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Florida Landscape ~ Tasty Plants

Red Lipstick Tropical Hibiscus (Sleeping Hibiscus)

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Botanical Name: Malvaviscus arboreus var. mexicanus
Family: Malvaceae
Plant Type: Shrub
Height:8 ft
Width: 6 ft
- The Flower is edible (Great for garnishing salad/food dishes) 
- Heat tolerant (full to partial SUN)
- Native to Mexico
- The bright red flowers are pendulous and last for several days.  
- The petals do not flare back like Hibiscus, but remain swirled around 
the pistil.  This gives the impression that the flowers never open, and 
hence the common name of Sleeping Hibiscus. 

Ponytail Palm Tree

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Botanical Name: Beaucarnia recurvata
- It is NOT a Palm tree at all but a succulent
- Very Slow Rate of Grothw (grows to 30 ft tall)
- The ponytail is sometimes called "Elephant Foot Tree" - the swollen gray
base looks like an elephant's foot.
- Ponytails are an armchair gardener's dream - they thrive on neglect... 
drought-tolerant, easy-care plants with a myriad of landscape uses.
- Soil: Dry & Sandy
- The trick with ponytail palms is not to overwater. This doesn't mean 
give it a tiny drink...it means give it a long thirst-quenching one and 
then let it dry out before watering again. 

Lychee Tree

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Botanical Name: Litchi chinensis  Sonn
-Fruit Bearing Season: Mid-May to early July in Florida, depending upon 
variety. Good source of Potassium. 
- Native to China & Asia
- Lychee trees are moderately drought tolerant. However, newly planted 
lychee trees should be irrigated regularly during establishment. In the 
home landscape, trees will perform well without supplemental irrigation 
after trees are established. For more consistent cropping of mature trees,
 withholding irrigation during the fall and winter until bloom may enhance
 the amount of flowering. Watering during fruit set through harvest may 
enhance fruit quality and yields. 

LyraEDISServlet- Click Here to Purchase for $49.95

Moringa Tree (“The Miracle Tree”)

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- Very FAST Growth Rate. Needs constant attention, cut back every 2 months
- From seed, the Moringa will easily hit 10′ during its first year of 
growth OR replant from tree stick! 
- Native to India, Africa (different varieties)
- The leaves can be used fresh or dried into a powder. The leaves are an
 excellent source of vitamin A and C, a good source of B vitamins, and 
among the best plant sources of minerals. The calcium content is very high,
 iron is good enough to treat anemia — three times that of spinach — and 
it’s an excellent source of protein while being low on fats and 
carbohydrates.

Moringaceae
- Water Purifying Power (the seeds are dried & crushed then added to water)
 & Medicinal Uses
- Eating the leaves is like drinking an 'energy drink' 
- Antioxidant
- Leaves, Pods & Roots are used.
- Full to Partial Sun
- Moringas of all varieties, do not like their roots standing in
soggy soil.
- Once they are established, once a week watering is fine
- When they are about 10" tall, you can start pinching back every other 
new growth
- Harvest the leaves often - pruning always from the top. You will be 
rewarded with more leaves, than if you just let them grow tall.
- In Florida, we have flowers in six months, and pods that are ripe, 
in eight months - from planted Moringa Oleifera seeds.

Pricing: 
All 1 gal trees are $15.00
3 gal trees $35.00 
5 gal or 7 gal trees $65.00 - $85.00 
15 gal $125.00
Click Here to order PHM1 variety
Purchase 100 seeds on Amazon for $4 Click Here

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* Crush fresh Mint and Moringa leaves/flowers in bottom of tall glass.
Add crushed ice and 1 oz. Bacardi Light Rum; crush herbs with end of
wooden spoon to extract herb flavor and nutrients.
Fill glass with Sprite Zero.
Squeeze large lime wedge on top. Garnish with second lime wedge, 
mint or moringa.
Oil-w-moringa-herbs
* Add dried, crushed Moringa leaves to oil with other fresh herbs. 
Dip hot bread.
*Use as a spice on top of omelette, salad etc.
* Slice young pods in food processor and add to soup. 
- Click Here to Purchase for $18.95

Cardamom

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- Perennial Herb (Most Expensive Herb!)
- Known as the Queen Herb (Pepper being the King Herb)
- Native to India (Two varieties: Green & Black)
- Partial Shade Plant
- Seeds: 14 days to Germination (at 75 degrees); 2 Year  Life Span
- Popular Baking Spice, Also great for rice, tea, drinks, desserts, breads
- Delicate white flowers appear at the base of the tall plants in 
springtime, giving way to green seed pods (or fruits) in autumn. 
Within the papery pods are cardamom’s prized seeds, richly aromatic and 
intensely flavored.
- Can reach heights of 10ft in 3 years
- Prefers a rich, loamy, slightly acidic soil with a pH approximately 
6.1-6.6. For best results, fertilize or amend soil with minerals 
phosphorus and potassium.
- Cardamom requires a steady supply of moisture and will not
 tolerate drought.
- Cardamom is not tolerant of cold, but should be kept in a location with 
many hours of partially occluded sunlight.
- Cardamom requires approximately 3 years of growth to produce capsules
 containing seeds. After the flowers mature, they will gradually dry out 
as capsule develops. These can be collected when capsules begin to turn 
green, and later dried on screens over the course of 6-7 days. Turn 
frequently. 
- The seeds lose their flavor quickly when ground, so try to buy only 
whole pods, and crush them just before use.
- Cardamom fruits are called capsules. Inside the fruits there are seeds 
of the plant, which are actually used as spice.
- You can propagate cardamom from seeds.
- The easiest way to propagate cardamom is from division. For this, cut
the rhizome with a sharp knife and carefully separate it from the plant.
- Soil: Sandy, loamy soil that is rich in organic matter and manure is 
optimal.

Rhizomes

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Rhizomes are stems that grow sideways rather than up, running along the surface of the soil or just below it. Plants that use rhizomes for food storage have fatter, more bulblike rhizomes, covered with a dry base of leaves. Rhizomes branch out, and each new portion develops roots and a shoot of its own.

Familiar rhizomes include iris, lily-of-the-valley, canna, and ginger (Zingiber officinale).


- Key to growing cardamom is right substrate, which should be well-drained
in a way that water should drain out easily, but soil must remain moist 
constantly. By moist it doesn’t mean damp or waterlogged soil, the clay 
texture of soil is also not recommended as it kills the plant.
- Cardamom leaves also emit aroma when you rub them, you can also make 
tea of them.

Papaya Tree (Carica papaya)

