Dietes – Gardening in the Coastal Southeast

This notable native iris is ordinarily filled in gardens and utilized in enormous scenes all through the country.

Dietes grandiflora

Dietes grandiflora is an enduring, evergreen plant which grows up to 1.5 m, shaping enormous bunches. The plant develops from underground rhizomes.

The long, unbending, blade formed leaves, held in a fan shape, are dull green and may arrive at up to 1 m long and 15-20 mm wide.

The appealing blossoms, hung on erect thin stems around 1 m long, are enormous (around 100 mm across) and are white with yellow nectar guides on the external tepals and violet focal sections.

Blossom and seed container

The blossoms are borne in masses at specific periods — frequently after downpour in summer. The singular blossoms don’t endure in excess of several days (so are of no utilization in a jar) in any case, the plant bears such countless blossoms during the pinnacle time frame that the plant looks generally striking.

This plant is incidentally called the “Pixie Iris” in light of the fact that the delicate white petals seem to be pixie wings, yet in addition tend to vanish bafflingly short-term!

The huge wild iris natural product is an enormous case up to 45 mm which is held erect and parts open to deliver sparkly, dim earthy colored seeds.

Preservation Status
Least Concern (LC), Dietes grandiflora isn’t undermined.

Circulation and territory
It develops normally along the southern and eastern waterfront region of the Eastern Cape and southern Kwazulu-Natal where it very well might be tracked down in full sun or halfway shade at timberland edges, or in the sanctuary of taller bushes on uncovered slants confronting the ocean.

Deduction of name and authentic viewpoints
The name Dietes signifies ‘having two family members’ and alludes to the connection between this class and Moraea and Iris. Grandiflora signifies ‘enormous bloom’.

There are 6species of Dietes — five of which happen in South Africa — and one on an island in the Tasman Ocean (between New Zealand and Australia). Dietes were once called Moraea (a firmly related bunch), however were isolated in light of the fact that Dietes have a rhizome, though Moraea have a genuine corm.

Bed of Dietes grandiflora

The blossoms draw in bunches of honey bees and different pollinators.

It has turned into a well known finishing plant because of its unwavering quality and toughness and is much of the time found in stopping regions at malls, schools and so on. It very well may be really utilized in mass plantings, but at the same time is viable in blended plantings or utilized as a highlight plant close by a lake or a few stages.

Developing Dietes grandiflora
This is a well known, simple to-develop garden plant which will develop under most circumstances. The plants are both ice and dry season tough and will fill in one or the other sun or shade. Be that as it may, for best outcomes and most blossoms, plant Dietes grandiflora in full sun or light shade in all around treated the soil, very much depleted soil and water well in summer.

The huge wild iris is not difficult to engender from seed planted in spring or by partitioning enormous bunches which spread through rhizomes. They duplicate quickly and are before long fit to be parted once more.


Handroanthus – Gardening in the Coastal Southeast

The Genus Handroanthus 
Family Bignoniaceae

This is a medium-sized genus of shrubs and trees native to warm areas of North America and South America. These colorful flowering trees are cultivated in warm regions around the world. At least, three species grow as far north as zone 9a in the Coastal Southeast. The genus Handroanthus was separated from the genus Tabebuia on the basis of DNA studies. One reference states that the species of Handroanthus have hairs on the surfaces of their leaves while Tabebuia leaves are smooth. 

The Bignoniaceae family contains shrubs, vines and trees that range around the world. It includes cross vine (Bignonia,) trumpet creeper (Campsis,) catalpa (Catalpa,) jacaranda (Jacaranda) and yellow elder (Tecoma.)

Handroanthus chrysotrichus (syn. Tabebuia chrysotricha)


Handroanthus chrysotrichus (UNF)

golden trumpet tree

This is a small tree to about twenty-five feet tall. Compared to the other yellow-flowered species in our area, H. umbellatus, this tree is a little taller, has deeper yellow flowers and has rusty-red hairs on its new flower buds and leaves. It grows well in a well-drained site in sun. Reportedly, it has some salt tolerance. This species has not been trialed for long in upper zone 9a. It may benefit from a some protection from cold winter winds.

This plant is available in central Florida nurseries. It is propagated by seeds and semi-hardwood cuttings.

This plant struggled and died in my northern zone 9a garden. It survived a winter low in the mid-20’s at the University of North Florida (middle zone 9a) and flowered the following spring. Typically, it flowers in February.

Handroanthus impetiginosus (syn. Tabebuia impetiginosa)


Handroanthus impetiginosus (UNF)

 ipe, pink trumpet tree 

This is a medium-sized tree to about twenty-five feet tall. It is deciduous for a short time in spring when the large, trumpet-shaped, pink flowers appear. Its leaflets are lightly fuzzy and have small teeth along the margins. It grows best in a sunny, well-drained site with some protection from winter winds. 

