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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - May 10, 2013

From: Panama City, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Ferns, Grasses or Grass-like, Shrubs, Wildflowers
Title: Native plants for a garden in Panama City, FL
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in zone 9 in Florida. We are looking for plants which will be attractive all year long for the front of our house's landscaping which faces north. I need a specimen bush which doesn't get over 6' or so, or is easy to prune, and shorter, foundation plants. I would like some plants which flower throughout the spring and summer, but still look attractive in the fall/winter months.

ANSWER:

Hmm.   According to the Florida Native Plant Society Bay County, Florida is in zone 8.  Panama City itself is in zone 8B.  You can visit the Florida Native Plant Society page for Bay County and enter information for your site (e.g., light range, soil type, etc.) that will generate a list of plants that will do well there.  Since I don't know those criteria I will have to guess at what will do the best there.  You should read the GROWING CONDITIONS on each species page in our Native Plant Database and on the Florida Native Plant Society species page.

POTENTIAL SPECIMEN SHRUBS

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) can be pruned pruned severely right before new growth begins in the spring. Here is more information from the Florida Native Plant Society.

Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf hydrangea) can be pruned.  See the information on HydrangeasHydrangeas.com.  Here is more information from the Florida Native Plant Society.

Kalmia latifolia (Mountain laurel) is evergreen and can be pruned according the European Kalmia Society and there are dwarf varieties available.  Here is more information from the Florida Native Plant Society.

Rhododendron austrinum (Orange azalea) can be pruned according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension Service.  Here is more information from the Florida Native Plant Society.

POSSIBLE FOUNDATION PLANTS

Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle) [synonym = Myrica cerifera] is evergreen, can be pruned and there are dwarf cultivars.  Here is more information from Florida Native Plant Society and from the Chesapeake Region Native Plant Center.

Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon fern) needs moist soil.  Here is more information from the Florida Native Plant Society.

ORNAMENTAL GRASSES (possible foundation plants)

Eragrostis spectabilis (Purple lovegrass) is a perennial grass that produces the appearance of a purple haze on the ground when it blooms in the fall. Here is more information from the Florida Native Plant Society.

Sporobolus junceus (Pineywoods dropseed) is an evergreen perennial bunch grass.  Here is more information from Natives for your Neighborhood.

Tripsacum dactyloides (Eastern gamagrass) is also an evergreen perennial bunch grass.   Here is more information from the Florida Native Plant Society.

FLOWERS

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed) is a perennial that blooms May through September with spectacular orange flowers and dies back in the winter.  It is a larval host for monarchs and other butterflies.  Here is more information from the Florida Native Plant Society.

Coreopsis basalis (Coreopsis), if your area is dry or Coreopsis leavenworthii (Common tickseed), if your site is moist.  You can find both of these on the list for Bay County under "Flowers" on the Florida Native Plant Society page.

Here are a few other flowers from the Florida Native Plant Society page that can add color.  Most of them are perennials that die back in winter.  Trimming them should keep your area looking tidy during the dieback time.

Gaillardia pulchella (Firewheel) blooms May through August, but may bloom longer with adequate rains.

Liatris spicata (Dense blazing star) blooms July through September.

Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower) can bloom May through October.

Salvia azurea (Pitcher sage) blooms September through November.

Solidago sempervirens (Seaside goldenrod) has evergreen basal leaves and blooms August through October.

Stokesia laevis (Stokes aster) blooms May through September.

You can see more possibilities on the Florida Native Plant Society for Bay County.

 

From the Image Gallery


American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

Oakleaf hydrangea
Hydrangea quercifolia

Mountain laurel
Kalmia latifolia

Orange azalea
Rhododendron austrinum

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

Cinnamon fern
Osmunda cinnamomea

Purple lovegrass
Eragrostis spectabilis

Eastern gamagrass
Tripsacum dactyloides

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Dense blazing star
Liatris spicata

Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis

Pitcher sage
Salvia azurea

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