Sunday, December 5, 2021

Autumn Colors in Southwest Florida



Mike Malloy

Fall, also known as football season, has arrived. And that means some of the best weather of the year is right around the corner for South Florida. “Chamber of Commerce” weather, as we like to call it in Naples. While our friends and relatives up north are battening down the hatches in anticipation of winter, soon we’ll be flinging open our windows and lanais.

One of the best known and first-to-bloom vines this time of year in Naples is the Florida Flame Vine. Look for a blaze of brilliant orange color on Goodlette-Frank Road, just north of Golden Gate Parkway. A personal favorite, and very popular with plant enthusiasts, is the Dombeya Seminole. The reason for its popularity will be apparent when you see its large raspberry-colored blooms, which will grace your yard well into spring. Speaking of Dombeyas, be sure to

Florida Flame Vine.

Florida Flame Vine.

check out the magnificent Dombeya Wallichii Tree, which features downward hanging huge pink balls. If I had my way, you would see them both on every block in South Florida.

Panama Rose is another great fall bloomer that produces a flush of pretty pink flower throughout the winter I also like Euphorbia leucocephala, which features tiny white flowers that, when clumped together, resemble a big snowball. It smells great, too. Euphorbia leucocephala had been a challenging plant to find in recent years, but since being propagated, should be in good supply now. If an extraordinary orange-blooming shrub is on your must-have list, you can’t go wrong with Lion’s Tail. It’s a unique winter-blooming shrub and a magnet for butterflies and hummingbirds.

For a luxuriously fragrant garden, nothing compares to the intensely scented Ylang-Ylang Tree. You and your neighbors will know as soon as this elegant plant is

Bougainvillea. PHOTOS by MIKE MALLOY

Bougainvillea. PHOTOS by MIKE MALLOY

in bloom. Petrea vines (Queen’s Wreath) will also bloom repeatedly for most of the winter, producing numerous sprays of gorgeous purplish-blue flowers. And, let’s hear it for the always popular Dwarf Poincianas. You can always count on a stunning display of either iconic red or yellow flowers from Dwarf Poincianas. Cape Honeysuckle will soon be putting on an exuberant seasonal display of orange, red, and yellow flower power. The only Frangipani variety that does not go deciduous is the Pudica. It features profusely blooming winter white flowers and makes a big statement.

For a tree that looks like it’s bursting with yellow fireworks, check out Cassia. It has, unfortunately, been plagued by a fungus problem for the past few years. Let’s hope this season’s Cassia has acquired some resistance. With the return of fall temperatures, expect Firespike to begin blooming soon. It serves as the official



welcome wagon for returning South Florida Ruby Throated hummingbirds. Firespike comes in a variety of colors such as red, pink and purple, and delivers spectacular color during the winter months. The only exception is the native variety, which is almost totally deciduous in the winter. Native Firebush features vivid red flowers, while the Dwarf and Glabra varieties feature reddish-orange flowers. The latter is the best choice for winter color, and preferred two to one by overwintering hummingbirds.

And, of course, there are hardy Bougainvilleas. Available in a rainbow of colors, they are literally year-round blooming machines. Remember, the color is in the bracts, and the tiny white flowers are inside the bracts.

Here are a few more top-performing fall/winter bloomers you should check out: Coral Vine, Congea tomentosa, Shrimp Plants, Sweet Almond and Asian Snow.

Now, put down that TV remote. Pick up your gardening gloves. And, let’s kick-off a new gardening season.




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