This plant is available in central Florida nurseries but is difficult to find further north. It is propagated by seeds and semi-hardwood cuttings.

The young plant in my northern zone 9a garden has experienced three winters with lows in the upper teens in the past ten years. After a decade, this scrawny, little survivor is nothing more than a curiosity. A few miles south, plants at the Jacksonville Zoo and the University of North Florida have grown to tree size. They tolerate winter lows in the low to mid-20’s F without difficulty. They flower in late March to mid-April depending on the spring temperatures. It seems to have moderate salt tolerance. 


Handroanthus impetiginosus (by Tania Pereira of the Rio de Janiero Botanical Garden)

Handroanthus umbellatus (syn. Tabebuia umbellata)


Handroanthus umbellatus (Encinosa house)

yellow trumpet tree

This is a small tree to about twenty feet tall. It drops its leaves in spring just before it is covered with bright yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers. Its leaves are smooth with entire margins. It grows best in a sunny, well-drained site with some cold protection.

This plant is uncommon in central Florida nurseries, and almost unknown further north.  It can be grown easily from seeds. Reportedly, it is propagated, also, by air-layers.

A plant struggled for a few years in my upper zone 9a garden before dying. Plants grow slowly but well in UNF’s middle zone 9a landscape. Matt Encinosa says that in middle zone 9a, his plant flowers in late February to mid-April depending on the spring temperatures.  New leaves appear in shortly after flowering.

Handroanthus hybrid 


Handroanthus hybrid (UNF)

hybrid trumpet tree 

This is a relatively new hybrid that should grow to about twenty-five feet tall. The plant in the image is the result of a cross that Matt Encinosa and I made between two of the cold hardiest species, H. impetiginosus and H. umbellatus. Our plant has the habit and vigor of H. impetiginosus but the flowers open yellow before fading to pink. Its leaves are glossy with a serrated margin. The new leaves of this particular plant are dark burgundy in color (see photo below.)

This cross has been made by a few people around Florida and can be found in a few central Florida nurseries. This hybrid should be propagated by semi-hardwood cuttings or layers.

My plant has grown for four years in a sunny, well-drained site in middle zone 9a. It survives winter lows of 25 degrees F with no apparent damage.


Handroanthus hybrid – new leaves


Handroanthus hybrid at UNF

Acacia – Gardening in the Coastal Southeast

The Genus Acacia
Family Fabaceae

This is a large, variable genus of shrubs and trees. Mostly, they are native to Australia, with additional species Asia and Madagascar. In 2005, the genera AcaciellaMariosousaSenegalia and Vachellia were separated from AcaciaAcacias are cultivated around the world but are better known in the southwestern United States than in the Coastal Southeast. Many have attractive, colorful flowers. Some have compound leaves but several species bear phyllodes, expanded leaf stalks (petioles) that function as leaves. Some acacias have spines on the branches but the limbs of the tree species may be trimmed up so the spines are not a threat to passers by.

The bean family, Fabaceae, is one of the largest of the plant families. It is characterized by seed pods that are known to botanists as legumes. This is a large family that includes many important economic crop genera, including peanut (Arachis,) soybean (Glycine,) alfalfa (Medicago) and beans (Phaseolus.) Ornamental garden plants include orchid tree (Bauhinia,) redbud (Cercis,) coral tree (Erythrina,) lupine (Lupinus) and black locust (Robinia.)


Acacia pendula


Acacia pendula (New Orleans B. G.)

weeping myall

I decided that I had to have this plant after seeing one in the New Orleans Botanical Garden. The pendant branches of gray-green to silvery-gray phyllodes are very attractive. It is reported to grow to thirty feet tall. Flowers are yellow. Reportedly, it can produce suckers when the roots are disturbed. This native of dry regions in Australia seems to be a little better known in the American southwest than here in the Coastal Southeast. It is reported to be drought tolerant. Surprisingly, reports from the southwest say that it tolerates heavy clay soils and will survive brief periods of flooding. Another report says that it will tolerate winter lows of 15 degrees F. These reports and the healthy young plant in New Orleans suggest that this attractive plant should be trialed elsewhere in the Coastal Southeast.

Plants may be found in specialty nursery catalogs.

I have a few young plants at the University of North Florida but do not yet have experience to share. 

Acacia pravissima


Acacia pravissima (AASU)

 Oven’s wattle 

This is a distinctive evergreen shrub from Australia that usually grows to about eight feet tall in the garden but can reach twenty feet tall. Small, triangular, gray-green phyllodes line the stems like oddly-shaped leaves. Branches become somewhat pendant with age. The fragrant, yellow flowers are borne in small balls. It grows well in full sun and requires a well-drained soil. It is reported to be moderately salt tolerant and to grow from zone 9 south but can be found in lower zone 8b. A plant at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia survived a windy night in the mid-teens F with some stem die back.

