Tropical Florida Gardens - What's in Bloom at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates?

Tropical Florida Gardens

What's in Bloom at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates?

Planting and Caring Tips for Your Lychee Tree

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On June 7th

The season is upon us for harvesting the fruit of the Lychee tree. Despite the fruits addictive flavor, it remains one of China’s best kept secrets. Lychees have a rough outer skin that separates easily leaving you with a flesh that is sweet to sub-acid, aromatic and tastes unlike anything else on earth.

In SW Florida, fruit is ready for a short time in late May through early July and has a very short shelf life.

The trees were introduced to Florida in the 1930’s and some of the larger commercial groves are in an area southwest of Miami. They grow best in the subtropical climates where temperatures are cool and dry for a short time in the winter months.

Lychees do not like wet feet, so be sure to plant your tree in well drained soil. Trees can also be planted on a mound to ensure proper drainage. The native soil of Florida is fine for successful growing.

Tips for Growing & Caring for Lychee trees:

  • Temperature: Thrive in subtropical environments. Heavy tropical environments may result in no fruit production. Mature trees can withstand a light frost, but prolonged temperatures below 32 degrees may result in damage or even kill the tree.
  • Best Dooryard Varieties: Hak Ip, Sweet Heart, Kwai Mai Pink and Mauritius. Commercial varieties such as: Brewster and Emperor are larger trees that may not be suited for a smaller yard.
  • Avg. Height and Width: Varies with the variety, Lychee trees range from about 20 to 40 feet tall. Average is 25’ X 25”.
  • Native Range: Common in areas of Southern China. Commercial plantations are common in Hawaii and Florida.
  • Fertilize established trees regularly 1 to 2 times during the growing season from spring to the end of summer.
  • Water: Lychees need regular watering during the growing season. Soils with too much salt in them, especially in the Southwest require regular watering to prevent salt build-up. Lychees should not be in standing water, as it will stunt their growth. Newly planted trees should be watered 2 to 3 times a week during the first weeks of planting, but can be reduced once the tree is established
  • Prune mature trees to help control the size and shape. The University of Florida Extension office recommends not cutting branches that are larger than 1 inch, or you risk having less fruit production.

During Lychee season, we will be selling Lychee fruit at the Downtown Farmers Market at Centennial Park Thursdays from 7am to 1pm.

Visit the Edison & Ford Winter Estates Garden Shoppe to see some of the varieties we have available. The horticulture staff is available to assist you and to answer any questions you may have.

Tips for Growing and Caring for Mango Trees

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On May 24th

The Edison & Ford Winter Estates is dotted with so many mango trees, that Henry Ford named his estate “The Mangoes.”  In the rainforests, they’ve been known to grow up to 120 feet high.  Not only do they provide excellent shade but some of the tastiest and most popular fruit in the world.

Mangoes are evergreen trees that are drought tolerant and love sunshine.  Here are some great tips for growing and caring for Mango Trees:

  • Are accustomed to hot and dry climates so plant in full sun and do not over water. A good rule is to water a newly planted tree every three days for the first month, once a week for the next two months, and only during extended dry spells after that.
  • Be careful of over watering while fruit is developing as this can cause the fruit to burst.
  • Tropical plant that can become temporarily dormant at temperatures of 40 degrees or below and will be damaged or die at 32 degrees or below.  Be sure to cover during frost with coverings staked to the ground as this allows the heat from the ground to keep the tree warm.
  • Pruning is not recommended for amateurs and should only be done with sterilized blades.
  • Mango seeds do not produce the same quality fruit as the tree they originate from.  If you eat a particularly flavorful mango, its seed will not produce the same delicious fruit.  For this reason, many mango trees are grafted.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Mango leaves are poisonous.  They should be kept away from animals that might nibble on them and should never be burned.

Please visit our Garden Shoppe at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates to see our great selection of fruit and spice trees. Learn more about our gardens or submit questions to our staff on our web site at:

Related Posts: Mango Salsa Recipe, Mango Smoothie Recipe, Are All Mangoes Created Equal? Delicious Mango Varieties, Tropical Fruit Trees That Grow Best in Southwest Florida

Tropical Fruit Trees That Grow Best in SW Florida

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On May 17th

The Edison Ford Winter Estates is the perfect starting place to learn about some of the many varieties of tropical fruit trees that will grow well in your SW Florida garden.  Our Garden Shoppe has a great selection of treesfor you to enjoy.