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- Native to Mexico & South America
- The fruit is sweet, low in calories and high in potassium and vitamin A.
- Papaya is also used in drinks, jellies, salads, desserts and is also 
dried and candied.
- To successfully grow Papayas, you need a frost free climate, lots of 
sunlight, lots of water and good soil. If you give your plant all of 
these conditions, then you can grow a papaya from seed and generally have
fruit in 6 to 12 months.
- Pollination: The female plants produce fruit and may be cross pollinated 
with others by insects and wind. There are plants that may be 
self-pollinating (bi-sexual).
- Growth Habit: The papaya is a short lived, fast growing woody herb. 
They generally have a single trunk and grow 10 to 15 feet tall, but some 
plants have been known to grow taller.
- They LOVE Sunlight & Heat
- Fertilize: Papayas are heavy feeders and require regular fertilizing. 
Adding compost is also recommended.(particularly greedy for nitrogen, like 
chicken manure)
- Papayas are fast growing shade trees- You can grow papayas using seed from shop bought papayas (this is the 
cheapest & most successful way)
- Papayas are easy to grow, but not necessarily so easy to keep alive and 
get good fruit from.
- The most common problem: root rot due to overwatering. If you get cool 
weather keep you papaya plants dry.
- Papayas are fast growing, single stem plants. The trunk is soft and does 
not have a bark, and papayas don't have branches.
- The leaves are huge and don't last long.
- The fruit grows on the trunk, and since papayas continue to grow up and 
up the fruit is harder and harder to get to as the papaya plant gets older.
- If a tree gets too tall just cut it down, about two feet of the ground. 
Sometimes it kills them, but sometimes they grow back with several trunks.
then you get more fruit and it grows where you can reach it.
-The best time to cut a papaya back is during dry weather. The trunk is 
hollow. If it fills with water it will rot. You can protect it by covering
it with an upside down plastic pot or or a bag. Hot, humid weather can 
encourage rot.
- Papayas don't transplant well. Anything that disturbs the roots of 
papayas really sets them back. They just hate it. The most fool proof way 
to grow papayas is to simply plant them where they are to live.
- Papaya trees are very, very hungry. That means they need very good soil,
 rich in organic matter and nutrients.
- Papayas fruit all year round, as long as the weather is warm enough. 
Keep them happy and they will keep fruiting.
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- Pollination happens at night/evening by Moths "Humming bird moths"
How To Plant From Seed:
* Choose an area with very good soil, sprinkle some of your seeds. A 
couple of dozen per area is a good amount (or more). Cover the seeds 
lightly compost, and then mulch the area well. The seeds usually take 
about a couple of weeks to germinate (or longer).
*Start culling the weaker ones. Pull them out while still small - keep 
only the best. Keep only a half dozen plants at this stage.
*Papaya plants can be male, female, or bisexual, and you want to make sure
that you have some females or bisexual plants among your seedlings. 
The male papayas don't bear fruit.
*Papayas start flowering when they are about one meter tall. The males 
flower first. Male flowers have long, thin stalks with several small 
blooms. Female flowers are usually single blooms, bigger, and very close 
to the trunk.
*Cull most of the male plants. You only need one male for every 10-15
 female plants to ensure good pollination. 

Hawaiian Plantains (Banana Tree)

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- An interesting fact is that the banana plant is actually not a tree 
at all. It belongs to the herb family and is actually the largest 
flowering herbaceous plant. The plants can grow as tall as 25 feet tall, 
with a pseudostem that grows out of what is known as a corm. A corm is 
very closely related to a tuber or bulb root system. Click Here to read 
more about Corms, Bulbs, Tubers & Rhizomes. 

     CORM: a rounded underground storage organ present in plants

Corms

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If any of the characteristics that identify true bulbs are missing, the plant isn’t a true bulb. Instead, it’s a corm, tuber, tuberous root, or rhizome. Popular corms include crocosmia, gladiolus, freesia, and crocus.

Corms have these traits:

  • Corms have a tunic. The tunic may be fibrous, what botanists call netted or reticulate, or the tunic may be smoother, with distinct rings, what botanists call annulate. Some crocuses have reticulate tunics, and others are annulate, which is one way you can tell crocus species apart.

  • Corms have a basal plate at the bottom and one or more growing points at the top. Bulbs and corms both have a definite vertical orientation.

  • Corms are undifferentiated, uniform, and contain no rings when cut apart. Corms are stem tissue, modified and developed to store food.

  • The corm you plant is used up for growing the flower. Before it withers away at the end of the growing season, however, a brand new corm (sometimes several new corms) forms and replaces the mother corm. The new corm contains the food reserve for the dormant crocus or gladiolus until it’s time to grow again.
- Each pseudostem is capable of producing one bunch of bananas, and it 
typically dies off after the bananas have ripened. This doesn’t mean that 
the plant dies however, as the banana plant will continue to produce 
pseudostems that develop from the corm base. Because many banana varieties 
are perennial, one plant can produce fruit for several years, under the 
right conditions.
- Whole Plant: 
The banana is a fast-growing plant consisting of one or more pseudostems
(upright, trunk-like structures) formed by tightly packed concentric 
layers of leaf sheaths, an underground rhizome, and a fibrous root system. 
The entire plant is called a mat. The pseudostem constitutes the functional
trunk which supports the leaves and the flower and fruit bearing stalk.
- The Cavendish banana. This banana is the type most often found for 
sale in the United States. They are often also referred to as the 
“Chiquita” banana, but this is primarily because Chiquita is one of the
largest producers of bananas across the planet.
- Click Here to buy 'super dwarf Cavendish banana' for $19.95
- The plantain banana. The plantain has much less sugar in it than the 
Cavendish does, and it needs to be cooked before eating.
- Bananas are a good source of ascorbic acid (Vit. C), Vitamin B 6, and 
potassium (plantains are additionally rich in vitamin A)
- In South Florida, bananas will produce year-round. Since they’re 
non-seasonal, your goal should be to plant a big patch of them so you’re 
getting new fruit for cooking and fresh eating on a regular basis. 
-  When the bananas come out, its better to cut off the pod with the 
flowers to keep the plant focused on the bananas.
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- There are at least 1,200 varieties of bananas to choose from. The type 
of banana that you buy in the supermarket called Cavendish may not be 
there in a few years. There is a disease called “Panama Race 4” is 
sweeping through Australia, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia. 
- Fertilize with Decomposed cow or horse manure. Bananas also need 
potassium and so wood ash and greensand will do nicely. Remember that 
bananas are heavy feeders. fertilize every 3 weeks or so. 
- Fertilize trees 4 to 6 times each year with a 6-2-12 fertilizer. 
Add micronutrient fertilizer with zinc and manganese annually.
- Let’s assume you’ve got a little baby banana plant that someone really 
nice gave you. When you plant that in your yard, it will start to grow 
into a big banana plant. Quickly if you water and feed it… slowly if you 
don’t. Beneath the ground, a bulb (Corm) is growing. As the first “tree” 
gets bigger and bigger, little pups will generally start growing alongside
it. Leave at least one there – you’re gonna need it.
- When your original banana has successfully created a certain number of 
leaves, it will then flower and create a lovely stalk of bananas. 
- The bananas take a long time to ripen, about 4 months.
- Once you harvest your bananas, that “tree” is done. Dead and gone. 
Expired. It’s not going to make more bananas for you. So cut that stem 
down WITH A MACHETE! Or it will die on its own. Then the next largest pup
 beside it will take its place. Remember – the “tree” is basically a big 
bulbous plant (corm) with multiple tops above ground – not a real tree at 
all. 
- For a newly planted banana, it takes 10 to 24 months before the first 
crop can be expected, depending on the type of banana, Subsequent crops 
are ready sooner.
-  A suitable site should be chosen sheltered from direct wind and not 
vulnerable to flooding. Bananas have little drought tolerance and soil 
should be moist, but not wet, at all times.
- They are also heavy feeders and require a complete fertilizer high in
 potash every six weeks, less often in cooler part of the year. 
- It is essential that only three or four stems, actually pseudo stems, 
are allowed to grow at any one time: the largest stem, which is carrying 
the next crop of fruit, a medium size stem and two recent suckers. 
- Temperature and soil moisture are the most important factors in banana 
production. Lack of water at anytime may cause a reduction in fruit number
and size and ultimate crop yield.
- Banana plants are not flood tolerant. In general, plants may survive 24
to 48 hours of flooding caused by moving water. Stagnant water kills
plants quickly. Bananas should not be planted in flood-prone areas. 
- Bananas do best on flat (slope 0-1%), well drained, deep soils high in 
organic matter with a pH of 5.5-7.0. However, many cultivars perform 
satisfactorily on the sandy, loamy, muck, and calcareous marl and rocky 
soils found in south Florida. The most important factor is soil drainage.

*What some might not know is just how the bright yellow bananas they see 
in the store actually get their vivid color. It is common knowledge that 
most fruits and vegetables are picked just prior to being at peak ripening 
stage, and this is definitely true for bananas. The bananas are picked 
when they are still green, they are exported to their destination while 
still green, and they are then ripened once they arrive at their 
destination. The rooms that the bananas are ripened in are airtight and 
flooded with a gas called ethylene, which induces the ripening process;
the bright yellow color is a side effect of the artificial process.