This plant may be found in specialty catalogs. It is propagated by seeds. Reportedly, semi-hardwood cuttings in summer may be rooted.

I have not grown this plant yet but a nice specimen grew for years at the Armstrong Atlantic State University Arboretum. It was killed by two successive cold winters.

Acacia stenophylla


Acacia stenophylla (AASU)

shoestring acacia

This is a spineless evergreen tree from Australia that grows to forty to sixty feet tall. It has an open, generally upright habit, often with somewhat weeping branches. The common name, “shoestring” refers to the long, narrow, pendulous phyllodes. White to yellowish flowers are borne in spherical clusters near the branch tips. The long seed pod is constricted between each round seed. The plant may produce root suckers but not frequently. In nature, it grows along water courses in scrub forest, and can tolerate flooding and high levels of salt in the soil. It is cultivated in irrigated California and Arizona gardens and is particularly attractive in small groves. It is useful in areas where security lights cannot be blocked by dense tree canopies. It is reported to be cold hardy to zone 8b and south. From my observations, this species, especially young trees, should be treated as cold tender in zone 8b.

This plant appears occasionally in local nurseries and may be found in specialty catalogs. Seeds are easy to germinate and seedlings are reasonably fast growing. Reportedly, this plant may be propagated by stem cuttings.

It grows best in a well-drained, sunny site and is drought tolerant in our area. New shoots begin to grow in late March to mid-April, depending on spring temperatures. The plant at my home flowered from June into November in its first year. It survived a brief winter low of 18º F but was killed to the ground by an unusually long, cold winter with a low of the same temperature. Plants have grown well in zone 9a at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida and I have planted many seedlings in parking lot islands. Occasionally, I lose plants to periods of heavy rain and to high winds.


Acacia stenophylla flowers

other Acacia species

An Australia mulga, Acacia aneura, grew well for a few years in a hot, sandy parking lot island at the University of North Florida in zone 9a. It survived droughts but died during a year with normal rains. The gray foliage is attractive and it has no thorns. I will try it again sometime.

Acacia craspedocarpus grows at the Armstrong Atlantic State University Arboretum. It is a shrubby species to eight feet tall or more. The phyllodes are gray-green when mature but are covered with tiny coppery hairs when young. It is thornless

Acacia redolens is supposed to be a rapid grower but these plants grew poorly in a sandy site in zone 9a for a year during a drought. They died the following year during a summer average rainfall. This plant may survive in the right site in the Coastal Southeast but it this experience suggests that it will not be an easy plant for this area.


Acacia aneura (UNF)


Acacia craspedocarpus (AASU)

Mecardonia – Gardening in the Coastal Southeast

The Genus Mecardonia
Family Plantaginaceae

This is a medium-sized genus of herbaceous plants from North America and South America, including the Coastal Southeast. At least two species are native to the Coastal Southeast.

Plantaginaceae is a fairly large family that ranges throughout the world. It includes herbaceous annuals and perennials, and shrubs. Familiar garden genera include angelonia (Angelonia,) snap dragon (Anthirrhinum,) foxglove (Digitalis,) nemesia (Nemesia,) Brazilian snapdragon (Otacanthus,) firecracker plant (Russelia) and speedwell (Veronica.) Many of these plants were previously included in the family, Scrophulariaceae.


Mecardonia hybrids

Most references indicate that this plant is a hybrid. It resembles a native wildflower of the Coastal Southeast, Mecardonia procumbens

This is a low, spreading herbaceous plant that grows only a few inches tall. The stems root where they touch the ground and will trail over the edge of a pot. Leaves are small and bright green. The flowers are small but are bright yellow and produced abundantly throughout the growing season. Reportedly, it does not set seeds. Grow it in a reasonably moist, well-drained soil in full sun to part sun.  It is reported to be cold hardy to 20 degrees F, making it a perennial in zone 9a and a heat-tolerant summer annual in the cooler parts of the Coastal Southeast. 

This plant is available in local nurseries. Plants are propagated by division or cuttings.

I have grown this plant in a container of potting soil for a few years, so far. It grows and flowers profusely during the warm months. Its growth slows but continues through the winter. My plant is evergreen. Large sections of foliage have died when winter temperatures drop into the low 20’s F. It begins growing and flowering again in early March and recovers quickly. 


salt tolerant plants – Gardening in the Coastal Southeast

Salt Tolerant Plants for the Coastal Garden

I include this list because I recognize the importance of it in the Coastal Southeast. I do not discuss salt tolerance with great confidence, however, because I have not lived on the beach and experienced the particulars first hand. Also, the beach front is a continuum and conditions change rapidly as you move back  from the water’s edge and into wind breaks. In general, a few plants are able to thrive on the beach front, tolerating salt at their roots and the constant spray on their leaves and stems. A somewhat larger group grows a little further back, with less salt in the soil and frequent spray of salt water. The largest group grows at the back of the dunes, just salt tolerant enough to survive occasional salt spray during strong winds and storms. Besides salt tolerance, plants that grow on sandy beaches and dunes must be drought tolerant, too. 