  • Mango– The Mango is probably the most enjoyed fruit worldwide. It has been planted in Florida for over 100 years, is a small to medium tree about 15 feet tall and produces fruit for a summer harvest. Valencia Pride is one of the more popular commercial varieties and a grafted tree will produce fruit in 3 to 5 years. Mangoes are high in vitamins A and C.   For growing tips & care, click here.
Mango Tree
  • Avocado – Avocado trees are a great selection for Florida gardens. They are a medium sized tree around 20 feet tall and come in an early, mid and late season variety. Plant all three and you can get fruit nearly all year long. Plant in well drained soil, as they don’t like wet feet. For planting & growing tips, click here.
Avocado Tree
  • Lychee – The Lychee is a native of China and Asia, but thrives in our SW Florida climate. Pine Island is a very large commercial producer with fruit arriving in late May through early July. A larger tree growing upwards of 40 feet tall, producing fruit after about 3 to 5 years and preferring well drained soil with some wind protection. For planting & growing tips, click here.
Lychee Tree
  • Carambola – Also known as Star Fruit, this tropical fruit is a great ornamental tree for your yard. They produce a large amount of fruit from July to September and again in November to February. They prefer well drained soil, a sunny location and some protection from the wind. They have a sweet, citrus-like flavor that is delicious in salads or a garnish in drinks. For planting & growing tips, click here.
Carambola or Star Fruit Tree
  • Papaya – These fruit trees are great for a smaller space in the garden, growing very upright and producing fruit in about a year from seed. Red Lady is a dwarf, self pollinating variety that is an excellent choice for the average home gardener. Papayas produce fruit all year long and have an excellent flavor. For planting & growing tips, click here.
Papaya Tree

While this is just a short list of the most common varieties, one thing holds true for SW Florida gardens: Our climate is perfect for growing!

Please visit our Garden Shoppe at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates to see our great selection of fruit and spice trees. Learn more about our gardens or submit questions to our staff on our web site at:

How to Grow a New Pineapple from a Store Bought Pineapple

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On May 10th

Next time you buy a Pineapple, plant the top and grow a new one for FREE!

   Every time you purchase a pineapple and throw away the top you are passing up on an opportunity to grow a new one!

The next time you buy a pineapple, follow these steps to grow your own:

  1. Cut off the top so there is 1 to 2 inches of fruit left
  2. Remove the excess fruit to expose the bottom of the leaves
  3. Peel away one or two layers of the bottom leaves
  4. Plant this at a depth where the leaves turn darker in a moist potting mix
  5. Choose a shady location and keep watered (not soggy) until it forms roots (move to full sun after rooted)
  6. You can fertilize, but do it lightly and not very often. 
  7. In about 12 to 14 months you should start to see the fruit forming and in about 18 to 24 months you’ll have yourself a fresh pineapple!

Tips for planting and caring for your pineapple plant:

  • Water about once a week directly onto soil. The plant is tropical and pretty drought tolerant so little or no watering is needed in the summer rainy season.
  • Pineapples can be grown in a pot or container or directly in the ground.
  • Pineapples are tropical, so protect them from freezing and frost.
  • Once the plant has taken root, move it to a location in full sun.
  • Harvest fruit when it changes from green to gold in color. This allows the fruit to become much sweeter.
  • Plants will produce slips and shoots (baby pineapple plants) and you will be able to start these just like you started your original plant.

Edible Pineapple plants and Ornamental Pineapple plants are available for purchase in the Edison & Ford Estates Garden Shoppe.  Stop in to see what else we have in stock right now!

Need a drought tolerant plant for your Florida garden? Try a Bulbine

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On May 6th

Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens, Burn Jelly Plant).     

     We have a great new plant available at the gardens and it is a relative newcomer to the gardening industry in the last few years. It is the perfect choice for the homeowner who wants a very low maintenance and drought tolerant option.

     The leaves of the Bulbine produce a jelly-like juice (similar to Aloe) that is wonderful natural treatment for burns, rashes, insect bites, cracked lips and cold sores.

     The Bulbine makes a great ground cover since each plant will grow to form a clump that can reach up to four feet wide. This clumping habit also makes Bulbine a great pass along plant. The succulent, grass-like foliage grows to about 12 to 18 inches tall with flower spikes reaching two feet.

Caring for your Bulbine frutescens:

  • Watering your Bulbine is not needed in the rainy season, but supplemental watering every two weeks may be needed in the dry season.
  • Suited for growing in Zones 9-11 and is hardy to the low 20’s.
  • Grows best in well drained soil, but is very tolerant of poor dry soil.
  • Needs little attention or special treatment.
  • Drought tolerant.
  • Can be used in a container garden.
  • Plant your new Bulbine in a sunny location with 6 to 8+ hours of sun.

      A group planting of Bulbine will make a striking and low cost addition to your SW Florida garden. The Edison & Ford Winter Estates currently has Bulbine available for purchase in one gallon containers in our Garden Shoppe.

Planting & Caring For Your Tropical Hydrangea (Pink Ball, Dombeya Wallichii)

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On April 28th

            If you are interested in adding a striking new specimen to your garden, then perhaps you might consider planting one of the Dombeya varieties. The Pink Ball, better known as Tropical Hydrangea, is a large shrub or small tree that provides a beautiful show of color in the first months of the year that last for over a month.

             Some say that Dombeyas smell like frosted cake. Their pendulous flowers are round in shape and resemble pompoms hanging about the leaves. Once the flowers have finished their blooming cyle they will remain for quite some time, so it is best to remove them in order to keep a neat appearance.