 Click Here for more details on growing bananas in Florida. 

 

Chickasaw Plum Tree

– Chickasaw plum is a native shrub or small tree that makes an attractive Florida-friendly addition to any yard. It is a deciduous shrub or small tree which naturally occurs in thickets, pastures, fields, and along hedgerows and river banks.
– It is an easily-grown, low-maintenance tree or shrub that tends to sprout from the base of the trunk, forming multi-stemmed thickets. It looks a little unkempt during the winter.
– The crown tends to lean to one side or the other. Occasional pruning can significantly improve the form of the tree
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– Each spring in March, Chickasaw plum trees are covered with clusters of tiny, fragrant, white flowers. The fragrant flowers bloom on the previous year’s wood and are especially dramatic since they appear BEFORE the trees puts out new leaves.
– Then the small fruits appear, turning from red to yellow as they ripen. The tart plums can be eaten fresh or turned into tasty jelly, and they’re also enjoyed by wildlife.
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– Chickasaw plums form a rounded mass of slender, thorny branches around a short trunk. They can grow up to 25 feet tall, but are more often found in the 6- to 12-foot range.
– Chickasaw plum is native to Florida and a number of other states and is hardy to USDA Zones 5-9. It is known scientifically as Prunus angustifolia.
– The Chickasaw plum grows quickly, and can be used in the landscape as a small specimen tree. If you have trouble finding it at your local nursery, check a native plant nursery or sale. 
– Chickasaw plum will perform best in full sun, though it can also be planted in dappled shade. It will grow in a wide range of soil types but prefers an acid pH.
– When planting this or any shrub or tree, dig a hole that’s at least one and a half times as wide as the root ball but one inch shallower. Place the root ball in the hole and fill it in with soil, but don’t put any soil on top of the root ball. 
– Water the plant on a regular schedule until it’s established. After that it will be fairly drought tolerant, though it will perform best if it’s given some water during dry spells. It’s also resistant to most pests and diseases. 
– Chickasaw plum usually produces suckers around the base of the trunk. If you prefer a groomed appearance, you can prune these back to keep the tree in its best form. Another option is to allow the suckers to grow into a thicket around the plant that can serve as a home for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. 
– They are maintenance free and attract wildlife.
– The thorny thicket is valuable for songbird and game bird nesting, loafing and roosting.
– The fruit is consumed by numerous birds and other animals.
– Erosion control: It is very effective in stabilizing blowing soil. It is also used to stabilize stream banks and gullies
– The fruit is used for making wine, jam, and jelly.
– Native Americans regularly consumed the fruit fresh or dried it for winter
– Some trees bear edible fruits; others have very bitter fruits.
– Chickasaw plum is adapted wherever sandy soils are found and performs well when planted on heavier clayloam soils
– Chickasaw plum is easy to grow in almost any soil, except strongly alkaline.
– It does best in full sun, but grows in partial shade.

– One year old, bare-root seedlings, 18 to 24 inches tall, are used in plantings. Chickasaw plum seedlings are not as vigorous as American plum seedlings.

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– Control of weed and grass competition during the first and second years is important in survival and early growth.
– The plums are drought tolerant once established.
– This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
– Flowers are fragrant
– Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling
– The prolific trees and shrubs of the Prunus genus were widely used by native people for everything from medicines and food to wood products and ceremonial objects. More than 400 species can be found throughout the United States, Europe, and China; there are two native species in Africa. The genus includes plums, cherries, peaches, apricots, and almonds. The Prunus species native to north central Florida grow in woodlands, flatwoods, along roadsides and fence rows, and in open pine areas.
– Very Small Fruit – Tart outside and a sweet inside.
Zones: 5 – 9 Mature Height/Spread: 15-25 feetMature Form: Rounded clump (if well pruned)
Growth Rate: Rapid
Sun Exposure: Full – Partial Sun
Soil Moisture: Drought tolerant
Soil Type: Widely adaptable – it tolerates sandy or clay soil but does poorly in alkaline pH.
Flower Color: White and Pink
Fall Color: Yellow
Fruit Color: Yellow to Red
Fruit Length: 0.5 to 1 inch fruit: attracts birds; mammals; no significant litter problem
Propagation: seeds Invasive potential: seeds itself into the landscape.
Pests/Diseases: none are of major concern. Tent caterpillars can defoliate trees and could weaken them with repeated defoliations.
Pest resistance: long-term health not usually affected by pests.
Fruit: The edible fruit are small, cherry-like, red to yellow plums which ripen in early to mid summer. Although they may be eaten raw, they are tart and are therefore more often used in preserves and jellies. Native Americans regularly consumed the fruit fresh or dried it for winter. The ripe fruit is eaten by deer, bear, fox and raccoon.
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**Click Herefor a PDF from Sarasota Count with more information on Chickasaw Plum Trees.

Prickly Pear Cactus

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– Prickly pear cactus is native to the southern United States, and quite a few species are native to Florida.
– This plant is drought and heat tolerant.
– It requires a sunny, well-drained site and is tolerant of sandy, alkaline soils
– Prickly pear will only tolerate wet conditions for a very short period of time.
– The plant will bloom over a period of several weeks, however the individual flowers only last one day. The flowers are cup-shaped, yellow to orange or red, appear on the outermost plate-like stem sections, and are 2 to 3 inches wide.
– Propagation is by division because the seeds of many species are difficult to germinate. The plate-like sections can be placed on slightly moist sand to obtain rooting.
– Opuntia spp. have no pests nor diseases of great concern. Root rot can be a problem in wet locations.
– Opuntia is the genus in the cactus family that includes prickly pears.  There are about 250 species of these plants,  and all are natives of the New World. Florida has 9 native species.
– Peeled, sliced and sprinkled with lemon, the berries have an enjoyable, sweet-tart taste.  Preserves made from prickly pear fruit are quite delicious, and the round black seed inside have been roasted and ground into flour. 

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– The showy berries may reach a length of 2 to 3 inches and are red to purple at maturity (mid to late summer). These fruits may be eaten after the spines and glochids have been singed off with fire, and the seeds of the fruits can be roasted for flour.

** Click Here For additional information on Florida Prickly Pears

‘Cotton Candy Tree’ Aratiles (Muntingia calabura)

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– The flowers resemble strawberry flowers and the fruit resembles little red cherries, hence its common names, Strawberry Tree and Jamaican Cherry.

 – It fruits nearly all year long and the green immature fruit ripens quickly, changing to a solid red color within a day.

– The Aratiles tree is a fast growing tree with cotton candy flavored fruit.

 – In containers, it needs to be periodically pruned or headed back to maintain size. This is a wonderful tropical fruit for pots that has been mostly overlooked until now. Click Here To purchase for $14.95 – Does best in Clay Pots. Fertilize with 15-15-15 or lower once a week or monthly with an organic based fertilizer. (discontinue feeding during the winter). 

– The Aratiles fruit is small, about the size of a blueberry. Unripe green fruit turns orange to red when ripe.

– As soon as the fruit ripens more flowers form.  In the warmer months, this is a plant that gives and gives; every day there is more fruit.  However, the tree does take a break in the winter.

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– A medium sized, evergreen, fast growing tree (25 to 40 feet tall).

– Makes a Great Shade Tree

– The flowers are small and white. The flowers look like the flowers of a strawberry-thus one of the common names for the tree.

– Everything I have read says the plant can grow in the worst soils where other plants can’t survive.

– Life Span of the tree has conflicting information – some say 7 years, others say 40+ years.

– It is also said to be drought tolerant. But some insist that it needs a lot of water.

– The tree won’t tolerate salt.

 – Full Sun; Southern Exposure is best.

 – They Need GOOD Drainage!

– They do have some PEST problems. In Florida the fruit have been infested with Caribbean fruit fly larva.

– The fruit is also made into jams and the fruit is also cooked into tarts. The leaves have been used for tea and the flowers for home remedies.