Besides the typical beach front situation, salt may be an issue in landscapes watered with reclaimed water. I have been using reclaimed irrigation for just a few years and am beginning to see damage that seems to be connected to salts in the water. If you are using reclaimed water, my page on Reclaimed Water includes some discussion of the topic and a list of salt-sensitive plants. 

I have relied heavily on references for information on salt tolerant plants. I did not include every species mentioned in these lists. Please click on the links below for more information if you wish to explore this topic further.
     A brochure from Southern Horticulture Nursery in St. Augustine, Florida. 
     Salt Tolerant Plants for Florida, from the University of Florida IFAS publication #ENH26.
     Landscape Plants for the Texas Coast, from Texas A&M Aggie Horticulture on-line

I welcome comments from beach gardeners on this list.

In the list below, the asterisk (*) indicates a Coastal Southeast native.

Acacia farnesiana – sweet acacia*

Aesculus pavia – red buckeye – moderate salt tolerance*

Betula nigra – river birch – moderate salt tolerance*

Bismarckia nobilis – Bismarck palm – moderate salt tolerance

Butia capitata – pindo palm – moderate salt tolerance

Caesalpinia pulcherimma – dwarf poinciana

Callistemon citrinus – bottlebrush – moderate salt tolerance

Cedrus deodara – deodar cedar – moderate salt tolerance

Celtis laevigatus – sugar berry *

Citrus aurantifolia  – Key lime

Cordia boissieri – white Geiger tree – moderate salt tolerance

Cupressus arizonica – Arizona cypress – moderate salt tolerance

Ebanopsis ebano – Texas ebony

Eriobotrya japonica – loquat – moderate salt tolerance

Ficus carica – fig

Ilex cassine – dahoon holly – moderate salt tolerance*

Ilex opaca – American holly*

Ilex vomitoria – yaupon holly*

Illicium parviflora – yellow anise

Juniperus chinensis – Chinese juniper – moderate tolerance

Juniperus virginiana – red cedar – high level of salt tolerance*

Lagerstroemia faurei – Japanese crape myrtle – moderate salt tolerance

Lagerstroemia indica x faurei – common crape myrtle – moderate salt tolerance

Magnolia grandiflora – southern magnolia – moderate salt tolerance*

Muhlenbergia capillaris – purple muhly grass*

Myrcianthes fragrans – Simpson’s stopper*

Nyssa sylvatica – black gum, tupelo – moderate salt tolerance*

Olea europea – olive – moderate salt tolerance

Parkinsonia aculeata – retama, Jerusalem thorn

Phoenix canariensis – Canary Island date palm

Phoenix dactylifera – date palm – high level of salt tolerance

Pinus elliotii – slash pine – moderate salt tolerance*

Platanus occidentalis – sycamore – moderate salt tolerance*

Prunus angustifolia – Chickasaw plum – moderate salt tolerance*

Quercus geminata – sand live oak – high level of salt tolerance*

Quercus phellos – willow oak*

Quercus shumardii – Shumard oak – moderate salt tolerance*

Quercus virginiana – live oak*

Sabal palmetto  – cabbage palm – moderate salt tolerance*

Tabebuia chrysotricha – golden trumpet tree – moderate salt tolerance

Ulmus americana – American elm – moderate salt tolerance

Ulmus crassifolia – cedar elm – moderate salt tolerance*

Zanthoxylon clava-herculis – toothache tree* 

Agave americana – century plant – high level of salt tolerance*

Allagoptera arenarius – seashore palm

Callicarpa americana – beauty berry – high level of salt tolerance*

Callistemon citrinus – lemon bottlebrush

Chamaerops humilis – European fan palm

Erythrina herbacea – Cherokee bean*

Fatsia japonica – Japanese fatsia

Gardenia jasminoides – gardenia

Hamelia patens – fire bush*

Leucophyllum frutescens – Texas sage

Myrcianthes fragrans – Simpson’s stopper – high level of salt tolerance*

Myrica cerifera – wax myrtle – high level of salt tolerance*

Nerium oleander – oleander – high level of salt tolerance

Opuntia stricta and relatives – prickly pear – high level of salt tolerance*

Pittosporum tobira – pittosporum  – high level of salt tolerance

Rhaphiolepis indica – Indian hawthorn

Rosmarinus officinalis – rosemary

Serenoa repens – saw palmetto – high level of salt tolerance*

Sophora tomentosa – necklace pod – high level of salt tolerance*

Strelitzia reginae – bird-of-paradise

Tecoma stans – yellow elder – high level of salt tolerance*

Vitex agnus-castus – chaste tree

Westringia fruiticosa – coast rosemary

