Q: I’m glad I’m here and not in the winter wonderland, but I want to grow my northern favorites, like hosta, peonies, lilacs, crocus, daffodils and asparagus. So, what are my alternatives here? Missing my faves but not the tundra.
Answer: I hear this with some frequency. I’ve felt it myself and learned a lot along the way.
There are hostas that grow in Florida. I haven’t seen them as large as the ones I grew in Minnesota, but we still can grow them here.
Peonies, no, but on a much smaller scale and with fewer ants, consider camellia.
Lilacs, no, but think about either crape myrtle or butterfly bush.
Daffodils, yes. I even have a book on Florida daffodils, but I haven’t purchase the bulbs … yet. I did buy a couple of bunches of the cut flowers so I could appreciate them. There is a Florida Daffodil Society and you can check out the website for information on “ tazettas.”
Asparagus, yes/maybe. I know several people who are growing it here, but without a dormancy period, we end up with weaker, spindlier spears. See the University of Florida publication “Asparagus — Asparagus officinalis L.” by James M. Stephens at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mv013 for information on cultivars for our area.
Crocus, no. However, there are so many bulbs that thrive in Florida. To see how many and what they are, please view the University of Florida publication link http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_bulbous_flowers, which lists several: daylilies of Florida, African lily, amaryllis, begonia, caladium, canna, dahlia, gladiolus, hurricane lilies, daffodil and rain lily.
Some of my friends have had great success with Easter lily, sinningea, achimenes, “gingers”, crinum, blood lily, gloriosa lily and elephant ears. You can plant bulbs like tulips, but they will be annuals here. I’m too lazy and cheap to do that, but that’s just me!
Lynn Barber is the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods agent at Hillsborough Extension. Reach her at BarberL@hillsboroughcounty.org.