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.

     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.

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.

Plant Spotlight: Purple Firespike

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On February 3rd

If you’re looking for a tall, winter-time butterfly plant, purple firespike, Odontonema callistachyum, is a good choice for southern Florida. Growing up to six feet tall, it starts blooming in autumn and the blooms may last through winter in Zone 10.  It will die back in a hard freeze but should re-sprout in the spring in Zones 8-9.   Although it’s rated for full sun to partial shade, it may wilt during the intense summer sun in southern Florida.  You may prefer to trim it back in the summer to keep it in check.  Once established, firespike is drought tolerant and should attract many winged visitors to your yard.

Cardinal flower, Odontonema stictum, is a close relative and has red flowers.  It was included in a list of plants grown on the Estates from 1901-1941.  Given the Edisons’ interest in nature, it’s likely the cardinal flower was one of many species planted to attract butterflies and birds.

Our Garden Shoppe sells purple firespike in two gallon pots for $12.  We also carry a variety of butterfly and hummingbird plants to complement the firespike.  Don’t forget, Estates members save 10% on all purchases, including plants!

Britta Hanson Soderqvist, Plant Curator

Name That Plant, Win That Plant XV Answer: Roselle

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On October 28th

Roselle, Hibiscus sabdariffa

Who wants tea? Not only is the roselle a pretty plant with cranberry red stems and fall season blooms, but the dried flower can be used to make tea.  Also, at the base of each flower is the calyx, which is harvested about 10 days after the bloom opens for use in teas, juices, and jellies.  Like many hibiscus, the roselle, sometimes called Florida cranberry, has several medicinal properties and it’s used in herbal products.

Native to Africa, roselle does well in South Florida and is rated for zones 8 and higher.  It is an annual that can regrow easily from seed.  In zones 10 and 11 roselle may even survive a few years if the winters are mild.  The plant will continue to produce flowers during October and November as long as the flowers are harvested regularly.  False roselle, H. acetosella, is similar to roselle but has maroon-colored leaves.  Both species may sucker and can reach ten feet or more if not kept pruned.

You can find numerous recipes online that incorporate roselle.  Do any of you have a favorite roselle recipe to share?

We have a few roselle plants for sale in the Estates Garden Shoppe for just $4 – most are blooming and ready for your recipes!  If you buy yours before November 1, you can save 10% on ALL your Garden Shoppe purchases by telling the cashier the secret discount phrase.