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 & Care Tips for Your Star Fruit (Carambola) Tree

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On June 14th

The Carambola, also called Star Fruit, is a small to medium sized tree that produces a juicy tropical fruit. The flavor combines those of the apple, grape and citrus and is crisp in texture. The fruit can be eaten fresh and is often used in salads and as a garnish due to its unique star shape.

 Planting & Care Tips for Your Star Fruit (Carambola) Tree

     When selecting a Star Fruit be sure it is fully yellow then allow to ripen on your counter until the fruit becomes golden and the ribs begin to brown. Some of the common varieties of Carambola include: King, Bell, Sri Kembangan, Arkin, and Fwang Tung. Once your Star Fruit is mature it is capable of producing up to 200 pounds of fruit a year.

 Planting & Care Tips for Your Star Fruit (Carambola) Tree

TIPS for Growing Starfruit:

  • Temperature: Thrive in subtropical and tropical climates. Zone 10 to 11, but can be grown in zone 9 with protection from frost. Older trees are more tolerant of frost, but growth stops at 55 to 60 degrees and prolonged exposure to temperatures below freezing could kill the tree.
  • Best Dooryard Varieties: Arkin is the most commonly grown variety due to it sweeter flavor.
  • Avg. Height and Width: Varies with the variety, but Carambola trees range from about 12 to 30 feet tall. They are a smaller tree perfect for the average homeowner’s yard.
  • Native Range: Native to Malaysia, Indonesia and Southern China. Commercial production now occurs in Hawaii, Florida and other tropical regions of the world.
  • Fertilize: 4 to 5 times a year with balanced liquid fertilizer or use a slow release granular fertilizer several times during the growing season.
  • Water: Star Fruit does well with regular watering. Additional watering is not needed during the rainy season.
  • Plant in full sun. Trees will do better in an area that is protected or sheltered from the wind.
  • Soil: Carambola are not too particular of soil of types, but grow faster and produce more fruit in a soil with more organic matter. Needs good drainage and does not like wet feet.

We currently have the Arkin variety for sale in the Garden Shoppe and grow the Arkin and Fwang Tung varieties on the grounds of the Estates.

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 further 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.

mango tree Tips for Growing and Caring for Mango Trees

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: http://www.edisonfordwinterestates.org/about/whats-blooming/.

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

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!

pineapple How to Grow a New Pineapple from a Store Bought Pineapple

   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!

Name That Plant, Win That Plant XIV Answer: Desert Rose

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On October 6th

Desert Rose, Adenium obesum

 Name That Plant, Win That Plant XIV Answer: Desert RoseDon’t let this plant’s common name fool you.  It is not a “rose” and although native to sub-Saharan Africa and the deserts of the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, this interesting plant grows well in South Florida’s humidity.  It has a beautiful bright red, pink and white flower, but many enthusiasts grow desert rose for the caudex, or base, which can be manipulated to form unique shapes.

 Name That Plant, Win That Plant XIV Answer: Desert RoseDesert rose is suitable for container gardening or will thrive in your yard if planted in full sun and well-drained soil.  Plants should never be in standing water and should not get much water at all in the cooler months, as this species is prone to root rot.  If temperatures regularly fall below 35°F in your area, it’s best to grow desert rose in a container so the plant can be moved inside during cold snaps.  Leaves may drop during winter but the plant should recover nicely each spring, providing months of beautiful blooms in the summer.  All parts of the plant are toxic if ingested and the sap may irritate skin, so use caution when planting.

We have a desert rose growing in a container in front of the Caretaker’s house at the Estates.  We also have several for sale in our Garden Shoppe.  Don’t forget, garden blog readers save 10% off their Garden Shoppe purchases by mentioning the phrase of the month at check-out!

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!

 Name That Plant X ANSWER: Lipstick Tree Name That Plant X ANSWER: Lipstick Tree Name That Plant X ANSWER: Lipstick Tree

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 IX ANSWER: Dwarf Allamanda

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On August 11th

 Name That Plant IX ANSWER: Dwarf Allamanda

 Name That Plant IX ANSWER: Dwarf AllamandaDwarf allamanda, Allamanda schottii ‘Compacta’

This cultivar is made to withstand our tough Florida summers and look great doing it!  The dwarf alamanda should produce bright yellow blooms all summer and into the fall.  You may be familiar with the allamanda vine, A. cathartica, which produces similar flowers.  Unlike the vine, this cultivar should grow into a small shrub, about four to five feet in height.  It blooms best in full sun but will take light shade and may require some watering during the summer. 

Like all allamandas, this dwarf variety contains a milky sap called latex, which can be an irritant to some people.  This latex is used to make natural rubber and the allamanda vine was one of hundreds of species Thomas Edison experimented with in his quest for an American source of rubber

Not a single fan took a guess at naming this mystery plant, so no winner this week.  Stop by the Estates Garden Shoppe to pick up a dwarf alamanda and peruse the other flowering plants available.