Yucca aloifolia – Spanish Bayonet – high level of salt tolerance*

Zamia floridana – coontie*

low-growing plants
Aloe vera – aloe, burn plant

Borrichia frutescens – sea ox-eye daisy

Canavalia rosea – beach bean

Carpobrotus edulis – Hottentot fig

Catharanthus roseus – periwinkle

Croton punctatus – Gulf croton* (see photo below)

Gaillardia pulchella – blanket flower*

Hedera canariensis – Algerian ivy

Helianthus debilis – beach sunflower – high level of salt tolerance*

Ipomoea imperati – beach morning glory 

Ipomoea pres-caprae – railroad vine

Iva imbricata – beach elder*

Juniperus confertus – seashore juniper

Lantana montevidensis – trailing lantana

Liriope muscari – border grass

Monarda punctata – dotted horse balm*

Pentas lanceolata – pentas

Plumbago auriculata – plumbago

Portulaca pilosa – wild portulaca*

Spartina patens – salt marsh cordgrass*

Turnera ulmifolia – buttercup

Uniola paniculata – sea oats – high level of salt tolerance*

Yucca aloifolia – Spanish bayonet 

Yucca filamentosa – yucca, bear grass*

Cynodon dactylon – Bermuda grass – high salt tolerance

Paspalum vaginatum (turf cultivars) – dwarf seaside paspalum – high salt tolerance*

Stenotaphrum secundatum – St. Augustine grass – salt tolerance

vegetables (most have not been tested)
Asparagus officianalis – asparagus

Beta vulgaris – Swiss chard

Brassica rapa – bok choi, turnip – moderate to low salt tolerance (Chinese cabbage tolerance is low)

Brassica carinata – Ethiopian mustard

Cucumis sativa – cucumber – low salt tolerance

Eruca sativa – arugula

Latuca sativa – lettuce – moderate salt tolerance

Ipomoea batatas – sweet potato (varies according to clone)

Solanum lycopersicum – tomato – moderate salt tolerance

Solanum melanogena – eggplant – moderate salt tolerance

Spinacia oleracea – spinach – moderate tolerance of salt

Bougainvillea spp. – bougainvillea

Ficus pumila – creeping fig

Ipomoea imperati – beach morning glory*

Ipomoea pres-caprae – railroad vine – high level of salt tolerance*

Tecoma capensis – Cape honeysuckle

Trachelospermum jasminoides – Cape jasmine


Kaempferia – Gardening in the Coastal Southeast

The Genus Kaempferia
Family Zingiberaceae

This is a medium-sized genus of small herbaceous perennials native to Asia. Several species are cultivated in Coastal Southeast gardens for their attractive foliage and colorful flowers. They are commonly called peacock gingers. The correct identities of these plants can be confusing. Tim Chapman of Gingerwood Nursery has updated some of the names below. The cultivated plants, at least, are deciduous in winter. They spread slowly but are durable perennials. The fastest of them can be used as a groundcover for a small area. With their ease of cultivation, small size, and wide variety of form and color, they tempt the gardener to make a collection. Cornukaempferia is a closely related genus with plants that have a similar appearance.

All of these plants are easy to grow in shade and a reasonably well-drained soil. They are generally tough and surprisingly drought tolerant. They deserve greater use in our region’s gardens.

The ginger family, Zingiberaceae, contains several genera of plants that we grow in our gardens, including hidden lily (Curcuma,) butterfly ginger (Hedychium) and ginger (Zingiber.) Cardomom, ginger, galangal, and tumeric are some  important commercial spices come from this family.

Kaempferia angustifolia


Kaempferia angustifolia

narrow-leaf peacock ginger 

This is a deciduous herbaceous perennial with stout underground rhizomes. In the commonest form, the leaves are comparatively narrow and plain green, wavy on the margins, and stand about eight inches tall. Variegated selections are available. I have one robust form that I purchased as K. siamensis (pictured below.) Flowers are lavender and white, with a purple center. The plant has a moderate growth rate. It is reported to be cold hardy from zone 8 to the tropics.

This plant may be found in specialty catalogs. This plant spreads relatively quickly and is easily propagated by division. Presumably, the species are propagated by seed, too, but I have never seen one produce a fruit.
The leaves of plants in my upper zone 9a garden emerge in May to early June, depending on spring temperatures. They flower from late May into June. They die to the ground in November or December, depending on winter temperatures.


