Hillsborough Extension Garden Blog

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Winter Bloomers March 3, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hillsborough County Residential Horticulture @ 6:41 pm
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Spring is in the air, but it’s still technically winter! The warmer weather is causing lots of plants to put out new growth and bloom right now, but a particularly spectacular specimen (say that 3 times fast…) in the Discovery Garden this week is the native eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis).

This small to medium tree produces bright, magenta pink flowers in late winter and early spring, before putting out a mass of new leaves. Because of the early and very cold December we experienced, the blooms are even more prolific than usual. A common landscape tree in most parts of the eastern U.S., redbud is often overlooked in central and south Florida because the lack of cold winters often prevents a showy bloom. Redbud like moist but well-drained, alkaline soils and will do well either as a mass planting or a stand-alone specimen in the landscape.

This crossvine will disguise the cistern

Another great Florida native plant that blooms in the winter months is crossvine (Bignonia capreolata). This vine is fast-growing and high-climbing, with showy flowers that appear in late winter and early spring. The flowers are trumpet-shaped, orange to reddish-orange to red, 2 to 3 inches long in clusters of 2 to 5.

Hummingbirds love trumpet-shaped flowers

Cross vine will flourish under a wide variety of conditions, and spread by root sprouting if not managed. This vine is one of the first with red, trumpet-shaped flowers to greet returning hummingbirds in early spring. The related trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) is similar, but climbs with ivy-like aerial roots instead of tendrils and blooms later in the summer. Plant the two together, though, and the hummingbirds will have flame colored tubular flowers from which to feed from early spring throughout the summer.

Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia) is yet another Florida native that is currently full of blooms. This small tree forms a rounded mass of slender, thorny branches sprouting from a short trunk. In spring, before the one to two-inch-long leaves appear, chickasaw plum is covered with small, white, fragrant flowers which make the trees quite decorative in the presence of other trees which are often still dormant.

The tiny red fruits which follow turn yellow when ripe, and are extremely popular with wildlife and humans. The plums are either eaten fresh or used to make a delicious jelly.

Tiny, fragrant flowers are everywhere on this tree!

The bark of the chickasaw plum is interesting, even without the flowers.

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9 Responses to “Winter Bloomers”

  1. Kelly Says:

    Beautiful!!!

  2. Connie Says:

    Thanks so much for that! I was just gonna email when I had some time and ask what that Eastern Redbud is called. They are so showy around town. =>

    • mdabreau Says:

      Actually Connie, what you’re probably seeing is Tabebuia impetiginosa, or purple tabebuia. This is another great winter bloomer that is much more widely used in central and south Florida than the redbud, but still provides as much of a stunning show. Either way, you can’t go wrong!

  3. Dave Baker Says:

    Great info! Having come from North Carolina, with its spring abundance of Dogwoods and Azaleas, I can’t understand the lack of flowering anything here. You’ve shown what can grow. Thanks!

    • mdabreau Says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Dave! You are so right… we have LOTS and LOTS of evergreen plants… LOTS and LOTS of green all year round. Flowers, on the other hand, are not as frequent, but they can be. It’s all about choosing the right plant for the right place. I’ll try to spotlight more great flowering plants throughout the seasons.

  4. Connie Says:

    Actually, I do know what the difference is. I have been keeping a close eye on the two of them. The Tabebuia comes in yellow too right? I have the yellow one, I bought it last summer, and because I did not put it in the ground to grow some, it lost all of its leaves just before winter like it was supposed to do, but did not get the bright yellow showy flowers on it. It is probably a good thing though because I was thinking I would probably on get a few blooms on it. So next year I should have a few more than 4.

    I was noticing the tiny purple booms and and I believe they are darker than the Tabebuia. They are both pretty, but I think the Eestern Redbud is prettier. Just my opinion though! =>
    Maybe because they are not so common.

    • mdabreau Says:

      Yes, the yellow species is Tabebuia caraiba. The flowers are much larger, but I’ve never been very impressed by it, though. The blooms are sporadic and sparse, and the spent flowers don’t fall off the tree, so you’re left with a mix of live and dead, yellow and brown…

      We’ve had a yellow tab in the Discovery Garden for about 6 years now. It blooms every year and looks great for about a week or 2.

      I agree with you — the redbud is prettier. I think I’m partial to the smaller flowers.

  5. Darla Says:

    Tallahasse is just lit up with Redbud’s and Loropetulams right now!

  6. Connie Says:

    Would love to see that! I am thinking that would be absolutely gorgeous!


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