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!

 Name That Plant VII ANSWER: Angel's Trumpet

 Name That Plant VII ANSWER: Angel's Trumpet

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.

 Name That Plant VII ANSWER: Angel's Trumpet

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.

Name That Plant VI ANSWER: Shell Ginger

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 21st

Congratulations to Patricia Travis for winning this week’s Name That Plant!

 Name That Plant VI ANSWER: Shell Ginger

 Name That Plant VI ANSWER: Shell Ginger

Shell ginger, Alpinia zerumbet

A tall landscape plant, shell ginger (or one of the many other gingers available), provide striking background foliage in the landscape.  It may grow up to six feet tall and will continue to spread if given adequate space.  It is rated for zones 8-11 but may not flower if affected by frost.  However, our shell ginger is flowering nicely this year after more than a week of freezing temperatures in January.  Part shade and moist soils are best for this plant.  Although it will tolerate full sun, it is not drought tolerant and may require even more water than a shaded plant.  Shell ginger also makes an attractive house plant.

Like all gingers, shell ginger is native to Southeast Asia.  Although it is in the same family as the ginger we commonly use for cooking, the rhizome (or root) of Alpinia zerumbet is not typically used as a spice: the rhizome of Zingiber officinale is what you typically find in stores.  However, the leaves of Zingiber officinale are not particularly showy, and the plant seems to grow poorly in southwest Florida, so it is not marketed as a landscape plant.  The Estates Garden Shoppe sells shell ginger as well as a variety of other gingers, ranging from variegated forms to gingers with purple leaves and unique flowers unlike anything you’ll see on other plants.  There are several large clumps of shell ginger behind the Henry Ford Statue near the Ford estate and several other examples of ginger on the grounds, mainly by the Edison pool.

 Name That Plant VI ANSWER: Shell Ginger

Globba Ruby Ginger is currently for sale in the Estates Garden Shoppe.

Plant Spotlight: Fringed Hibiscus

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On June 21st

by Britta Soderqvist, Estates Plant Curator

Fringed Hibiscus, Hibiscus schizopetalus

 Plant Spotlight: Fringed Hibiscus

 Plant Spotlight: Fringed Hibiscus

The fringed hibiscus is a fast-growing shrub native to Africa.  Like other hibiscus, it has five petals and a long stigma, but the petals of this plant are divided and the whole flower hangs down, creating a unique, lantern-like effect.

Our records show that Mina and Thomas Edison enjoyed the beauty of the fringed hibiscus, purchasing at least one plant for the Estates in 1908.  Hummingbirds are known to visit the flower and it’s likely that is one of the reasons the Edisons, both avid bird lovers, planted it on their grounds.

Fringed hibiscus will grow in full to part sun although a full day of Florida’s summer sun is probably too much.  During drought, water heavily once a week.  Individual flowers will bloom for just one or two days but the plant should be in bloom during most of the warm months.  The shrub may reach ten feet in height and spread five to six feet on average.  Mature plants should recover from a light freeze.  Fringed hibiscus may also be grown in pots or hanging baskets.

You can see our mature fringed hibiscus behind the large bougainvillea near the Moonlight Garden.  Plants in six inch pots are available for $12 at the Estates Garden Shoppe.

Plant Spotlight: Dwarf Poinciana

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On June 17th

by Britta Soderqvist, Estates Plant Curator

Dwarf Poinciana, Caesalpinia pulcherrima

 Plant Spotlight: Dwarf Poinciana Plant Spotlight: Dwarf Poinciana

This is a fast-growing shrub or small tree, growing up to 12 feet in height and sometimes 12 feet in width.  It blooms best in full sun and tolerates drought well.  A variety of flower colors are available, although the yellow and red variety (pictured above) is most common.  Flowers can appear year-round but are more prolific during the warm months.  The Dwarf Poinciana is thought to have originated from the West Indies and the tropical Americas.

Unlike its larger “cousin” the Royal Poinciana, the Dwarf Poinciana can grow in cooler temperatures.  It has been known to survive in temperatures as low as the high teens.  During extreme cold, it may die back to the ground but will likely recover.  Dwarf Poincianas will bloom when potted but they do better when planted in the ground. 

If you love the look of the Royal Poinciana Trees that are blooming all over McGregor Boulevard but don’t have the room for such a large tree, consider purchasing a Dwarf Poinciana from the Estates Garden Shoppe.  Plants in 6 inch pots are $10 and have been selling quickly. You can see our Dwarf Poinciana in full bloom next to the fountain between the Edison Main House and the Moonlight Garden.