Let’s Get Growing with Julie: Favorite Things Part II – Herbaceous Perennials

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Julie Mcconnell Uf Ext 1By Julie McConnell, UF/IFAS Extension

Last month I highlighted a few of my favorite shrubs and this month I am going to talk about herbaceous perennials. Let’s start with an explanation of an herbaceous perennial. Herbaceous indicates that although the plant may get woody stems during the growing season it typically has soft “herbaceous’’ stems that die back to the ground in the winter (or heat in some cases) and then sprout new soft tissue the following year. Perennial indicates the plant typically lives for more than 2 years.

Growing Horsemint With Visited By Pollinator Aug 2022 JmDotted horsemint, Monarda punctata, is one of my favorites because of the number of beneficial insects it attracts. The summer “flowers” are actually cream, pink, and lavender bracts surrounding the floral structures. Horsemint has a very wispy open growth habit maturing at 2-4’ x 2-4’ that is perfect for a cottage garden. If you like a tidier, more compact plant, it is tolerant of pruning. This plant is in the mint family so the foliage is fragrant when crushed. Fair warning – this plant will reseed in your garden, but it is easy to pull out to relocate or share seedlings with a friend. Horsemint is native to Florida so tolerates sandy, infertile soil, full sun or part shade. Pollinators, butterflies, and hummingbirds can’t resist horsemint so it’s great to stake out with a camera!

Growing Firebush Flowers And Red Stems. Aug 2022 JmFirebush, Hamelia patens, is another summer flowering native plant that peaks as many other plants are succumbing to the heat. Bright yellow-orange tubular flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies. New growth has reddish stems that contrast with the green leaves and a splash of color even before blooms appear. In one season this plant may reach 5-6’ in North Florida gardens but will die back to the ground after a hard frost. For the best bloom, place this plant in full sun with well-drained soil. Firebush is moderately salt tolerant so it can be used in coastal landscapes.

Growing Swamp Rose Mallow Hardy Hibiscus July 2022 Jm (23)Swamp rose mallow hardy hibiscus, Hibiscus moscheutos, is one of those plants that surprises me each summer. I nearly forget it exists then large light green foliage starts to emerge from the crown followed by dinner plate sized flowers! The showy blooms only last a day, but the plant will continue to flower off and on throughout the summer. This is another native plant, so it performs well in our climate and as the common name implies is tolerant of moist soil. Full sun promotes the best blooming, but it can tolerate some shade. Mature size in a season ranges from 3-6’ tall and 2-4’ wide.

All these plants will die back when we experience a hard freeze, so keep that in mind when choosing a location in your landscape. The initial cold damage may look unsightly until it is appropriate to cut back, so try to incorporate it with plants that will hide or distract from that awkward stage.

For more information on these plants check out the links below:
Horsemint https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/horsemint.html
Firebush https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/firebush.html
Swamp rose mallow https://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/hort/2018/07/03/heating-up-with-hardy-hibiscus/

An Equal Opportunity Institution. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Andra Johnson, Dean. Single copies of UF/IFAS Extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from county UF/IFAS Extension offices.