 – If You have Bees You should plant this Tree.

** Click Here to find out about propagation of the cotton candy tree.

Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa)

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 – Roselle (Hibiscus Sabdariffa) a.k.a. Jamaican Sorrel or Flor de Jamaica  is a fast growing annual hibiscus whose calyxes are used to make a delicious tea that is popular in the Caribbean and other tropical areas. It grows to about six feet tall. The plant is high in calcium, and the calyxes are high in vitamin C and antioxidants.

– A relative of hibiscus and okra, this plant was once a very popular edible.

– While not native to the state, it seems that most Florida Cracker homesteads grew it

– Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is also called Florida cranberry, red sorrel, or Jamaica sorrel, although it is actually native to Central and West Africa and is grown around the world.

– The part of the plant that is edible are the calyces of the roselle flower which can be used to make a variety of jams, sauces, and teas.

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– Roselle produces attractive foliage and flowers and will reach a height of about 7 feet.

– Many parts of the plant, including the seeds, leaves, fruits, and roots, are used medicinally or in foods.

– The leaves are lobed and reddish-green and can be used as a cooked green or added raw for a nice “zing” to a salad.

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– Appearing in October, the flowers are typically yellow with a dark center and about 3 inches wide. The part of the plant most popular however, is found at the bottom of each flower. This fleshy, bright red cup-like structure contains the plant’s seeds and is called a calyx. The color and tart taste of the calyces makes them a good replacement for cranberries.

– In the Caribbean, roselle is used to make a festive Christmas drink. Bakers can substitute roselle for rhubarb when making a fruit crisp or pie. The seeds, which are high in protein, can be roasted and brewed like coffee, or ground and added to soups and salads. The nutrient-rich calyces can either be stored frozen or dried for making cordials, punches, and jams. The calyces can also be used to add color and flavor to herb teas. Be sure to harvest calyces before they turn brown on the plant and separate them from the seeds before using them in recipes.

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– Roselle is started from seed or cuttings and typically planted outdoors in April or May. The variety ‘Victor’ has proven to be a good choice for gardeners in South Florida.

– Early pruning will increase branching and the development of more flowering shoots.

– Plants begin to bloom as the days shorten (in 4-5 months) and the calyces are ready for harvest in October or November. Calyces should be harvested when they are tender and plump; they will stay fresh for about a week after picking. Harvesting encourages more flower buds to develop. You won’t have to plant a lot of roselle to get a good harvest; one plant will give you many fruits—as much as 12 pounds with the right care.

– Roselle does best in well-drained soil and appreciates watering when rainfall is inadequate. Be aware that this plant does not do well in the shade and needs plenty of sunlight to thrive. Roselle can also be planted in Florida in August. It is only hardy in zones 9-10, and is damaged by frosts or freezes; plan your harvest before temperatures drop below 40° F. Root-knot nematodes are the major pest you will have to deal with when growing roselle, so be sure to practice crop rotation to reduce nematode problems.

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– Since roselle grows as an annual, be sure to save seeds from one season to the next. It is an heirloom plant that is passed from gardener to gardener. You can also look for plants in the spring and summer at your local farmers market.

Soil: Tolerant of most soil conditions, but strongly acidic soil should be limed up to mildly acidic. Needs very little to no fertilizer.
Water: Impressively drought tolerant.
Sun: Full sun to shade.
Cold: Will be damaged or killed by frost, and may be sickened by cold temperatures.
Pruning: None needed.

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Propagation: Primarily by seed, cuttings may be effective. Plant seeds in pots in Feb/March. Take them inside on cold nights. Set in field after danger of frost is past.
Pests: Root knot nematode, scale, aphids, cotton stainer, mildew. Control for most of these have many complicated options that may vary in effectiveness. Over-fertilizing probably contributes to pest and disease problems.
Other problems: Falls over and breaks, especially in storms, over-fertilizing may contribute. Fruits ripen primarily in the winter, and are in danger of freezing. Flowers are sometimes not ejected from calyx, and rot inside it. Remove old flowers if they are not dropped.
Harvesting and Storage: Harvesting of young calyxes will encourage more flowering. This is usually done when they are about 1 inch in diameter. The calyxes can be dried and stored.

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Preparation: Clean and toss in hot water with slices of ginger root and brown sugar. It takes a lot to make a tea of decent strength. The tea is a traditional Christmas drink in the Caribbean, as the calyxes ripen at that time. They can also be dried for later use, as iced sorrel tea is heavenly on a hot summer day. The calyxes are also used in salads, syrups, jam, jellies, and chutneys. The leaves have a strong flavor that is used in Senegal to flavor the fish and rice dish “thieboudieune.” In Myanmar, the dish “chin baung kyaw curry” is made from the leaves.

*Click Here for more information on Roselle planting in Florida & cooking with Roselle.

Key Lime (Citrus aurantifolia Swingle)

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– Key lime is a small, bushy tree, rarely taller than 12 feet (4.1 m). It has slender branches armed with short to medium length thorns. Spineless selections are more compact and upright in growth, have darker green foliage, and are characterized by low fruit production.

– The flowers are fragrant and small with white petals. Flowering occurs throughout the year but mainly in the spring.

– Key lime and a new selection, ‘Giant’ Key lime, do not require cross pollination to set fruit.

– Trees should be planted in full sun but in locations sheltered from cold northerly winds. The best fruit production and fruit quality occur in the warmest locations.

– Key lime is frequently propagated from seed since it is true-to-type due to its high degree of polyembryony (multiple maternal embryos in each seed). Key lime may also be propagated by hard wood cuttings, air-layers, or as budded or grafted trees.

– In extreme south Florida, select trees propagated onto rootstocks tolerant of high-pH, calcareous soils. Rootstocks suitable for Key lime grown in calcareous soils include alemow (C. macrophylla), rough lemon (Citrus jambhuri), Volkamer lemon (Volk) (C. volkameriana), and Rangpur lime (C. limonia).

– Key lime trees propagated from cuttings or air-layers may produce some fruit within a year of planting. Budded and grafted trees usually produce fruit within three years, whereas seedling trees require another year or two before fruiting. Vigorous, mature trees may produce 30 to 50 lbs (13–23 kg) of fruit per year.

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– Some fruit mature on the tree year-round. However, the principal season is early summer in south Florida and late summer further north.

– Key lime trees require good drainage and do not tolerate flooded conditions.

– Purchase only disease-free certified trees propagated under the rules and regulations of the Florida Budwood Certification Program. Commonly, nursery Key lime trees are grown in 3-gallon containers, and trees stand 2 to 4 feet from the soil media. Large trees in smaller containers should be avoided as the root system may be “root bound.” This means all the available space in the container has been filled with roots to the point that the tap root or major roots are growing along the edge of the container in a circular fashion. Root-bound root systems may not grow properly once planted in the ground. Inspect the tree for insect pests and diseases, and inspect the trunk of the tree for wounds and constrictions. Select a healthy tree and water it regularly in preparation for planting in the ground. The preferred time to plant is early spring or summer, although potted trees may be planted any time in warm locations.

– Many areas in Florida have sandy soils. Remove a 3- to 10-foot-diameter ring of grass sod. Dig a hole 3 to 4 times the diameter and 3 times as deep as the container the Key lime tree came in. Making a large hole loosens the soil next to the new tree, making it easy for the roots to expand into the adjacent soil. It is not necessary to put fertilizer, topsoil, or compost in the hole. If you wish to add topsoil or compost to the native soil, mix it with the excavated soil in no more than a 50-50 ratio.

