This will make our third winter in a row where we have seen extended periods of sub freezing temperatures throughout much of our area. Although we have typically been able to grow colorful tropical plants in our area, the past three winters have proven to be significantly colder than usual. With that in mind, there are many great plants that grow well in our area and can withstand freezing temperatures. Unless you are willing to take measures to protect your sensitive plants during freezes and/or replace these plants annually, I think it’s a great idea to consider using plants that will survive these conditions.
Here are a few of my favorite shrubs for Central Florida that will withstand freezing temperatures:
Loropetalum ‘plum’ is one of my favorite shrubs. The leaves are a dark purple/burgundy color and it blooms intermittently throughout the year with pink flowers. It looks particularly nice as a foreground planting to a dark green shrub such as viburnum ‘suspensum’. Another variety of loropetalum, ‘ruby’, has been planted for many years in our area. Over the past several years, ‘ruby’ has been reported by many to have gone into decline. There are several suspected reasons including mites and nutrient deficiencies. However, there are no reported issues with plum. There are a few other varieties that also do well such as ‘purple’ and ‘burgundy’.
Knockout roses are another great choice for Central Florida. Unlike traditional roses, knockout roses are much less susceptible to fungal issues and require far less care. They bloom nearly 9 months out of the year and develop a really nice burgundy leaf color the other 3 months. Chili thrips have shown some tendency to affect knockout roses over the past few years, however, consistent pruning (which increases flowering) and good fertilization practice will typically keep your knockout roses looking fantastic. If necessary, Conserve (a pesticide) can help control chili thrips in the event of a large infestation.
Camellias are a great plant for Central Florida and provide color in the winter when few other plants are blooming. There are hundreds of varieties of camellias providing all kinds of colors in single and double blooms. Camellias will need to be planted in partially shaded areas. They require very little pruning. Camellias are susceptible to tea scale and will need to be checked periodically for activity. When present, you will notice white scale on the undersides of the leaves. This can be controlled with an oil spray. Plant some camellias this winter. You still have a couple of months to enjoy their incredible blooms.
If you have foxtail palms, fishtail palms, roebellini palms, areca palms, royal palms, cardboard palms as well as several other cold sensitive palms in our area, the past few winters have not been kind to you! I had 3 beautiful foxtail palms around my pool that I planted in 2004. They were beautiful palms! Three winters past they got burned by a freeze. By the following August they had finally returned to form. Last winter, we had 10 consecutive days of below freezing temps, nearly 19 degrees several mornings, and my palms took another hit. One completely died, another has never recovered (has 2 fronds) and the other came back nicely by this past September. This was after wrapping them up completely with layers of burlap. Last week, I spent hours wrapping up the one good palm and the one that is still hanging on. I have finally come to the conclusion that I am not willing to work that hard to have these types of palms. As beautiful as they are, they are not well suited for the winters we have experienced the past several years. The good news is there are several very nice palms that will survive these conditions. Here are a few: