Many of the flowers we are drawn to because of their bright cheery flowers and ground cover growth are actually in the Composite family (asters, daisies and chrysanthemums).
Several of these great flowers grow well in Florida. Zinnias and Sunflowers are easy to grow from seed-look for fresh seed packs with interesting names like “Teddy Bear” sunflowers or “Green Envy” zinnias.
As a general rule of thumb, don’t go by what is on the back of the seed packs when planting seeds in Florida; most seed information is written for northern climates. We can plant zinnias in Florida any time of year and plant no deeper than the size of the seed (probably just on the surface).
Self -sow zinnias seed among your other annuals such as gazanias. They come in a multitude of bright colors, and close-up in the nighttime waiting for the morning sun to start their day. They are from South Africa where the flowers are used to drier days. I like to plant mine in morning sun near my front door; when I walk the dog in the morning they are the first to greet me.
Euryops, or African Bush Daisies, are also very cheerful. The African Bush Daisy can get to be bushier (hence the name) at approximately 2-3 feet. It will last more than one season if cut back after blooming. Euryops does bloom frequently and for long periods of time.
Another happy Composite plant that thrives in our Southwest Florida landscape is the gaillardia. Gaillardias love to reseed themselves wherever they are planted, which is perfect for filling in an area where the sun shines bright and is very drought tolerant.
One plant that is often sold as a cut flower in the florist trade is the Gerber daisy, but they also grow in containers superbly. Fertilize with a slow release at the beginning of planting season (winter), and continue with a weak solution of water soluble fertilizer every time you water. Let them dry out completely before watering again, and not through overhead irrigation. This may be the key to keeping the foliage clean (powdery mildew is a problem). Excess water causes most of the problems, and a nutrient-rich, good draining soil mix (not our sandy soils) helps to keep Gerber daisies happy .
Most of these flowers will reward the gardener with blooms throughout the year so get your flower on and get planting-you won’t regret planting any of these beauties. All of these flowers and more are available in the Edison Ford Garden Shoppe.