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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

10 Great Plants for Florida Fall Color

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?

Happy autumn!

Update 2014: You might also enjoy reading this follow-up post:
10 More Blooming Plants for Fall Color


  1. The butterfly bush is nothing short of amazing! The deep azure color of the sage really appeals to me, as I favor the blue family of hues. I have a jasmine plant with beautiful star-shaped blooms that shares an endless supply of brilliant white. I keep transplanting shoots too. Love how easy it is to grow here.
    You truly are blessed with an abundance of color, Meems, any time of the year! daisy

  2. A lot of these plants would do ok here during summer but they fail quickly during winter. The caladiums in the window box have already given up. Coleus lasts until the first frost. It is nice that they have so many colors of these to choose from now.

  3. Your photos have me drooling once again dear Meems. I have a few of the plants you've shown myself, but not all. I love that butterfly bush, had one but it died on me, quite a few years ago.

    Seeing your gardens and blooms and colorful foliage is always an inspiring treat for me.


  4. Gorgeous, Meems! I'm especially loving the first coleus the interest of the edges along with the color! I'm also a fan of the clerodendrum, although I don't have any...yet!!!!
    Nice list for Fl fall color!

  5. MADDMAYour garden is short of amazing!!!It is such a delight to me to see all your photos. I'm always looking forward to your photos and your info about them.

  6. meems, Lisa's right, we could grow many of your plants, but, as summer color and then move into the house. Gorgeous photos and i do have to say, that the newer coleus are sure gorgeous. Every year newer shapes and colors. I need to give plumbago another try. Your photos are beautiful! gail

  7. So many of these plants give my garden the final bits of colour going into October - even though we're on the northern shore of Lake Ontario. This is a terrific list for anyone who is looking for late-season colour - even if we do have to bring in some of the more tender specimens.

  8. Lush and colorful. That is one great looking garden. The images you shared are wonderful. I think we can more or less grow similar things although I cannot find a gardening zone for Philippines.

  9. You showcase some lovely plants and I am really liking stromanthe after seeing it in your garden. That butterfly plant is great too, although here it is classed as a weed, so I will just enjoy yours. Do you pull up your caladium bulbs or let them winter over in the ground?

  10. Very nice list here. Being in N.Florida I would have to add Firespike and Pineapple Sage.

  11. It's nice to see new bloomers joining the party in autumn, and we are soooo lucky to be able to enjoy a tremendous amount of color year round. I think I'll forego the fall leaves for flowering plants 12 months out of the year. Your garden is looking lovely as usual, and I'm sure you're enjoying spending time outdoors these days...I know I am!

  12. Thanks for the list of fall color! I have some of those, but not all. Wonderful colors they bring to the garden!

  13. Wonderful choices. I wish I could take Stromanthe through the winter, but they just can't make it here in Houston. Too cold.
    We are having a terrific year for coleus, so I'm going to try some new varieties of the sun-loving (tolerant?) type.
    David/ Tropical Texana

  14. Daisy,
    Decidedly a stunning dispaly of God's handiwork. Is your jasmine the downy? You've got me wondering which jasmine blooms endlessly.

    Coleus are amazingly diverse. They root SO easily either in water or in soil.

    Thank you. That butterfly bush would be perfect in your garden. It is a well-behaved clerodendrum.

  15. Kimberly,
    You and me! It's called Peter's Wonder. I should root more of the butterfly bush ... if I get some more started I'm happy to send you one.

    Wondering Gardener,
    So nice of you to visit. Thank you for the kind words and come back often.

    This plumbago was a very commonly used shrub when I was a child. Do you remember seeing them here when you were here? The blue flowers stick to your clothing/hair if you brush against them. It is also true-blue which is kind of rare.

  16. Meems,
    Thanks -- you cheered me up about semi-tropical fall. Your photos are lovely and I'm happy to see that you still have such lovely coleus and caladiums. Mine have given up the ghost for the season.
    Happy Bloom Day!

  17. Barbara,
    That's so interesting you can use this list as far north as you are. I imagine the lake to keep you warmer in autumn than inland? Colorful anything is a treat and when we find what works in our own gardens it's even more delightful.

    It was a particularly hot summer and even our start to autumn was record breaking but the garden has survived it and we are finally enjoying some mild weather. The Philippines must be lush all the time.

    The butterfly bush was frosted back to the ground this winter and is now over 10 feet tall but it seems not to send out runners or drop seed like many other clerodendrums. I leave my caladium bulbs in the ground... too many to worry with. Most of them return but I always add gobbs of them each spring/summer.

  18. Darla,
    Great additions! Love firespike... my pineapple sage has not bloomed yet.

    LOVING being outdoors... so perfect and what a nice reprieve from this summer. We can always visit the fall leaves but having our gardens available all year is a special gift to Floridians.

    We have to be creative don't we? Keeping color going in the garden is a good challenge to Florida gardeners.

  19. David,
    Stromanthe really must be kept in mostly shade or it will look ratty. I wonder if Stromanthe would do well in containers for you? I actually think it probably appreciates our humidity. I know TX is drier.

    The coleus will hold out until frost in most cases. The caladiums are fading but the ones I planted latest are still making a nice display. We have to make due in the semi-tropics with our fall color. :-)

  20. Meems, With each season in Florida brings great excitement in our gardens.But after such a hot summer this Fall seems to be more beautiful than ever. Great list of Florida color. Janis

  21. Great list of plants for Florida fall color. We are so fortunate to have this growing season here in our zone. It's funny how so many of the plants sport the colors we associate with fall: yellow, orange, reds. Love that first coleus - my little cutting is doing well:)

    Happy gardening in this great weather!

  22. Janis,
    Isn't it nice that October has been surprisingly mild for us! I'm grateful... summer was endless.

    We have to make due with what we have don't we! It IS wonderful we can keep growing right through autumn. I'm still potting up cuttings and those coleus are still going in the ground. Glad yours are doing well, too.

  23. Hi Meems, long time no see! :) Your latest post has really got me thinking about my live oak trees. This challenges everything I thought I knew about not planting things underneath them. Your yard is beautiful, looks like it weathered the heat of the summer just fine.

  24. I have a coral honeysuckle vine but it will not bloom? does it need to be fertilized? thanks
    marg in katy, texas


Have a blessed day,

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