– Key lime is not demanding in its fertilizer requirements. Fertilize sparingly (less than you would other citrus) to avoid disease problems associated with luxuriant growth. After planting, when new growth begins, apply 1/4 lb (113 g) of a young tree fertilizer such as a 6-6-6-2 (6% nitrogen–6% phosphate–6% potash–2% magnesium) with minor elements. Twenty percent to 30% of the nitrogen in the fertilizer should come from organic sources (Table 1). Repeat this every 3 to 4 months for the first year, and as the tree grows, gradually increase the amount of fertilizer to 0.5, 0.75, and 1.0 lb (227 g, 341 g, 454 g). For mature trees, 1.5 to 2.0 lbs of fertilizer per application 3 to 4 times per year is recommended.

– Several mites may attack Key lime leaves, stems, and fruit.

– Key lime juice has no cholesterol and is a source of vitamin A and vitamin

 – Instead of Plant a Key Lime Tree for the actual Fruit (which can be difficult to obtain!) Grow the tree for the aromatic leafs that can be used for Cooking!!

** Click Here for more detailed information on Key Lime Trees in florida & tables with fertilization recommendations by month.

Blue African Basil

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– African Blue Basil is a large shrubby form of basil that grows like a weed. The scent and flavor are more clove scented than Sweet Basil but it can be used for cooking.

– This plant grows to 4′ around and can grow in shady areas or in full sun for best flowering.

– African Blue basil (Ocimum kilimandscharicum x basilicum “Dark Opal”) is a sterile hybrid of an East African camphor basil and a standard garden variety called Dark Opal.

– It is very drought tolerant and the beautiful lavender pink flowers attract all kinds of bees to your garden.

– This basil is perennial but still sensitive to very cold weather. Easy to grow and never needs flowers pinched off because African Blue basil will not go to seed and die.

– To grow African Blue Basil, you must take cuttings from an existing plant, there are no seeds for this plant.

– It must get at least 2-3 hours of sunlight a day. It can be grown with filtered light such as under a tree or in a bright window indoors. If you forget to water it for about a month, and it wilts drastically, water it and it will look as good as new.

– Prune occasionally for a more bushy form by cutting off the top about a third.

– Cut some African Blue basil for herb bouquets and for garnish at the table.

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– Because African Blue Basil is sterile and never makes a seed, flower stems are longer, up to 18 inches, and bloom time is until frost. Individual flowers can be plucked from the stem or whole stem segments can be used for a dramatic addition to a culinary bouquet. Add African Blue Basil Flowers to sour cream for baked potatoes, top your favorite pasta dish with them or float them in ice trays and add to ginger ale, champagne or white wine spritzers.

– These are easily started in a glass of water (change the water every day) and then transferred to a pot for the winter. 

– In spring, prune back dead wood to leafy growth. In summer, prune all flowers for best leaf production, or just remove the oldest (longest) flower heads weekly to keep good leaves forming and keep the plant attractive. A reason to let some flowers bloom is that they attract not only honeybees, but several kinds of native bees, and the beneficial insects syrphid (hover) flies and lady beetles (ladybugs). Another is that they are, indeed, ornamental. But please, do eat the flowers, as well as the leaves, of this useful plant.

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– Basils do not dry well, but leaves and flowers can be pureed with olive oil and frozen for winter use. Use about 3 cups leaves to 1/3 cup olive oil and store flat in small resealable bags.

– African Blue Basil makes AMAZING Pesto!

                    – If You have Bees You should plant this Tree.

** Click Here to purchase for $5.95

Tahiti Persian Lime Tree

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– Growing Tahiti Persian limes requires not only a semi to tropical climate, but well drained soil to prevent root rot, and a healthy nursery specimen.

– Persian lime trees do not require pollination to set fruit and are more cold hardy than the Mexican lime and Key lime. However, damage to the Tahiti Persian lime tree leaves will occur when temperatures drop below 28 degrees F., (-3 C.) trunk damage at 26 degrees F. (-3 C.) and death below 24 degrees F (-4) C.

– Growing Tahiti Persian limes should be fertilized every two to three months with ¼ pound fertilizer increasing to 1 pound per tree. Once established, the fertilizing schedule may be adjusted to three to four applications per year following manufacturer instructions for the increasing size of the tree. A fertilizer mixture of 6-10 percent of each nitrogen, potash, phosphorus and 4-6 percent magnesium for the young growing Tahiti Persian limes and for bearing trees increasing the potash to 9-15 percent and reducing the phosphoric acid to 2-4 percent. Fertilize beginning late spring through the summer.
– Requires GOOD Drainage & Full Sun.

– Choose a healthy tree from a reputable nursery to ensure that it is disease-free. Avoid large plants in small containers, as they may be root bound, and instead choose a smaller tree in a 3-gallon container.
– Avoid damp areas or those that flood or retain water as the Tahiti Persian lime tree is prone to root rot. Mound the soil up instead of leaving any depression, which would retain water.

– Your Persian lime tree will flower from February to April (in very warm areas, sometimes all year) in clusters of five to 10 blooms and the following fruit production should occur within a 90-120 day period. The resulting 2 ¼- to 2 ¾-inch fruit will be seedless unless planted around other citrus trees, in which case it may have a few seeds.

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– Pruning of the Persian lime tree is limited and need only be utilized to remove disease and maintain a picking height of 6-8 feet.

Coconut Palm Tree

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– The coconut palm, more than any other plant, gives a tropical effect to the Florida landscape. While this palm is highly valued as an ornamental, it is also grown on a limited commercial basis in Florida for coco frio, a refreshing drink made from the water inside green coconuts.

– The coconut is the most extensively grown and used nut in the world and the most important palm. It is an important commercial crop in many tropical countries, contributing significantly to their economies.

Copra is the chief product of the coconut. Copra is the source of coconut oil, which is used for making soap, shampoo, cosmetics, cooking oils and margarine. Much of the fruit is consumed locally for food.

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-Male and female flowers are borne on the same inflorescence. Male flowers are small, light yellow, and are found at the ends of the branchlets. Female flowers are larger than male flowers, light yellow in color, and are found towards the base of the branchlets. Coconut palms begin to flower at about 4 – 6 years of age.

– Fruit: Inside the shell is a thin, white, fleshy layer, about one inch thick at maturity. This layer is known as the “meat” or copra. Coconut milk is abundant in unripe fruits, but the coconut milk is gradually absorbed as ripening proceeds. The fruits are green at first, turning brownish as they mature.

– The coconut palm starts fruiting 6 – 10 years after the seed germinates and reaches full production at 15 – 20 years of age. The tree continues to fruit until it is about 80 years old, with an annual production of 50 – 200 fruits per tree. The fruits require about a year to develop and are generally produced regularly throughout the year.

The Panama Tall (also called Pacific Tall) is a large, robust palm with a large-diameter trunk that is crooked and swollen. The Panama Tall has a rapid growth rate and either green or bronze-colored fruits and petioles.

The Jamaican Tall (also called Atlantic Tall) is a rapid-growing coconut palm variety with a swollen trunk base and crooked trunk. This variety is well adapted to Florida.

– Coconut Palm propagation is entirely from seed – the coconuts, which are ready for planting if they produce an audible “sloshing” sound when shaken. The nuts are placed on their sides and buried with sand or mulch to about one-half the thickness of the nut. They may be planted in closely spaced rows in well drained seedbeds, or the nuts may be planted directly into large pots. Germination is best under high temperatures (90 – 100 degrees F). Upon germination, the shoot and root emerge through the side or one end of the nut. Young palms, about 6 months old, can be transplanted directly into the field or can be grown in pots in the nursery for a few more years.

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– Coconut palms grow well in a wide range of soil types and in a wide pH range, from 5.0 – 8.0., provided the soils are well drained. Successful growth requires a minimum average temperature of 72°F and an annual rainfall of 30 – 50 inches or more.

– Coconut palms require full sunlight and are tolerant to wind and to temporary flooding.

– In home gardens, coconut palms should be planted where they will receive full sun and not be crowded. At least 1 inch of water should be supplied weekly by rainfall or by irrigation, especially during the first year following transplanting.

– Coconut palms are quite tolerant of windy sites and generally survive hurricane-force winds.

