by Luis Castillo
Typically when we think of flowers on Valentine’s Day, we picture a dozen red roses. White, pink and purple varieties may also be considered. But ponder the fact that a rose bouquet only lasts for so long before withering and dying. On average, a florist will charge about $3.50 per stem for long-stem roses. That could add up to over $40 for a dozen roses although it’s not uncommon to find specials for as low as $20.
This year, why not consider an alternative plant gift that speaks to the more enduring qualities of love? At about a third the cost of a dozen roses, a Florida native plant is a flower option that keeps on living and giving as they attract other forms of life
once they’re planted outdoors. Here are some Florida native plants to consider with blooms that stay true to the colors of Valentine’s Day.
Tropical Sage (salvia coccinea) also known as blood sage or scarlet sage. Victorians began the tradition of using roses to symbolize love and romance. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see that the red bloom of a tropical sage plant hints at that same
passion. It’s an easy species to grow in sandy or welldrained soil. The bushy wild flower doesn’t get much taller than a foot high. Its tubular red blooms attract butterflies and perhaps humming birds if you’re lucky. Its seedpods may also invite smaller songbirds to your yard. A one-gallon tropical sage pot which stands some eight inches to a foot tall costs about $6. You should be able to find Tropical Sage in bloom now.
Pink Coneflower (echinaceapurpurea) is a hearty perennial which features a daisy-like bloom. Pink Coneflower’spinkish- purple petals that drape over a cone-shaped center could be considered an attractive alternative to pink roses. This is a flower that’s usually featured in cut arrangements and is in bloom now. It tolerates heat and drought and in general asks for very little care. It can grow to two-to three feet high. The flowers are long lasting, but when they die, the petals fall but the seed-bearing cones remain, attracting birds.A one-gallon container that stands eight inches tall is also in the $6 price range.
Dotted Horsemint (monarda punctate), also known as spotted beebalm, is a bushy wildflower. You can find it blooming now in colors of white, light pink and purple. As the name indicates dotted horsemint is a mint relative and its leaves can be brewed into tea with a host of medicinal values. Horsemint can grow to about two-and-a-half to three-feet tall and, like tropical sage and pink coneflower, its one-gallon pot, which stands some 8 inches to a foot tall, is around $6. It’s good at attracting pollinators (bees and butterflies) and easy to grow.
If you’re looking for something bigger but still in keeping with Valentine’s colors, the native vine Coral Honeysuckle with its red tubular flowers is in bloom.
The vine grows well on a trellis and will have more blooms if grown in the sun. A three-gallon pot, which is about three-feet tall, costs around $15 to $20.
Other romance-capturing Valentines ideas to consider may extend to native Florida milk weeds such as Swamp Milkweed Incarnate. With its purple and pink blooms, this milkweed is better for wetter sites in your yard, near the base of a gutter run-off for example. Once removed from the pot, it’s a good host plant for monarch butterflies and other species. It can grow to almost two-feet in height and you can find them in bloom now.
And since we’re thinking outside the box this Valentine’s Day, you may also consider Scarlet Hibiscus. Its red, tropical-looking bloom makes it a uniquely Florida gift but you’ll have to wait for the wow factor because it blooms best in spring. This one might best be paired with an anticipation-building picture of it on a card. This plant is best suited to wetter sites like the milkweed mentioned above. The large blooms attract butterflies and hummingbirds and, when placed in the right growing conditions, this plant can climb to eight-feet tall or more. A one-gallon pot costs around $6.