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My favorite funky flowers

Published on: September 2, 2020

My favorite funky flowers

At the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County office and in my home landscape, there are several unusual flowering plants. They are so amazingly strange looking that you would need to stop and look again. We thought you might appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of each of the following funky flowering plants. These plants include Spiral Ginger, Dutchman’s pipevine, Hoya, Tillandsia, Gloriosa lily and Chinese Hat.

Spiral Ginger (Costus spp): This is a fast-growing perennial that can reach a height of 6 to 10 feet and a spread of 4 to 8 feet. It prefers a slightly acid to slightly alkaline soil pH of 6.0 to 7.2. Any soil texture works well. Soil moisture should be well drained. Spiral ginger has low drought and low- to no-salt tolerance. It prefers partial shade/partial sun and can perform well in full shade or full sun. The undersides of the leaves are very soft, and the flowers look like a red wax sculpture with yellow bird bills protruding. Flowering occurs from summer through fall. This plant grows well in north, central and south Florida.

Dutchman’s pipe (pipevine, Aristolochia spp): This is a fast-growing vine that can reach a height and spread of 10 to 15 feet. It prefers a slightly acid to slightly alkaline soil pH of 6.0 to 7.2. Sand works best as the soil texture. Soil moisture should be medium drained. Dutchman’s pipevine has medium drought tolerance and low- to no-salt tolerance. It prefers partial shade/partial sun and performs well in full shade. The flowers are white/purple from summer through winter. This plant is the larval food plant for several swallowtail butterflies. This plant grows well in central and south Florida.

Wax plant, Wax flower (Hoya carnosa): This is a slow growing vine whose height and spread depend on the structure utilized. It prefers acidic potting mixtures, which can include compost, peat or sphagnum moss. Soil moisture should be extremely well drained. Wax plant has high drought tolerance and poor salt tolerance. It prefers partial shade/partial sun. This plant produces large, round hanging clusters of cream colored or pink flowers in the spring and summer and performs very well in containers or hanging baskets. Propagation is by cuttings. For more information on this plant, see the University of Florida publication, Hoya carnosa Wax Plant, Wax Flower, by Edward F. Gilman, at: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fp257.

Bromeliad (Bromeliaceae genera and Tillandsia): There are 16 native Bromeliad species and approximately 85 native species of ‘air plants’ in Florida. Bromeliads are slow growing and generally reach a height and spread of 1-2 feet. This plant prefers a slightly acid to slightly alkaline soil pH of 6.0 to 7.2 and sandy soil. Soil moisture should be well drained. Bromeliads have high drought and low- to no-salt tolerance. Partial shade/partial sun is preferred, and they perform well in full shade or full sun.

Tillandsia is a member of the pineapple family. It lives on other plants but does not live off other plants, so it is an epiphyte, not a parasite. Tillandsia does not have roots on the ground, although some capture water through their roots or leaves. Some prefer sun, and others prefer shade. Propagation is from ‘pups’ produced by the mother plant. The plants themselves are incredible, and the flowers are amazing. These plants grow well in north, central and south Florida. For more information on this lovely native plant, please see the University of Florida publication, Florida’s Native Bromeliads, by Barbra C. Larson, J. Howard Frank, Ginger M. Allen and Martin B. Main, at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/UW/UW20500.pdf.

Gloriosa lily (Gloriosa spp): This is a fast-growing perennial that can reach a height and spread of 2 to 8 feet. It prefers a slightly acid to slightly alkaline soil pH of 6.0 to 7.2. Soil texture should be sandy clay. Soil moisture should be well drained. Gloriosa lily has medium drought tolerance. It prefers partial shade/partial sun, and performs well in full shade. This plant grows well in north, central and south Florida.

Chinese Hat plant (Holmskioldia sanguinea): This plant has a moderate growth rate and can reach a height and spread of 5 to 8 feet. It prefers an acid to slightly alkaline soil pH of 4.5 to 7.2. Any soil texture works well. Soil moisture should be medium drained. Chinese Hat plant has moderate drought tolerance, requiring irrigation during dry seasons. It prefers partial shade/partial sun. Chinese hat plant produces bright orange/red flowers that look like a hat. Flowering occurs year-round in south Florida. It works well as a standard, hedge, border or specimen plant. This plant grows well in central and south Florida. For more information, see: Holmskioldia sanguinea, by Edward F. Gilman at http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/database/documents/pdf/shrub_fact_sheets/holsana.pdf.

For more information about the Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM Program and to register for upcoming workshops, view the calendar at https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/hillsborough/upcoming-events/. Call the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County at 813-744-5519.

Lynn Barber, Florida-Friendly Landscaping Agent, UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County

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