– Coconut palms are tolerant of saline water and soils, as well as salt spray.

– Coconut palms in the landscape are susceptible to several nutritional deficiencies. Potassium (K) deficiency is probably the most widespread and important deficiency of coconut palms throughout the world.

– To prevent nutritional deficiencies from occurring or to correct mild deficiencies, regular maintenance fertilization with a “palm special” fertilizer is recommended. These fertilizers should have an analysis of approximately 8N-2P2O5-12K2O-4Mg. The fertilizers should also have all of their N, K, and Mg in a controlled-release form to prevent rapid leaching of these nutrients through the soil. Additionally, the fertilizers should contain about 1 – 2 % Fe and Mn plus trace amounts of Zn, Cu, and B.

– Harvesting of coconuts occurs throughout the year. The time from fruit set to full maturity is about 12 months. The fruit should be harvested fully ripe for copra and dehydrated coconut. Drinking nuts should be picked earlier, at about seven months.

** Click here for more information on Coconut Palm Tree Fertilization.

Avacado (Persea americana Miller)

– In the U.S. avocados are produced in California, Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Texas.

– Trees range from 30ft-60ft. Considered Evergreens. Limbs are easily broken by strong winds or heavy crop loads.

– The fruit does not generally ripen until it falls or is picked from the tree. In Florida, the fruit is considered sufficiently mature for harvest when it reaches a specified calendar date and weight or size. The specific dates, weights, and sizes used to determine maturity vary by variety.

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– If other home landscapes possess avocado trees then most likely adequate pollination will occur by planting just one avocado tree, if no other avocado trees are within your immediate area, you may opt to plant two avocado trees, one an A-type, the other a B-type (see Table 2). This will help insure good pollination and fruit set.

– Avocado flowers are bisexual, however, the female and male flower parts function at different times of the day. Varieties are classified into A and B types according to the time of day when the female and male flower parts become reproductively functional. New evidence indicates avocado flowers may be both self- and cross-pollinated under Florida conditions.

Self-pollination occurs during the second flower opening when pollen from the anthers is transferred to the stigma of the female flower parts.

Cross-pollination may occur when female and male flowers from A and B type varieties open simultaneously.

– Self-pollination appears to be primarily caused by wind, whereas cross-pollination is caused by large flying insects such as bees and wasps.

– Varieties vary in the degree of self- or cross-pollination necessary for fruit set. Some varieties, such as ‘Waldin’, ‘Lula’, and ‘Taylor’ fruit well when planted alone. Others, such as ‘Pollock’ and ‘Booth 8’ (both B types) do not and it is probably advantageous to plant them with other varieties (A types) which bloom simultaneously to facilitate adequate pollination and fruit set.

– Most avocado varieties do not come true from seed (i.e., a seed will not render the same variety), so they must be propagated vegetatively. Cleft grafting is the preferred method of propagation in Florida, although veneer grafting is also used.

– Fruit Production: Less than 1% of the flowers on an avocado tree ultimately produce fruit. Some varieties set a large number of fruit, most of which drop (fall) during early summer, while others set fewer fruit but retain most of them to maturity. Varieties differ in productivity and in regularity of bearing, some producing a large crop only every other year. Trees that are under a good cultural program (i.e., fertilized and watered) have less of a tendency to alternately bear.

– Grafted trees begin to produce after 3 to 4 years. In Florida, yields of mature trees average 2 to 3 bushels per year (110 to 165 lbs; 50 to 75 kg). However, with good management, considerably better production can be expected. Avocado varieties in Florida mature from June to March (Table 2). Planting more than one variety will prolong the avocado season from the home landscape.

** Click Here for a Powerpoint on Grafting Avacado Trees with photos of each step & materials required.

– Avocado trees do not tolerate flooding or poorly drained soils but are adapted to many types of well-drained soils. Continuously wet or flooded conditions often result in decreased growth and yields, nutrient deficiency symptoms, dieback, and sometimes tree death.

– Trees grow well and produce satisfactory yields in the sandy and limestone soils of Florida if not subjected to flooding or poor drainage. In the home landscape, select an area that does not flood. If there is a potential for excessively wet or flooded soil conditions plant on a large hill or mound made up of native soil, 2 to 4 ft high (0.6 to 1.2 m) by 4 to 6 ft diameter (1.2 to 1.8 m).

– nursery avocado trees are grown in 3 gallon containers and these trees stand 2 to 4 ft from the soil media. Large trees in smaller containers should be avoided as the root system may be “root bound”. This means all the available space in the container has been filled with roots to the point that the tap root is growing along the edge of the container in a circular fashion. Root bound trees may not grow properly once planted in the ground.

– avocado trees should be planted in full sun for best growth and fruit production.

– To promote growth and regular fruiting, avocado trees should be periodically fertilized and watered and insects, diseases, and weeds controlled on an as needed basis

– Fertilization: In Florida, young trees should be fertilized every 1 to 2 months during the first year, beginning with 1/4 lb (114 g) of fertilizer and increasing to 1 lb (455 g) per tree. Thereafter, 3 or 4 applications per year in amounts proportionate to the increasing size of the tree are sufficient but, not to exceed 20 lbs per tree per year.

– Fertilizer mixtures containing 6 to 10% nitrogen, 6 to 10% available phosphorus petnoxide, 6 to 10% potash, and 4 to 6% magnesium give satisfactory results with young trees. For bearing trees potash should be increased to 9 to 15% and available phosphoric acid reduced to 2 to 4%. Examples of commonly available fertilizer mixes include 6-6-6-2 [6 (N)-6 (P2O5)-6 (K2O)-2 (Mg)] and 8-3-9-2 [8 (N)-3 (P2O5)-6 (K2O)-3 (Mg)].

– From spring through summer, trees should receive 3 to 4 annual nutritional sprays of copper, zinc, manganese, and boron for the first 4 to 5 years. Thereafter, only zinc, manganese, and possibly boron applications are necessary.

** Click Here for more information on Avacado Tree Growing n Florida including Fertilization tables by month.

Plant Grafting Information

Scion (or budwood): a piece of mature detached stem that will become the fruit bearing portion of the grafted plant. The scion usually contains two or three buds,

although it may contain more.

Rootstock (also called stock or understock): the seed grown plant that provides the root system of the grafted plant.

Rootstocks generally contribute desirable characteristics: vigor, hardiness, disease resistance, salt tolerance. ‘Lula’ is the preferred rootstock for avocados.

– Cambium: a layer of undifferentiated embryonic cells found between the wood and the bark (Produces new cells).

Callus: cells that develop in response to wounding (Callus cells function in plants as stem cells do in animals). Callus cells allow the two grafted plants to become one.

Cleft graft: a type of grafting where the rootstock is cleaved open and a tapered scion is wedged into the cleaved wound. Scion may be smaller than rootstock, or may be of similar size. Commonly Used for Propagation of Avocados. Best time of year to graft avocados is late winter through February

What happens during grafting?

Scion and rootstock will form callus • Callus will intermingle • New cambium forms • New xylem and phloem form to connect stock and scion • Scion and rootstock become one plant.

All Spice Tree

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– Fun History: Historically, allspice was used to preserve meats, generally wild pig called “boucan” during the 17th century peak of pirating along the Spanish Main, leading to them to being labeled as “boucaneers,” today known as “buccaneers.”

– The name “Allspice” is indicative of the combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, juniper and clove essence of the berries.

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– It is a slow-growing aromatic tree native to Central America. In southwest Florida, it is a small tree growing to a height of 15’ and width of 10-15’ in about 10 years. Berries are produced at about seven years old or earlier on female trees.

– Allspice pimenta is dioecious, meaning it requires both a male and female plant to fruit.

– Male trees may not produce berries or the essential oils in their leaves.

– Plant it in sun or part shade.

– Allspice comes from the dried, green berries of Pimenta dioica.

