Landscape trees and shrubs
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Trees and shrubs common in Florida landscape
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Starburst Bush
(Clerodendrum quadriloculare)

Family - Verbenaceae
Starburst bush produces pink to white flowers in rounded clusters that can be up to 12 inches across. In addition to winter flowering habit this plant is notable for its foliage, the 6 - 12 inch leaves are medium to dark purplish-green on top, purple on the bottom and present a striking color contrast in the landscape.

Zones 9-11. Protect from freezing. The Starburst bush needs full sun for best flowering, although it will bloom in partial shade the flowers will not be as numerous and the bloom period will not last as long. The plant also gets "leggy" in the shade as the branches spread out trying to find more sunlight.

Starburst bush needs plenty of water to get established and prefers moist, rich soil, once established it has a medium amount of drought tolerance and requires minimal pruning to shape as desired. Not salt tolerant.

Starburst clerodendrum Starburst Clerodendrum - Underside of leaf

This plant, like other Clerodendrum species tends to be invasive, producing "suckers" from the roots - so it's a good idea to plant it in a location where these can be reached and removed.

This makes a good container plant for the porch, deck or patio. Easily propagated from cuttings or rooted suckers.

Dahoon Holly
(Ilex cassine L.)

Family - Aquifoliaceae
This native Holly grows as a small tree or as a large shrub & is equally attractive to Florida wildlife as it is to humans. Migratory and native birds & small mammals feast on the profuse red, or sometimes yellow-orange berries. The berries persist on the plant after spring flowering throughout winter, adding a vibrant splash of color set against the dark green leaves.

Zones 5 - 10 Dahoon Grows as an evergreen shrub or small tree, taller than wide and capable of reaching 40 feet, more commonly seen at 20-30 feet with an open, airy habit of growth and overall usually takes on a somewhat irregular pyramidal shape.

Dahoon hollyDahoon holly leaf and berries

This plant likes full sun to partially shaded conditions, being a wetland specie it is excellent for wet or periodically flooded locations, yet has a moderate amount of drought tolerance. Has moderate salt resistance & will grow near brackish bodies of water.

Dahoon holly can be grown from seed or from cuttings and layering.

Note: Male and female flowers are on separate plants, only female plants produce berries & there must be a male plant nearby to do so. Flowers in the spring are small, white and inconspicuous. Can be trained as a tree or shrub, used for screens, specimen plants, small loose groups, or a large potted plant.

(Chrysobalanus icaco)

Family - Chrysobalanaceae
Coastal swamps, coastal scrub, freshwater swamps & cypress domes, moist to wet woodlands.

Cocoplum flowers and fruitCocoplum hedge Cocoplum leaf and ripe fruit

Coco-plum is a native shrub or small tree to about 16 feet in height. Leaves are dark green & shiny above , lighter green on lower surface, oval to round, alternately arranged in paired ranks with entire margins. New leaves are reddish in color.

Two variations are of Coco-plum are found in the wild, one is more horizontal in form to about 3 feet tall & more often found growing close to the coast. The other has a more upright form of a small rounded canopy tree or tall shrub.

Flowers are white, produced in clusters & have a delicate fragrance. Fruit is fleshy drupe that ranges in color from white to pinkish or purple, containing a single seed or pit.

Zones - 10, 11 Coco-plum is widely used as a hedge plant or screen, either clipped or informal, and also as an accent or specimen tree.

Propagation is by seed or hardwood cuttings grown under mist. Full sun, moist acidic to slightly alkaline soils. Coco-plum has moderate salt spray & drought tolerance.

Duranta 'Gold Mound'
(Duranta erecta)

Family - Verbenaceae
Golden dewdrop, Pigeon berry, Skyflower.

Native status is undetermined. The genus Duranta is estimated to have between 17 and 36 species spread throughout the world, while some consider Duranta erecta to be a Florida Keys native others differ, believing it to have been imported. There are some species of Duranta that do originate in the Caribbean and Tropical Americas.