Kaempferia elegans ‘Shazam’ 


Kaempferia elegans ‘Shazam’

‘Shazam’ peacock ginger

This is a low-growing, deciduous herbaceous perennial with underground rhizomes. Foliage is spotted strongly with silver and dark green. Leaves are held close to the ground. Flowers are purple-pink. Flowers and growth habit are similar to K. pulchra. It has a moderate growth rate. It is recommended for zone 8 and south.

This plant may be found in specialty catalogs. This plant is easily propagated by division. This plant has been sold as K. laotica, a different plant.

My plants produce new leaves between the end of May and mid-June. It dies to the ground in November or December.

Kaempferia galanga


Kaempferia galanga

lesser galanga

This is a green-leafed species with leaves that lay nearly flat on the ground. Flowers are white with a little purple in the center. This is one of several gingers known as galanga. The roots of this species are used in Southeast Asian cooking and medicines. It is reported to be reliably cold hardy in zone 8b and possibly in 8a. This one spreads slowly.

This species may be found in specialty catalogs. This plant may be propagated by division. 

My plant flowers in late summer to fall. New leaves emerge in late May to early June. Its leaves die to the ground with the first hard frost, usually in December.

Kaempferia species ‘Hieroglyphics’


Kaempferia species ‘Hieroglyphics’

This is a low-growing, deciduous herbaceous perennial with underground rhizomes. Foliage is beautifully marked with silver between the veins. The leaves are held nearly flat to the ground so they are easily covered by fallen leaves. Flowers are lavender pink. It spreads slowly. I can find no information about its cold hardiness.

This plant may be available in specialty catalogs. Tim tells me that the name is not yet published but this plant has been sold as Kaempferia hieroglyphica. My plant is slow but I am sure it will form a clump that can be divided – in time.

My plants have pink flowers in mid-June into October. New leaves emerge in mid to late May. It is deciduous at the first hard frost in December. My plant has survived winter lows in the upper teens F.

Kaempferia marginata


Kaempferia marginata

Flat Maroon peacock ginger

This is a low-growing, deciduous herbaceous perennial with underground rhizomes. Leaves are green to purplish and lie very nearly flat on the ground. The roll at the edge of the leaf gives it more rigidity than the leaves of most Kaempferia species. Flowers are white with a purple spot in the center. It spreads very slowly in my garden. It grows well in shade near other Kaempferia species. I find little information about this plant. Tim Chapman says it is closely related to K. galanga.

My purple-leafed plant came from ginger expert, Tom Wood, as Kaempferia ‘Flat Maroon.’ It spreads slowly but should be propagatable by division. This attractive little plant is in the hands of collectors. Hopefully, it will appear in the nursery trade in the near future.

My plant produces new leaves in late May to mid-June. It has white flowers from July to September. It dies to the ground after first hard frost, usually in December. 

Kaempferia parviflora


Kaempferia parviflora

black galangal

This species holds its leaves more upright than most. They tend to arch out from the center of the clump. Leaves are green with a reddish underside. The species name, parviflora, refers to the small flower that is usually hidden below the foliage. It grows with more vigor and tolerates more sun than the small, flat species. It is reported to be cold hardy from zone 8 to the tropics. It has been used as a medicinal plant in Asia.

This plant is available in specialty catalogs. This plant spreads relatively quickly and is propagated easily by division.

My plants produce new leaves in early to late May to early June. The small white and purple flowers appear in early June after the foliage expands. It dies back after freeze, usually in December.


Kaempferia pulchra


Kaempferia pulchra

peacock ginger

This must be the most familiar of the peacock gingers. The species is highly variable. Young foliage is spotted with silver, especially when they newly unfold. ‘Bronze’ is a form with brownish leaves that are marked with silver. A particularly vigorous form is sold as ‘Mansonii.’ Some retain markings on mature leaves but others turn mostly green. Additional cultivars may exist. Flowers are lavender or white. It has a moderate rate of spread, fast compared to other Kaempferia species. It is recommended for zone 8 and south.

Plants may be found in local nurseries and are available in specialty catalogs. This plant is easy to propagate by division.

My plants produce new leaves in early May to early June. The various selections have white or purple flowers from late June into October. It dies to the ground after hard frost. This is the only species of Kaempferia that has spread by seeds in my garden.


a large, white-flowered K. pulchra

Kaempferia rotunda


Kaempferia rotunda ‘Frost’

Asian crocus

This species has upright leaves, somewhat like K. parviflora. The clump can grow to twelve inches tall or more. In contrast to K. parviflora, this species produces large flowers before the leaves emerge in spring. These orchid-like flowers are white with lavender and purple lips. Foliage is lightly spotted with silver and are reddish below. The leaves of cultivar ‘Frost’ have stronger silver markings. Cultivar ‘Grande’ is much larger than typical cultivars. Growth rate is moderate. It is recommended for zone 8 and south.

