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Bright Ideas

It’s spring in southwest florida, and if you’re like us, you’re spending as much time outdoors as possible. To brighten up your pool deck, patio or pathways, we asked landscape architect Dale Slabaugh of Dale A. Slabaugh & Associates Landscape Architects to identify some of his favorite flowers that thrive in our sunny seaside region, so you can enjoy the view just a little bit more.

Water Lily  (Nymphea “Madame Ganna Walska”)

Gardens need not be of the soil variety. This variety of tropical water lily produces a fragrant, multi-petaled, pink flower. To get it started, pot the lily in heavy garden soil with the tuber along the side of a long, shallow pot, and cover with a layer of rock or pea gravel. Place the pot a foot to a foot and a half underwater, and watch for the blossom to emerge.

Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)

Chances are you recognize the sweet scent of the gardenia, but this multitasking bloom looks as lovely as it smells. Ideal in pots or as border plants, gardenias blossom best in the spring or summer, in full sun or partial shade.

Beach Sunflower (Helianthus debilis)

These distinctive sunflowers are often used as a flowering ground cover along and near the beach. They do best in well-drained, sandy soil and bloom throughout the year in Southwest Florida’s warm climes. (And, not surprisingly, butterflies seem to adore these cute little buds as much as we do.)

String Lily (Crinum americanum)

Also known as the swamp lily, this delicate, fragrant flower lives up to its name, thriving in swamps and marshes and along river banks. It is also well-suited for use as a border around a pool or at a beachside abode, as it has a tolerance for salt spray. Mostly, this white-and-pink bloom just likes to spend time near the water, something to which we can wholeheartedly relate.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii)

Although it’s typically a house plant, who can blame the peace lily for wanting to spend as much time outdoors as possible? These towering blooms (some grow to a height of four to six feet) love warm weather, so they should be covered on the rare instances when Southwest Florida temps dip below 60 degrees.

Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spectabilis)

The bougainvillea attains its cheery hue not from its petals but from showy, colorful bracts, or modified leaves, surrounding a much smaller flower. These sun-loving beauties are at their fullest in the winter months but continue to send forth blooms in red, purple, white, pink or coral in the summer and spring, too. They are especially impressive when grown in hanging baskets or cascading down a wall.


Nora Grant Ixora  (Ixora coccinea)

Floridians are likely familiar with the ixora, which is a frequent resident of hedges and planter boxes statewide. These deep coral-colored clusters grow best in full sun and also have a medium for salt, making them happy beachside dwellers as well.

Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata)

Though plenty exotic-looking, the passion flower is a Florida native. A fan favorite of butterflies, it’s a fairly easygoing plant that can be grown in different soils or on a fence or trellis, and does not require full sun for best flowering. And while we may not recommend sampling it, the passion flower also produces edible fruit.

Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

This perennial favorite is probably Florida’s most easily recognized shrub. Hibiscus blossom in a broad range of colors, sizes, heights and even life spans—most varieties have one-day flowers that open early in the morning and wilt in the afternoon, while others remain open for two days. Luckily, these short-lived beauties continue to flower nearly all year in southern Florida, so the next beautiful bloom is never far away.

Anthurium (Anthurium andraeanum)

A humid, shady spot is ideal for the exotic anthurium, which produces a large, upright, single bract in shades of red, pink and white. These high-gloss plants bloom continuously throughout the year, and each flower lasts approximately six weeks on the plant or slightly less when cut and placed in a vase.

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