Duranta used in a border plantingDuranta shrubs lavender flowersduranta berries

Duranta is commonly grown as a border or low hedge shrub, the new growth is bright lime - yellow to yellow and provides a nice contrast amid darker greens in the landscape. There are alsoRelatively easy to maintain, this plant is widely used in both commercial and home landscapes as well as municipal projects.

Zones 9 - 12, not freeze hardy. Height 4 - 5 feet, multi stemmed shrub, prefers warm to hot weather and is moderately drought tolerant once established, grows in a soil range from slightly alkaline to acidic, well drained sand or loam is best.

Mature stems tend to be a bit thorny, flowers range from Lavender and blue to white and the showy clusters of golden yellow fruit are reportedly poisonous if ingested. Duranta is attractive to butterflies and birds. Susceptible to caterpillar infestations

Crape Myrtle
(Lagerstroemia indica)

Family - Lythraceae
Crape Myrtle is used extensively in the Florida landscape. There are many cultivars, colors and sizes from 1-2 ft shrubs to full sized trees.

In addition to being prolific bloomers, Crape Myrtles have attractive exfoliating bark and fall leaf color. Available hybrids range in height from less than 12 inches to 40 feet tall. Flower colors include a range of reds & pinks, whites, purples & lavenders.

Pink Crape Myrtle flowersPurple Crape Myrtle flowersSalmon colored Crape myrtle flowers

Zones 7-9, To 30 feet high with an equal or slightly narrower spread. Prefers moist, well drained soil and although it likes water, has a moderate drought tolerance once well established. New plants should be watered regularly to avoid drying out.

Flowers are produced on the current years growth in spring and summer, so pruning in early spring just before the new growth starts won't stifle flower production. Prune to shape, remove "suckers". Deadhead old flowers/fruit to extend bloom time.

Pests include aphids and the resulting sooty mold, some developed varieties have a increased resistance to mold. Fruit is a brown capsule that splits open at maturity releasing seeds. Volunteers sprout up freely if conditions are favorable. Crape Myrtle can be propagated from cuttings or seed.

Dwarf Yaupon Holly
(Ilex vomitoria)

Family - Aquifoliaceae
Also known as Schillings Dwarf Holly

A compact, slow growing and naturally mounding shrub normally grows to a height of four to six feet & can have a spread of six feet. Dwarf Yaupon Holly is an excellent choice for low, formal hedges, foundation plantings or it can be used as a tall ground cover when planted on three to five foot centers.

This plant is very similar to Dwarf Yaupon 'Nana', another cultivar of this native Holly. Schillings Dwarf has slightly smaller leaves and stature. Very often pruned into topiary shapes

Dwarf Yaupon Holly shaped to the landscape needsDwarf Yaupon Holly(Ilex vomitoria)

Zones - 7 through 10, this holly has a slow to moderate rate of growth. Full sun to light shade is best, not to fussy about soil composition, will grow in slightly alkaline to acidic soil pH. Tolerant of drought, salt air and a moderate amount of salt in the soil. When pruning, care should be taken to keep the lower branches slightly longer than the upper ones to help prevent the lower ones from being shaded out by the uppers.

(Codiaeum variegatum)

Family - Euphorbiaceae
Croton shrubs come in an amazing array of leaf shape & color combinations. There are at least 40 distinct leaf shapes and countless named varieties, with new combinations seemingly being developed continuously.

Croton shrubCroton shrub

Needless to say Croton is a very popular landscape shrub & house plant in central and southern Florida. Native to Malaysia, the Pacific islands and northern Australia, Croton is cultivated throughout warm climates worldwide & is available in sizes ranging from dwarf to a small tree.

Zones 10-11, Croton likes high humidity and warm temperatures. Frost or cold dry wind will cause leaf drop. Not drought tolerant, slight salt tolerance, likes slightly moist, well drained soil and strong light to full sun. Shaded plants will not develop good color and will grow weak.

Pests - Scale, Thrips, Mites. Root rot is a problem if soil is too wet. Croton should be pruned back hard in spring to force growth from the lower branches. Easily propagated from 4 - 12 inch green cuttings or by air layering.

(Hamelia patens)

Family - Rubiaceae

Large native shrub that can be found in open woodlands, and near the coast on barrier islands in hammocks & shell mounds.

