertilization, as too much nitrogen decreases cold hardiness.
- Herbs―Mint, rosemary, and basil love the heat. These herbs can be grown easily in containers. Just be sure to use a pot with adequate drainage and quality, well-drained potting soil.