Plants may be found in local nureries and are available in specialty catalogs. This plant is propagated easily by division.

My plants begin flowering in late April to mid-May before the first leaves appear. Leaves are produced in mid-May to early June, and die down in December.


Kaempferia rotunda flower

Kaempferia siamensis


Kaempferia siamensis

I purchased this plant a few years ago as ‘Tiny Stripes.’ Tim Chapman identified it as a form of K. siamensis. Leaves are about five inches long. This plant has grown slowly in my garden with little attention. I find little information about this species.

This plant might be found in a specialty catalog.

My plant has grown well for several years in an unirrigated part of my garden in the shade of a live oak. It has survived winter lows in the upper teens. Like most of my Kaempferia species, it is dormant through the winter months and leaves emerge late, usually in mid-May.

Kaempferia x ‘Pink Lace’

PictureKaempferia x ‘Pink Lace’

This hybrid is fairly new to the nursery trade. It is a larger plant, rather like K. rotunda. As the name indicates, the silver-marked foliage has a rich pink tint. The flowers emerge before the leaves appear. They are nearly white with some pink pigment.

This plant is available in specialty catalogs. 

My plant is young but appears to be as vigorous as the other species in my garden. The foliage color makes it an attractive addition to the shade garden. This plant is one of the last to produce foliage in spring in my upper zone 9 garden. Leaves emerge in June.


Cordyline – Gardening in the Coastal Southeast

The Genus Cordyline
Family Asparagaceae

This is a small genus of shrubs and trees native to warm climates in Asia and Australia, reportedly with one species native to South America. The names seem to be confused in horticultural literature. At least one species is cold hardy enough to grow in northern zone 8 gardens. 

It is challenging to keep up with botanists’ changes to the Asparagaceae. The current trend in botany is to include several families previously separated from the Asparagaceae. This epanded family includes many interesting garden genera, including agave (Agave,) asparagus (Asparagus,) cast iron plant (Aspidistra,) spider plant (Chlorophytum,) ti plant (Cordyline,) plantain lily (Hosta,) mondo grass (Liriope,) nolina (Nolina,) snake plant (Sansevieria) and Yucca

Cordyline australis


Cordyline australis (AASU)

  New Zealand cabbage tree 

This is a small to medium-sized tree. It is capable of reaching over forty feet tall in the wild. Young plants have a straight stem that branches with age. Each branch is topped with a dense crown of slender, grass-like leaves. It is cultivated in warm temperate gardens around the world for its tropical appearance. Leaves vary in width and color. Several cultivars have been selected on the basis of leaf color. It grows best in a moist, well-drained, shady site and is moderately drought tolerant. It is listed as moderately salt tolerant, along with C. stricta and C. indivisa. Various references indicate that this plant will survive in 7b with protection but is more reliably cold hardy in zone 9. 

Plants are available in nurseries and catalogs. ‘Red Sensation’ is an attractive plant with reddish leaves that maintains its best color in full sun. Plants are propagated by seeds and cuttings. Cultivars will not come true from seeds.

My largest plant grew to eight feet tall from a small potted plant in just four years. Young plants survived a brief winter low in the upper teens F with no obvious damage but all of my plants were killed by two particularly long, cold winters in a row with lows in the upper teens F. 

Cordyline terminalis


Cordyline terminalis

ti plant 

This is an evergreen, tropical plant that grows to about six feet tall or more. The broad leaves are green, pink, or white variegated. Grow them in part shade or sun in a moist, well-drained site. Plants survive in uppermost zone 9a and even lower 8b through mild winters or in protected sites but they can look a bit ragged by spring. Various references say it is cold hardy from 9 or 10 to the equator. 

Plants are readily available in nurseries and plant shops. Propagation is by seeds and cuttings. Seedlings may not have the same foliage color as the parent plant.

I grow plants in zone 9 as cold tender perennials that are annuals many years. I have seen plants survive mild winters in northern zone 9a, experiencing some foliage damage with lows in the upper 20’s F. Plant suffer stem damage and may be killed when temperatures drop into the mid-20’s. 


Dorstenia – Gardening in the Coastal Southeast

The Genus Dorstenia
Family Moraceae

This is a small genus of herbaceous and woody plants native to Africa and South America, with a single species in Asia. A few are grown as ornamentals in warm climates and greenhouses.

The mulberry family, Moraceae, is a large family with many members throughout the world’s tropics. It includes herbaceous perennials, shrubs, vines and trees. A few members of this family are cold hardy enough to grow as far north as zone 8b. Osage orange (Maclura) and mulberry (Morus) may be the best known plants to gardeners north of zone 9.  Breadfruit and jackfruit (Artocarpus) are well-known tropical trees that produce edible fruits.

