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Winter Flowers for the Sun-Belt

Do you garden in the sun-belt or other mild-winter area? This article goes over those plants that are great for gardens in areas with very mild winters.

Contributors: Kerry Meyer

Do you garden in the sun-belt or other mild-winter area? This article goes over those plants that are great for gardens in areas with very mild winters.

For most of North America, winter means that hands-on gardening goes on hiatus while the planning and dreaming stages hit full stride.  For those people who live in the sun-belt, the deep south, and mild coastal regions hands-on gardening is a year-round endeavor.  Most gardening information is geared for areas where winter temperatures halt gardening for at least a few weeks.  In those climates lucky enough to have very mild winters, it is possible to choose plants that will tolerate the winter conditions with aplomb.

Plants that do well in mild-winter climates generally share a few traits.  These plants will bloom under the shorter days of winter.   Many great garden plants need longer days to bloom and won't bloom during the winter even if the temperatures are warm enough.  Great winter sun-belt plants are also able to take temperature fluctuations and aren't bothered by occasional, short term, near freezing temperatures.  While these plants won't like sustained temperatures in the 20's, they can take a few hours of rather cold temperatures.  Good winter sun-belt plants can also take the damp conditions that are sometimes associated with winter in these mild climates.

One of my favorite newer plants that has great winter application is Flambe Chrysocephalum.  Flambe Orange will bloom all winter in mild climates.  It bloomed all winter in Gainesville , Florida winter trials.  Flambe Yellow won't bloom as heavily through the winter but the silvery foliage is a standout.  I had Flambe Yellow in full flower in my Missouri garden until early December winter storms encased it in ice. They are also very heat tolerant and great summer plants to boot.

Diascia and nemesia are two Genera that are great for winter in the sunbelt or early spring in colder climates.  They are both members of the snapdragon family.  Diascia are generally pink, white, or shades of coral, apricot and red.  Nemesia are generally white, pink  or blue-purple in color although newer forms are being introduced that include yellow and red.  Our Flying Colors diascia are really good and come in 5 colors. 

Compact Innocence® is one of my favorite nemesia.  Both are compact, very free flowering and wonderfully fragrant.  They are the perfect plants to place near seating or to use as a centerpiece for your outdoor table, someplace where the fragrance can be enjoyed.  If you are looking for a stronger color, Bluebird remains the best blue to purple choice.

The other annual group from within Proven Winners that is great for winter color in the sun-belt is osteospermum.  If you are looking for warm colors, the Symphony series is the way to go.  Orange Symphony and Lemon Symphony are both strong colors and will be a bright, cheerful addition to your winter garden.  For cool color palette, Soprano® is your best choice.  Soprano Purple and Soprano Light Purple are both prolific bloomers.

There are many other annuals that are also great for winter color such as pansies and violas.  Some petunias and argyranthemum are also good choices.  However, petunias and argyranthemum will vary in their ability to bloom under the short days of winter.  You may have to experiment a bit until you find varieties that work for you.  You should also remember that foliage plants can be the most reliable sources of color when weather becomes cool.

Flambe Yellow 'Flochryel' US PPAF Can. PBRAF; Compact  Innocence® 'Tiktoc' US PP10977 Can 1639; Bluebird 'Hubbird' US PP12014 Can 1634; Orange Symphony 'Seikimora' US PP13409; Lemon Symphony 'Seikilrem' US PP13407; Soprano® Purple Osoutis' USPP 15,491, Can 2,137; Soprano® Light Purple 'Osjamlipur' US PP17410 Can 2452

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