– It is indigenous to the Caribbean, specifically Jamaica, and was first identified around 1509 with its name being a derivative of the Spanish word “pimiento,” meaning pepper or peppercorn.

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– Allspice for cooking is procured from the drying of the tiny green berries of the female plant
– The ripe berries of this aromatic fruit are too gelatinous to use, so berries are picked prior to ripening and may then also be crushed to extract their potent oils.

soil – A well draining soil is of primary importance as True Allspice Trees roots do not like to be wet and will rot if allowed to sit in water for extended periods. A mixture of soil, sand and perlite is highly recommended for proper drainage.

– fertilizer – It is recommended that you fertilize at the same time as you water using a time released fertilizer 8-3-9 or similar to help your True Allspice Trees grow and produce a substantial crop. These trees are moderate feeders and may require multiple feeding during the growing season. It is important to follow the fertilizers labeled instructions as to not burn or kill the tree.

planting in pot – True Allspice Trees grow very well in containers as long as you provide an adequate size pot for root development. Select a pot 18-24 plus inches in diameter and 20 plus inches in height, with adequate drain holes. Glazed pots require far less watering than raw terracotta pots due to their porous nature.

 indoor light – A bright and sunny solarium or window location with a more southern exposure is best for growth and fruit production. Many customers have reported harvesting fruit from trees that live in home and patio environments.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)

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 – Lemon grass AKA takrai (Cymbopogon citrates) is a perennial grass native to India. 

 It prefers a sunny location with afternoon shade.
It likes rich, moist but well drained soil, with plenty of organic matter.
It should also get plenty of water and fertilizer.
It may grow back after mild frosts, but can be killed by a hard freeze.
You can propagate it before the freezes by pulling stalks out of the clump and potting them. Make sure your stalk has some roots. Remove most of the leaves so that it doesn’t dry out before it is able to grow in to the new soil.

Lemon grass is a common spice in Asian and Caribbean cooking. The leaves can be chopped finely, and the bulbous end of the stalk is bruised to release the flavor. It is often used in curries, soups, and for tea. The flavor blends well with garlic, chilies and cilantro.

– Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is an easy to grow herb that requires warm, humid conditions, full sunlight and plenty of moisture.

– Fresh stalks of lemongrass (leaves and roots absent) can be purchased at grocery stores specializing in Asian cuisine and will root in a glass of water in about 2 weeks.

– Only two of the 55 species of Cymbopogon are used as lemongrass. The East-Indian lemongrass (Cochin or Malabar grass) and the West-Indian lemongrass are typically used for cooking. Check with specialty nurseries and garden centers for available plants.

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Soils: Lemongrass prefers well-drained, moist, rich loam soil with high organic content. It will tolerate poor soils if provided adequate moisture and good drainage. Water logged soils should be avoided.

Plants: Divide last year’s lemongrass clumps or purchase starter plants from local nurseries. Lemongrass is rarely grown from seed.

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– Typically plants will produce several harvestable stalks by the end of the summer.

– Lemongrass divisions should be spaced 3 feet apart in the garden since it can grow 3 to 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide, if water, fertilizer and growing conditions are optimal.

Fertilization: Like other grasses, lemongrass requires lots of nitrogen during the summer. It should be feed weekly with a half-strength solution of a balanced soluble fertilizer from June through September. Supply a similar fertilizer monthly for plants in the ground.

Harvesting & Storage: lemongrass can be harvested at anytime, once the plant stalks have reached ½ inch thick. To harvest, cut stems at ground level, or push an outside stem to the side, twist and pull off or cut with a knife. Discard the outer woody layers and the leaves. The entire plant of the lemongrass can be used for cooking. Plant stalks are quite hard, so they are usually mashed and simmered in water to extract the lemony flavor. Stalks can also be crushed and placed in the bottom of foil wrappings with meat or vegetables. Once cooked the tender interior core can be sliced and used in a variety of dishes. The lemongrass leaves are used to flavor teas, soups and sauces. Dry lemongrass leaves in the sun or oven and use like bay leaf in soups and teas. Lemongrass can be frozen up to 6 months.

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– Stalk productivity depends on how well plants are maintained. It grows rapidly if supplied with sufficient water, fertilizer, sunlight and humidity. Productivity can be improved by dividing olderplants. Older stalks should be harvested first to promote new stalk growth.

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– Lemongrass oil is used in soap, perfume, makeup, hair products, a cleaning agent, antifungal agent, incense and potpourri. It is also used as an effective, non-toxic insect repellent. Lemongrass is rich in vitamin A and reportedly has many medicinal benefits.

Lemongrass is a tropical plant used as an aromatic and medicinal herb in many Asian, Caribbean, and African cuisines. It has a delicate lemon fragrance, and it adds an essential authentic note to curries and soups. It also makes a fresh, tangy herbal tea, which supposedly helps cure headaches and the flu.

– Use lemongrass to perfume chicken stock & add depth to marinades.

– chop some of the tender reeds for stir-fry, (labor intensive).

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**Click Here to read more about Harvesting & Freezing Lemon Grass – with photos. (This is a GREAT link with an AMAZING personal blog – lots on gardening, kitchen, cooking!)

Loquat Tree (Eriobotrya japonica (Thunb.) Lindl.)

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 – The Loquat or Japanese Plum (Eriobotrya japonica) is an easy-to-grow, low maintenance, medium size tree that produces delicious, succulent fruit in the spring.

 – Loquats need picking when ripe and they don’t travel well because they bruise easily – that’s why you haven’t seen them in your local supermarket! They are best eaten straight off the tree or within a day of picking because their taste changes (becoming sourer) once they are picked and stored for even a day. They taste like a combination of peach and apricot and are absolutely delicious in crumbles, pies, jams and jellies, syrups and sauces, chutneys, ice cream and fruit curds. They apparently also make a delicious fruit wine.

– Also known as ‘Japeneese Plum’

– Loquat trees are evergreen, have a short trunk, and may reach 20 to 35 ft in height.

– Native to southeastern and central China

– Loquat trees are pollinated by various insects including bees (Apis sp.), syrphids, houseflies, Myrmeleontidae, Bombinae, and Pieris rapae (L.). Although they are considered self-compatible, cross pollination improves fruit set and size.

– There are numerous loquat varieties in Florida and the U.S., but many cannot be found in the nursery trade. Loquat varieties have a range of peel and pulp colors as well as flavors. You may want to ask your local nursery if they can obtain a desired cultivar (). The Tropical Research and Education Center in Florida has budwood available for nurseries to use in propagation of 14 varieties of loquat.

– Loquat is a subtropical evergreen fruit tree that blooms in the fall and early winter and is harvested during the spring.

– Loquat trees may be propagated by seed,but they do not come true from seed and they have a 6-to 8 -year juvenile period before flowering and fruiting. Loquat seeds may remain viable for up to six months of storage at high RH and 41°F or cleaned and planted immediately.

– Loquat may be cleft, veneer, and whip grafted or chip, patch, or shield budded. Propagation by cuttings and marcottage is also possible but more difficult.

– Mature loquat trees may yield from 35 to 300 lbs per year depending upon tree size and care.

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– Loquat trees grow well in a range of well-drained soils, from fertile loamy soils to clay to gravelly limestone-based soils. Loquat trees are not tolerant of flooded soil conditions.

– loquat trees may become moderately large if not pruned to contain their size.

– Loquat fruit are attacked by the Caribbean fruit fly (Anastrepha suspensa) and some caterpillars. Protect fruit from the Caribbean fruit fly by paper bagging the entire fruiting panicle.

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Tree Size Control. During the first 1 to 2 years after planting, prune young trees by tipping shoots in excess of 2 to 3 ft, tipping will increase branching. Trees may be trained to a modified cental leader or open center configuration. Mature trees may be selectively pruned to maintain trees at 6 to 12 ft in height. This will make care of the tree and harvest easier.

