SUCCESSFUL GARDENING is the result of these 3 things:


Simply stated, most of the popular perennials grown throughout the U.S. are not suited for Florida’s climate and soils. Therefore, one key to success is to learn which plants are Florida Friendly Plants, their mature size, sun or shade tolerance, preferred soil type and salt tolerance (if you are near the coast). If you make a mistake, perennials are easy to transplant.



An additional key to success with perennials (and annuals) is to improve the native, nutrient poor, sandy soils with organic matter. Organic matter increases the water holding and nutrient holding capacity of soil. It also reduces nematode activity and produces stronger, healthier root systems, which can tolerate nematodes better. Organic matter includes composted manure, peat, compost, leaf mold, humus and topsoil. Most Florida topsoil contains sand, the component you are trying to reduce. It is more cost effective to use peat, manure or compost high in organic matter and low in sand content.

Native perennials and wildflowers are adapted to sandy soils and additional organic matter is not necessary for success but it will enhance the performance of these plants.


Three to six inches of mulch applied as needed throughout the year will reduce soil temperature and evaporation. Mulch reduces plant stress, suppresses weeds, and breaks down to add nutrients and organic matter to the soil.


Generally speaking, the first 60 days after planting is the most critical period of the establishment process. Water frequently to reduce plant stress and establish a strong, extensive root system

3. MAINTENANCE (LOW not NO maintenance)


Perennials bloom on the new growth. Therefore, provide adequate water and nutrients throughout their flowering season to encourage continuous growth and blooms. An inch of rain or irrigation per week is sufficient. A rain gauge is an essential tool! Well-established plants require much less water.


Slow release fertilizers like manure, compost, Milorganite, Dynamite and Osmocote are the best because;

  • 1. They steadily release small amounts of nutrients that are readily absorbed by the plant roots.
  • 2. With a smaller amount of surplus nutrients, there is less to wash away and end up as a pollutant of our rivers, bays and aquifer.
  • 3. They are more cost effective. Liquid fertilizers and inexpensive 6-6-6 granular fertilizers are really quite expensive because most of the nutrients are wasted as they leach past the roots and end up as pollutants. Incorporate slow release fertilizers into your bed at planting and reapply as needed.


If you follow the above guidelines, your success will result in healthy plants that will occasionally need pruning. There are two basic types, Soft Pruning and Hard Pruning.

Soft Pruning or pinching is usually done to remove old flowers and branch tips so that more flowering branches will be produced. Remove from 2”-8” of the stem tip, according to the type of plant. Hard pruning generally involves pruning shears and removal of 1´-5´ of hard or semi-hard wood. It is done 1 to 3 times a year depending on the species and how well it is growing.

Soft Pruning is done for 4 basic reasons:

  • 1. To add strength to the plant so it can stand up to strong wind.
  • 2. To improve plant structure. Remove excess stems or shoots. Often, profuse growth becomes thin and weak. Flower size and production can be reduced.
  • 3. To control size. Some plants like Firebush, Golden Dewdrop and Cassia tend to grow like small trees, but they can be pruned one or more times a year to make them fit your space. Firebush can be used as a tall hedge with one hard pruning a year or as a short compact shrub in the perennial border with 3 prunings. Cassias can be pruned up to a time 5 weeks prior to their blooming season. Take control!
  • 4. To remove dead stems after a freeze. You can remove all stems that have frozen. Herbaceous tropical perennials will re-sprout from the lower, living tissue as soon as warm weather allows growth. There is nothing you can do to stop this new sprouting and, with the dead parts removed, it is easier to cover and protect these new shoots if later frosts or freezes occur.