Saturday, October 16, 2021

Expert on Unusual Plants and Planters Speaks to Calusa Garden Club

The Calusa Garden Club had a full day at their November 11th meeting, starting the morning with preparation for their annual Plant Sale and Exchange. Members brought one plant to sell and one plant to exchange. A horticulture workshop presented by Dona Kay and Opi DeFalco set the tone for a busy morning.

Maria Schoenfelder, a Master Gardener with University of Florida/IFAS Extension came prepared to talk about Container Gardening with Unusual Plants and Planters. According to Maria, a garden is any place you can put a plant, even in the crook of a tree. She reminded the roomful of gardeners that “we are in a little microcosm here in Southwest Florida – that the only state similar to Florida is Hawaii. No one else is far south and no one else has our climate. Hawaii is the only place that grows the same plants that we do.”

Maria challenged the gardeners to use unusual nontraditional containers and unusual places.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep plants with similar needs together.
  • Overwatering is the number one killer of plants.
  • Florida friendly plants always do the best.
  • A mass planting of the same type makes a big splash.

In term of containers – Maria urged the gardeners to use non-degradable fillers in large planter to save on soil and to keep planters lighter. Rather than fill a large planter with rocks or heavy objects, Maria suggested using items that are found in recycle bins, such as plastic milk containers, cans and plastic, as well as glass bottles.

If you are using clay pots, they are porous and are going to use water more often; plastic container holds water but make sure they have drainage holes. Ceramic pots hold water and add color, but they do get hot and tend to overheat. When grouping plants in a planter, make sure they have the same needs for light and water.

“Read the label,” Maria reminded the gardeners. In practical terms, when a label says “Full Sun” it does not mean South Florida sun. Always remember that Florida sun in the summer is very strong.

Maria urged her fellow gardeners to use non-traditional containers in the garden, saying it is ok to have one funky item. And when planting in the landscape to think of height, color and visual to make a statement.

Think vertical if planting with limited planting space. Look up and think tall – use a ladder as a trellis with pots securely fastened – as long as the container has soil and drainage, plants will do well. If you are a lazy gardener, you might consider orchids, bromeliads and tillandsia. They do not need soil to survive. You can tuck the orchids and bromeliads in between the limbs of your trees or tie the orchids to the trunks of palm trees.

For more information on the Calusa Garden Club, visit the website at

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