Fruit Thinning. To improve fruit size, you may wish to hand-thin flowers or fruit. Allow anywhere from 4 to 10 fruits to develop per terminal. Thinning will increase fruit size from 25% – 100%. In areas with insects and or bird fruit pests, bag the fruit clusters. Bagging also hastens fruit development and reduces fruit scaring.

Zones: 7-10
Hardy: Cold hardy to 12 degrees once established. New leaves, flowers and fruit are destroyed at 26-28 degrees but the tree usually survives.
Maintenance: Low maintenance (drought tolerant, cold hardy, pest resistant)
Size & Type: 20′-30′ tall (15-20′ wide) subtropical, evergreen tree.
Varieties: Over 800 with a wide range of flavors, size, pulp and skin color.
Those in Florida gardens are mostly unknown cultivars.
Earth: Well drained soil (does not like areas that flood).
Dig in manure or compost when planting and once or twice a year thereafter. Loquats prefer slightly acidic soil: pH 5.5-6.5 and will tolerate calcareous alkaline soils, so add lime for a good distance around the tree when planting.
Sun: Young trees prefer light shade. Full sun once established for the best fruit.
It will grow well in shady areas but won’t produce as many flowers or fruit.
Water: Keep well watered the first year – once established it takes care of itself, although it will need extra water if there’s a drought, especially if there’s a drought when it’s flowering or developing fruit.
Container: Yes. They will need a large pot and lots of watering, feeding and pruning.
Espalier: Yes.
Pruning: Prune just after harvest to stop terminal shoots becoming too numerous. Remove crossing and dead branches and thin dense growth to let light into the center of the tree. Loquats respond well to severe pruning.
Flowers: Fragrant clusters of white flowers in the late fall.
Fruits: Plum like fruits (1-4″). Small to medium size seeds. Thin to thick skin. Bears fruit in 3-5 years. Fruits in the spring (January through April). Yield: 35-300 lb per year. The size and quantity of the fruit depends on the variety plus the amount of water, nutrients and sun.
Pollination: Considered self-pollinating although cross pollination by various insects (bees, syrphids and flies) is said to improve fruit set and size.
Leaves: Large (10 inches long), dark green on top, light green & fuzzy underneath.
Misc: Leaves drop all year round so plant over a bed where fallen leaves and fruits can be left to mulch naturally.
Pests: Black scale or fruit flies may be a problem. Birds can peck at fruit.
Toxicity: The seeds are slightly poisonous and contain hydrogen cyanide.
Uses: Cultivated throughout Asia for thousands of years for their fruits.
They grow easily into a great shade tree for a garden, patio or terrace.
Medicinal: The loquat is one of the most popular cough remedies in the Far East and is an ingredient of many patent cough medicines. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.
Edible: http://www.edibleplantproject.blogspot.com for recipes!
Wildlife: Attractive to bees and butterflies (the flowers) and birds (the fruit)

Cranberry Hibiscus

cranberryhibiscus.jpg

 – Cranberry Hibiscus ( (a.k.a False roselle, African rosemallow – Hibiscus acetosella) is a striking and colorful plant with red leaves that resemble a maple leaf. It can be grown as a border or hedge plant – its dramatic purple leaves contrasting nicely with plants that have paler green leaves.

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Zones: 8-11 Mature Height/Spread: 4-6 (10) feet
Mature Form: Wild & rangy, a dense bush if well pruned
Growth Rate: Rapid
Sun Exposure: Full Sun
Soil Requirements: 6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
Soil Type: All kinds of soil as long as it is well-drained
Water: Fairly drought tolerant
Leaves: Burgundy to bronze-green
Flower Color: Pink
Bloom Time: Late Fall/Early Winter
Propagation: Cuttings or seed. Seeds can be dried on plants and collected (wear gloves to protect hands when handling seeds)
Pests/Diseases: It is nematode and insect resistant

 – It does best in full sun to light shade and has rose pink hollyhock-like flowers that open for a few hours at midday mostly in the fall. It tends to grow so tall it straggles all over the place because its slender branches bend right over from the weight of its leaves. Prune it when it is young by pinching out the growing tips to encourage it to form a dense bush. Cut it to the base after it has finished blooming and it will usually grow a second year. If kept well pruned, it makes a lovely hedge or shrub. 

cranberryhibiscus2

 – Hibiscus sabdariffa is a sister species whose calyx (the sepals of the flower) is widely eaten throughout Africa. The calyx of cranberry hibiscus is not fleshy and is not eaten.
Uses: In Central America the flowers are blended with ice, sugar, lemon or lime juice and water to make a delicious, purple lemonade. The leaves are pleasantly tart and can be eaten in salads and stir fries. They retain their red color even after cooking. Because the leaves are a bit mucilaginous (slimy), they are best cooked in small-ish quantities and cooked only for a short time.

 – Hibiscus Syrup Recipe: Collect about thirty blossoms at dusk after they have folded. The petals add a bright red color rather than any special flavor. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil and remove from heat. Add 4 oz. dried hibiscus flowers and allow to steep, covered. When cool, add sugar to taste, and ½ cup fresh squeezed lime or lemon juice. Serve chilled.

Tips:

  • Use Popsicle sticks as planting markers
  • To improve drainage, simply mix some sand into the potting soil.
  • The best fertilizer is organic because it feeds the soil. The inorganic fertilizer will eventually make the soil toxic, kill the earthworms and is not good for the environment.
  • When one Banana starts to turn yellow – pick the banana bunch and let it finish ripening indoors – this will prevent the animals/birds from eating your bananas.
  • If You have chickens & a vegetable garden = Clean out the vegetable garden and use all that material as FREE chicken Food!
  • If you don’t know your soil pH, your county Extension office can help.
  • Squirrels in Florida Eat the Avocado before you can pick them!
  • Manure + Banana tree leafs = Compost

Pruning

- Broadleaf plants, both evergreen and deciduous, can be cut as hard as 
needed, even back to main trunks. New growth sprouts near the cut ends.
- Prune for size control and pedestrian safety, to remove dead or diseased
 plant parts, or to shape or train plants into hedges, topiary, espalier, 
or other interesting shapes
- Prune in the late winter or spring, depending on when the plants flower
- Cutting plants back to knobby growth ("pollarding") does not seriously harm plants in the long run.

Propogation

- Root stem cuttings of evergreen shrubs in the summer, taking short 
cuttings of mature new growth, stripping or pruning off the lower leaves,
 and sticking into moist potting soil or well-drained garden soil kept in
 bright indirect light and high humidity.
- Root stem cuttings of deciduous shrubs in the fall or late winter
- Keep cuttings moist 4-6 weeks until well rooted, then transplant into 
individual containers
- Rooting hormones increase the likelihood of rooting, but are not 
necessary for most plants.Click Here To purchase Rooting hormone on Amazon 
for $6. 

Fertilization

- Most plants need a regular "diet" of all-purpose plant food, either 
specialty (labeled for your specific plant type) or a generic N-P-K
 (nitrogen - phosphorus - potassium)
- Fertilize early in the plant's growing cycle - spring for summer plants,
 fall for winter plants
- For leafy plants, use a fertilizer with a higher nitrogen content 
(first number)
- For flowering or fruiting plants, use a fertilizer higher in phosphorous
 content (middle number)

NOTE: Never over fertilize! You will see lots of weak, leafy growth and
few flowers

Florida Gardening Links:

  1. Edison Estate Click Here
  2. Personal Garden Florida Link Click Here
  3. South Florida Plant Guide Click Here
  4. How to Grow an African Moringa Tree in Florida Click Here
  5. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds: They only sell organic and non-GMO seeds. Click Here
  6. Florida Food & Farm – tours available: Click Here
  7. Florida Urban Gardening Click Here
  8. Herbs in the Florida Garden: Click Here
  9. Edible Plant Project (Great Resource for Edible Plants that do well in Florida!): Click Here

Author:

Mother, Pediatric Nurse and a Trail Blazer for Positive Change.

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