Dorstenia elata


Dorstenia elata

(no English common name)

This is a herbaceous plant with a subterranean stem and shiny leaves about nine to ten inches long. It is native to Brazil. Flowers are embedded in a dish-shaped disk that botanists call a receptacle. At maturity, the seeds are ejected several feet from the parent. As a result, it can be somewhat weedy in greenhouses and subtropical gardens. Remove the receptacles before the fruits mature to prevent its spread. It grows in moist, partly shady to shady site. Most reports state that it is cold hardy in zone 10.

This plant may be found in specialty catalogs. It is easily propagated by seeds. It is listed sometimes as Congo fig although it is not from Africa and it is not a fig.

This plant did not survive winter lows in the upper teens F in my upper zone 9a garden. It grows very well outdoors for a friend who lives about thirty miles south in zone 9a where winter lows are more likely to be in the mid- to upper 20’s F. Dorstenia contrajerva is a related plant with pubescent, lobed leaves that is reported to have escaped cultivation in one area of northeast Florida.


Dorstenia elata flowers in a receptacle

Nyssa – Gardening in the Coastal Southeast

The Genus Nyssa
Family Cornaceae

This is a small genus of trees native to North America and Asia. Three species are native to the Coastal Southeast. These trees are the source of the nectar that honey bees turn into tupelo honey. None is common in nurseries but one species (N. sylvatica) occurs naturally in moist areas throughout the region.

In addition to the genus Nyssa, the family Cornaceae includes a few genera that are found in gardens, happy tree (Campotheca,) dogwood (Cornus) and dove tree (Davidia.)


Nyssa aquatica


Nyssa aquatica (Jacksonville Zoo)

water tupelo 

This is a large deciduous tree with a straight trunk that can grow to one hundred feet tall. Trunks of mature trees are swollen at the base, or buttressed. The leaves are up to eight inches long. The dark purple fruits are about one to one-and-a-half inches long. It grows well in swampy, wet areas in full sun or part shade. I find little information about this tree’s cold hardiness but it looks as though it grows naturally from zone 7a to 9a.

These trees are not easy to find, even in native plant nurseries. Plants are propagated by seeds.

I planted a few trees along a waterway in zone 9a. They have grown well and at a steady rate. This tree has specific cultural requirements but it is a beauty in the right, wet place.


Nyssa aquatica (Ebenezer Swamp, Georgia)


Nyssa aquatica leaves

Nyssa ogeechee


Nyssa ogeechee on the St. Mary’s River

Ogeechee lime

This is medium-sized deciduous tree that can grow to forty feet tall or more. It can have one or more trunks that are distinctively swollen at the base. The large leaves are up to six inches long. Small flowers are followed by one-and-a-half to two inch long fruits that turn bright red at maturity. The fruits are sour to the taste. They are used locally for flavoring drinks and jellies. The plant grows in sun to part shade in a wet soil. This tree survives flooding and has been suggested for heavy, clay soils. It is recommended for zones 7 to 9.

This plant is rare in local nurseries and catalogs. Check with native plant specialists. Plants are propagated by seeds.

This plant has a moderate growth rate, slower in a well-drained soil. It will take many years for a young tree to develop the stout trunk that is pictured here.

Nyssa sylvatica


Nyssa sylvatica

black gum

This is a medium-sized deciduous tree that can grow to sixty feet tall or more, typically with a single straight trunk that lacks the dramatic swelling of its base found in the other species. It ranges naturally across most of eastern North America. Flowers are inconspicuous. Half inch long, oval fruits are blue-black at maturity. Further north, this tree is well known for its bright red fall color. Typically, it grows in moist sites but it makes a deep taproot quickly from seed and is fairly drought tolerant once established. It is reported to be moderately salt tolerant. It is recommended for zones 3 to 9.

Plants are uncommon in native plant nurseries and catalogs. It may be propagated by seeds, air layering and cuttings, although cuttings are reported to be not easy.

This is a naturally occurring native in my upper zone 9a garden. It flowers in late April. The fruits ripen in September and October. Even if it were not an attractive tree, I would grow it for the birds that it attracts when the fruits are ripe. Notable are the bluebirds, pileated woodpeckers, and catbirds. Occasionally, I see migrating tanagers and veeries in these trees. Some of the individual trees have fruits that I find tart but palatable while others bear fruit that are bitter to my taste. In my garden, a few leaves start to turn red a few at a time starting in mid-August. They drop off little by little until the tree is bare in October. It is the first of my trees to lose its leaves in fall. New leaves start to appear relatively late, at the very last of March and early April.