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?

Name That Plant XII Answer: Cherries Jubilee Allamanda

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 8th

Congratulations to Deborah Aldridge for correctly guessing this week’s Name That Plant!

Cherries Jubilee Allamanda, Allamanda cathartica ‘Cherries Jubilee’

Need a summertime bloomer for your garden?  The allamandas are always a good choice and the ‘Cherries Jubilee’ variety provides a rosy pink flower against dark evergreen foliage.  This is a fast growing vine that does best in full sun, is drought tolerant and is rated for zones 9B-11.  It may grow to 8 feet or more and will need a trellis or other support to maintain some form, so consider its location before planting.  Some gardeners have been able to train this plant into a shrub and Cherries Jubilee should do well in a hanging basket.

If you know any Latin, you probably recognized that this plant has medicinal properties.  The species name “cathartica” should give you a hint.  The leaves, roots and flowers of this plant are used in some countries to make a cathartic and all parts of the plant are considered toxic if eaten.  The milky white sap may irritate the skin of some gardeners but this shouldn’t stop you from considering this easy, prolific bloomer for your yard.  The Estates has a Cherries Jubilee on the trellis next to the Shaving Brush tree between the Edison and Ford homes and our Garden Shoppe has several Cherries Jubilee plants for sale.

Britta Soderqvist, Plant Curator

Name That Plant XI Answer: Lady of the Night

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 1st

Lady of the Night, Brunfelsia americana


You’ll want to find the perfect spot for this plant so you can enjoy its wonderfully fragrant nighttime blooms.  The fragrance has been compared to jasmine but with a hint of cloves and cinnamon.  Native to the Caribbean, it is rated for zones 9A-11 and produces more flowers in humid conditions.  Lady of the Night  is typically classified as a shrub but may resemble a small, thin tree at maturity.  It can be grown in full sun or part shade and should be protected from wind and late afternoon sun if possible.  Lady of the Night may also be grown indoors, but it is a member of the nightshade family and all parts are toxic, so keep away from children and pets.

Our Garden Shoppe has one gallon containers of Lady of the Night for $10.  Some of the plants are already blooming so you will smell the aroma that first night.  And don’t forget, Estates members receive 10% of all their purchases, including Garden Shoppe items.

Name That Plant V ANSWER: Coppperleaf

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 14th

Last week we asked you to identify this plant.  Not a single one guessed correctly.  The answer is Copperleaf.

Copperleaf, Acalypha wilkesiana

The multi-colored leaves of this tall accent plant are quite distinct and add a year-round splash of color to the landscape.  Reaching 15 feet in height and 8 feet or more in width copperleaf generally requires occasional trimming to keep it in check.  Copperleaf plants prefer moist soil but will tolerate short droughts once established.  Native to Fiji and the Pacific Islands, it is rated for zones 10-11 but is sometimes grown in colder climates as an annual.  Smaller plants can do well indoors, especially in bright light.

A cultivar of this plant, A. wilkesiana ‘Miltoniana’ was purchased for the Edison’s property in 1908 and was recorded as late as 1936, so the Edisons probably enjoyed this plant for many years at their winter home.  Today, there are many cultivars of the plant and we sell a few cultivars in the Estates Garden Shoppe.

Name That Plant IV ANSWER: Coral Plant

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 6th

Last week, we asked our readers to identify the plant below.  The person who correctly identified it first would win the mystery plant.  This week, Sally Skabar came the closest by identifying the genus as Jatropha.  Congratulations, Sally!

Coral Plant, Jatropha Multifida

With unique leaves, a bright red flower, drought tolerance and an ability to grow in pots or in the ground, this plant is a great choice for south Florida.   In the ground, this shrub usually grows to 10 feet but may sometimes grow to 20 feet.  Native to Mexico, it is commonly grown as a specimen plant due to its tropical look.  It will drop its leaves below 40°F and it will recover from a light freeze.  If the weather is not too cold, the coral plant will flower year-round but it blooms more profusely in the summer months.   

This species, like all Jatrophas, have a milky white sap that can be an irritant to some people.  It’s this sap that led Thomas Edison to experiment with other species of Jatrophas as a potential source of latex for his rubber research.  There’s no known evidence that Edison experimented with the coral plant, but it was planted here as early as 1908 and was still on the grounds in 1931.  The Edisons likely enjoyed the plant for the same reasons we do today, including its ability to attract birds, butterflies and other beneficial insects.

Coral plants are available for purchase in the Estates Garden Shoppe:  $8 for 1 gallon, $12 for 3 gallon.

Plant Spotlight: Fringed Hibiscus

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On June 21st

by Britta Soderqvist, Estates Plant Curator

Fringed Hibiscus, Hibiscus schizopetalus

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.