Firebush can reach 12 - 15 feet in height with an equal spread. Bright red to orange-yellow, 1 to 1 1/2 inch long tubular flowers are produced year-round in frost free areas.

Firebush shrubClose-up image of Firebush flowers

Leaves are simple, margins entire, arranged in whorls commonly in sets of three or there may be as many as seven leaves per node. Elliptic to ovate leaves are covered with fine red hairs when young. Firebush leaf margins, veins & petioles (leaf stems) are usually yellow to red, adding to the overall attractiveness of this pretty plant.

Firebush is suited to most landscape applications - as a specimen or accent plant, in informal border / hedge plantings or in groups, an attention getter that also attracts many types of wildlife. Hummingbirds & butterflies love the flowers, and many birds dine on the fleshy berries, both of which are usually present year-round.

Zones 8-11, not salt tolerant - propagation is by fresh seed or cuttings, fast growing plant. Firebush will grow in shade to full sun, although the best leaf color, flowering & fruiting are obtained in full sun. Shaded specimens tend to get leggy. Soil may be acidic to slightly alkaline and of any composition as long as it is well drained.

Firebush is moderately drought tolerant once established, and actually flowers best without much fertilizer.

Crown of Thorns
(Euphorbia milii)

Family - Euphorbiacea
Native to Madagascar, this thorny sprawling shrub can grown to nearly five feet tall with an equal spread. There are at least two dozen cultivars available, with mature heights ranging from 1 foot up to the 5 foot size already mentioned.

This shrub/groundcover is also called the Christ Plant or Christ Thorn because it is supposedly the plant that was used for the "Crown of Thorns" worn by Jesus during the Crucifixion.

Red Crown-of-thornsYellow flower crown-of-thorns plant

Originally introduced more than 30 years ago the Crown of Thorns is enjoying a new found popularity due to the current demand for low maintenance landscape plants, as it is both drought and salt tolerant.

Zones 9 - 11, prefers full sun but will take partial shade. Protect from frost & freezing temperatures. Should be planted in well drained, sandy soil.

Related to the Poinsettia, as a member of the Spurge family (Euphorbiaceae) the milky sap is a skin irritant and all parts of this plant are poisonous if ingested.

Leaves are arranged in a spiral fashion at the tips of the stems, the stems are armed with 1/2 to 1'' long spines. Flowers are small and yellow, subtended by the colorful bracts that may be red, yellow, white or salmon, depending on the cultivar. Blooms year-round in South Florida.

Although it is a slow grower, the Crown of Thorns shrub is virtually maintenance free once established, requiring no watering except during extended periods of severe drought. Fertilizing lightly once or twice during spring and summer will encourage flower production.

Overwatering & over fertilizing are the biggest threats to this plants wellbeing, it should not be planted where it receives regular watering from irrigation systems. Smaller hybrids are suitable for ground covers, otherwise used for borders, mass & group plantings, low growing hedges and as a container plant.

Floss-Silk Tree
(Chorisia speciosa)

Family - Bombacaceae
A native of South America, this deciduous tree is not very "huggable" as the trunk and branches are covered with many sharp, stout thorns. It is definitely an attention getter in the landscape however, with clusters of showy pink & white flowers.

The Floss-silk tree is very fast growing when young, under ideal conditions it can add up to 5 feet of growth during a single growing season! As the tree ages its growth slows and trunks often become bulbous near the base.

Pink and white flowers of this tree have a yellow throatFloss-Silk trunk and branches are covered with thornsFloss-silk tree

Leaves are alternate, palmately compound & the leaflets have serrate margins. Bark is thin, green or sometimes grey. The fruit is a large roundish pod, up to 12 inches long.

Floss-silk grows in zones 9b-11, can reach a height of 50 feet with an equal spread, is tolerant of a wide range of soil pH and compositions as long as it's well drained, and has very good drought tolerance.

Not salt tolerant and should be kept back 15-20 feet from sidewalks and other structures so surface roots don't pose a problem. Young trees should be pruned to develop a single leader.