Caring for Tropical Hydrangea:

  • Watering your Dombeya may be necessary in the dry months as it an average to high water consumer
  • Plant your new shrub in a sunny to partially sunny location
  • Allow enough space for the shrub to grow up to 15 feet (it can be maintained at a smaller size with regular pruning after the plant is done flowering)
  • It can be pruned back as needed without deforming the shrub
  • Dombeyas are fast growers and need some fertilizer in the growing season
  • It is possible to grow Tropical Hydrangea in a container (however, they perform the best when planted in the ground)
  • It performs best in temperatures above the low 30’s and it will lose its leaves if the temperature dips into the 20’s
  • It is best suited for sub-tropical to tropical climates, but has been grown in zones 9B with some frost protection

            We have several varieties planted at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates; a pink variety called Dombeya wallichii and a white variety known as Dombeya pulchra. 

             The Tropical Hydrangea will be a great addition to your garden and will offer you an exciting display when in flower. Pink Ball is available for purchase in one gallon containers at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates Garden Shoppe.

Name That Plant X ANSWER: Lipstick Tree

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On August 19th

Congratulations to Colin Brenner for correctly identifying this week’s mystery plant!

Lipstick Tree, Bixa orellana

If you’ve eaten cheddar cheese, you’ve eaten the product of this plant. The seeds of the lipstick tree, or achiote tree, are used to make annatto, a common food coloring. It was once used as body paint, insect repellant, and ink for hundreds of years by people living in the Caribbean and Tropical Americas. Today it is mostly used to add a reddish yellow color to food and you can find annatto in the spice aisle of your local supermarket.

The seeds from the lipstick tree grow within a bright red hairy seed pod on the branches of the lipstick tree. The tree may reach a height of 20 feet if left untrimmed. It is rated for zones 9B-11 and does best in full sun. Although the pink flowers are quite pretty, it’s the seed pods that will really attract attention to your garden. And if you’re a chef, the seeds can easily be processed at home for use in your recipes. The Estates recently lost a large lipstick tree in the severe January freeze but two small ones managed to survive and are behind the large bougainvillea on the Edison property. We also have a few lipstick trees available in our Garden Shoppe.

Name That Plant VII ANSWER: Golden Dewdrop

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On August 5th

Last week we tested your plant knowledge and asked you to identify this plant:

Congratulations to Barbra Goodrich Justice for correctly identifying it.  As this week’s winner, Barbra will be awarded her own golden dewdrop plant!

Golden dewdrop, Duranta repens

This Florida native is very versatile – it will grow as a free-form small tree in your yard or bloom just as happily in a hanging basket.  The purple flowers of the golden dewdrop are followed by small yellow fruits, thus the common name of this plant.  It is a great butterfly plant, rated for zones 9B-11, and is drought tolerant once established.  If allowed, it may grow to 15 ft tall by 15 ft wide, but will tolerate frequent pruning. 

Although it is unclear when the Edisons first planted golden dewdrop at the Estates, in 1935 Mina led a tour of the gardens and the golden dewdrop was included.  Come see our golden dewdrop behind the Estates ticket office or view the white-flowered variety across the street next to Mina’s Moonlight Garden.  We have several flowering golden dewdrops for sale in the Estates Garden Shoppe: most are the purple variety and are $6 for a one gallon container.

Name That Plant, WIN That Plant VIII

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 28th

Can you identify this plant?  Here’s a close up of one of the petals.

Contest Rules: Leave a comment on Facebook or the Garden Blog with your answer.  The person with the first correct answer may choose to receive the mystery plant (if available) or a peace lily.  The winner will be announced on the Estates Garden Blog and on Facebook.  Plants must be picked up from the Edison & Ford Winter Estates within 7 days of contest end (and, no, we can’t ship them!).  Previous winners are not eligible.

Name That Plant VII ANSWER: Angel's Trumpet

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 28th

Congratulations to Megan Kissinger for guessing correctly, a mere 5 minutes after the contest began!

Angel’s Trumpet, Brugmansia spp.

The large pendulous flowers of this large shrub will surely attract attention in your Florida yard.  Growing to a height of 15 feet, angel’s trumpet makes a great accent plant for homes within zones 10-11 and have been reported to survive in zones 8B-9B.  As natives of South America, they require regular watering and do best in full sun or light shade.  There are several species of Brugmansia and many hybrids have been developed, each with a different color including white, peach and yellow.  Blooms are at their largest at night and tend to “perk up” a bit as the sun goes down.

In a 1931 survey of the Estates, Angel’s trumpet was noted in the gardens. However, the flower color wasn’t recorded so we don’t know which species of Brugmansia the Edisons enjoyed.  Today,  white and peach varieties are on the grounds near the Edison Caretaker’s House.  The Estates Garden Shoppe has a few angel’s trumpets for sale if you wish to plant them in your garden.  Please note that all parts of the plant are toxic if ingested and some people do have skin reactions to the plant material.