Chicago winters can be excruciatingly brutal, as you well know, and escaping to your winter home in Florida will bring much needed warmth, sunshine, and happiness. While you may have your Chicago landscaping in tip-top shape, you also want to ensure your tropical oasis is nothing short of paradise. Although summers in Chicago can be just as hot and humid as Florida, the Sunshine State enjoys a longer growing season than Chicago, which fully experiences all four seasons. Here are some tips for creating the perfect, easy maintenance landscaping for your winter home.
The year-round balminess of Florida makes it a gardener’s paradise. For Chicago natives with Florida winter homes, you have the unique opportunity to enjoy your outdoor living space twelve months out of the year. While the humidity, insects, and frequent storms can be a challenge, it is possible to utilize native, tropical and sub-tropical plants and flowers to craft an outdoor paradise that you can enjoy during the months when Chicago is buried under a foot of snow.
Although the greenhouse-like heat and humidity of Florida may make you think that all perennials and annuals would thrive, some plants struggle in the heat. The Zeezee plant is one that tolerates the growing conditions in most places across the state. Another perennial, the Japanese shield fern, grows well in the shade and doesn’t attract insects, much like the Zeezee plant. The Egyptian star cluster produces blue, purple, pink or red blooms year round and is easy to grow throughout Florida. They attract butterflies and serve as a food source for bees. The Florida sweethearts have large, pinkish leaves, and the rain lily is known for blooming after a rain storm. Both make great additions to a Florida landscape.
To add height and drama to landscaping, many Floridians plant cannas and African lilies. Both of these plants grow from bulbs and reach heights of more than four feet. The African lily blooms white or bluish blossoms, while the cannas produce a startling red flower.
The sunshine state also provides the ideal growing conditions for several varieties of palm trees such as the palmetto. These small to medium sized trees are iconic symbols of the state and a charming addition to your landscaping. Another good landscape tree to consider is the pineapple guava. This small tree is low-maintenance and stays green year round. The gopher apple tree, the gallberry tree, and the Spanish bayonet tree are all excellent choices for bringing a tropical flare to your landscaping.
Nothing adds to the tropical splendor of an outdoor space than flowering vines and Florida offers the perfect growing conditions for several of these. The trumpet vine and honeysuckle will both cover a trellis or pergola, as will Confederate jasmine and Chinese hat plant. The abundance of fragrant blooms climbing over structures such as fences and gazebos add a splash of Southern charm.
Your winter home in Florida deserves the same attention to landscaping as your permanent home in the Windy City of Chicago. By utilizing native plants, flowering vines, and small trees, you can create a year round outdoor space with a lush and tropical vibe that is the perfect spot for escaping the Midwestern winters.