It's not big news that central Florida misses out on the seasonal foliage color changes that cooler climates look forward to this time of year. The up-side of that long-ago-accepted truth is that our gardens don't fall completely asleep these wonderful months either.
Instead of bemoaning the facts we've learned to create our own splashes of color for fall with varieties of foliage and fall blooming perennials.
(#1)Coleus providing rich hues of magentas, chartreuse, and deep aubergine. Used throughout in the design of this warm climate garden they offer dimension, texture, and those glorious colors to several vignettes from spring right through the winter in most cases.
To prolong the life and vibrancy they offer to this garden root cuttings are made with abandon generating even more plants to fill in where others may have faded.
The October garden is thriving with the peaceful, cooler temps (sixties) dropping at night (finally). There are less daylight hours but temps are warm and sunny continuing to nourish and support growth.
Happily many of the (#2)caladiums are hanging on for added fall attraction. Especially the White Queen variety in the upper left border. Planting bulbs was done as late as July for the very purpose of enjoying those heart-shaped gifts through the month of October.
Except for the 50 or so Miss Muffet caladium bulbs also planted in late July, the rest have gone to sleep until next spring.
One of my favorite pass-along plants from a neighbor is the very colorful (#3) Stromanthe Sanguinea. Shooting stalks of treasured foliage rise above the heights of the neighboring tropicals in the understory of the shady oaks. In the winter she will sport tall red flowers . In the late afternoon streaks of light show off her red undersides.
Profusely blooming clusters of blue flowers on all the (#4)Plumbago auriculata plants are a delight to behold this time of year. This is one of the easiest perennial shrubs for no-nonsense care. Place it where it will have plenty of room to sprawl in at least partial sun and it serves as a fabulous backdrop in a Florida garden.
**Side note: full sun is sometimes recommended but plumbago can appear stressed in this situation without extra irrigation.
One of the plants added to the new northside berm this spring turns out to be decidedly a good choice. The native (#5)Lonicera sempervirens, coral honeysuckle flushes out with her red tubular flowers in every season. A cold hardy plant and a hummingbird pit-stop vining up a trellis offers height as a neighbor to alocasias, coleus, flaxlilies, and caladiums.
(#6) Cassia or Senna Alata started blooming in August and now well-into October continues to shine her golden candlesticks high in the air. Her lovely foliage folds up as the sun fades each evening creating even more worth in my view. She likes the sun but grows in filtered light just as well without any fussing or mussing required from the gardener.
(#7)Salvia leucantha, Mexican Sage is one of those stunning perennials with many lovely characteristics to be noted. Blue-ish and velvety soft foliage is appreciated even before autumn urges out those elongated clusters of fuzzy lavender blooms. Mine would benefit from more hours of the sun's rays but I take what I can get from this favorite as it gives its best in very dappled light.
Only when (#8)Barleria cristata, Philippine Violet blooms right on cue every autumn do I even agree this self-seeding perennial has any merit. A soft prune in summertime will promote a bushier growth than the upright and leggy way it grows without help. I prefer the all-white blooms to the more common tubular clusters of flowers of lilac.
Over the years there has been a concerted effort to design a garden that offers color in various forms each month of the year.
As we wind down the list to (#9)Clerodendrum ugandense, blue butterfly bush we can't imagine speaking of colorful plants for autumn without the mention of this super-low maintenance bush. Blooming its uniquely shaped flowers since summer ~~ height from this sprawling perennial is provided in the front gardens combined next to the brightly colored blooms of Hamelia patens firebush.
Foliage plants in general are beloved in this garden. Colorful and striking foliage plants are much cherished. And although this list was offered in no particular order of preference (#10) Stromanthe sanguinea 'Triostar' makes an impressive display with its three colorful hues present in every leaf. The undersides of brilliant reddish-pink highlighted by the evening sun is a trait much admired ... especially this season.
There you have it. Not an exhaustive list, but ten Florida-Friendly, easy maintenance, some more colorful than others but each with elements and dimensions uncomplicated and virtually trouble-free.
What about you? What would you add to this short list?
Update 2014: You might also enjoy reading this follow-up post:
10 More Blooming Plants for Fall Color
Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.