Accent plants create focal points in landscapes through their color and beauty. They are often the most important choice in landscape designs, as they dictate the style and flow of gardens. Here are five of our favorite flowering accent plants to use in Miami landscape designs.
White Begonia - Begonia Odorata
Begonias come in many shapes and colors, but our favorite variety is the Odorata, which produces white flowers with a delicate fragrance.
Planting: Begonia Odorata is versatile and can handle both full sun and shade. Does best in moist, well-drained soil. Begonias rot easily if placed in an area that stays wet or if over-watered.
Care: Fertilize several times per year using a controlled-release fertilizer. You can prune it occasionally to stimulate new growth and more flowers. Water regularly but do not over-water.
Use: Begonias provide striking color throughout the year and should be planted in mass or with other annuals. Shaded spots that are lacking in color will be transformed with several Begonia Odaratas. They are an excellent choice for pots and hanging baskets lining a building or outdoor feature.
Plumbago – Plumbago auriculata
A low-maintenance shrub with clusters of cool blue flowers. Plumbago is a butterfly favorite and will bloom year-round in Miami Landscape Designs.
Planting: Can be planted any time of the year in well-draining soil. Plumbago develops a sprawling, mounded shape so give plenty of room to grow. It does best in full-sun, where it will bloom year-round. Plumbago can also tolerate shade but will bloom less. Water regularly during the first 6 months.
Care: Once established Plumbago is moderately drought tolerant. It grows quickly but excess growth can be pruned any time of the year. Plumbago can be affected by tiny insects called chili trips, though infestations are rare.
Use: Plumbago is the host for the larvae of the cassius blue butterfly (Leptotes cassius), which fortunately causes minimal caterpillar damage and is beautiful to look at. This plant’s bright green foliage and dense clusters of cool-blue flowers make it a foundation plant for any garden in need of color. This plant really shines when planted in dense clusters along edges or walls.
Orange Bird-of-Paradise - Strelitzia reginae
A close relative of the banana, the orange Bird-of-paradise has stunning flowers that resemble a bird in flight. Orange Bird-of-paradise will add a degree of exotic flair that few plants can match.
Planting: Bird-of-paradise is versatile and will grow in many soils as long as there is good drainage. It should be placed in sunny or partially shaded locations. Though slow growing, bird-of-paradise should be placed 6 feet away from other plants as it will spread and produce flowers on the edges. Water regularly during the first 6 months but keep an eye out for soggy conditions.
Care: Dead leaves and old flowers stalks should be removed to reduce risk of fungi. Fertilize every 3 months and water whenever the soil is fairly dry. Bird-of-paradise rarely suffers from pest problems and should grow steadily given frequent fertilization.
Use: Bird-of-paradise is a fantastic container plant and will spruce up any sunny indoor area. In gardens they can be used as single specimens or as the focal point for a garden bed. For a full tropical look you can plant several of birds of paradise around the perimeter of a garden or building.
Bougainvillea - Bougainvillea spp.
The ultimate vining shrub, Bougainvillea will add magnificent color to any landscape design in Miami. It needs full sun and regular pruning to thrive.
Planting: Only plant in full sun and dry, well-draining soils. Bougainvillea will not produce flowers in the shade and will instead become a thorny mess. Plant with slow-release fertilizer. If planted in the ground place at least 5 feet away from any structure and other plants. Water thoroughly immediately after planting and then let the soil dry completely before watering again.
Care: Bougainvillea does best when their soil is a little dry, so make sure you don’t over-water it. It should be trimmed after each bloom cycle and then fertilized. Trim the branches 6 to 8 inches from the tip.
Use: We prefer to plant Bougainvillea in a large pot with a trellis so it can create a wall of color wherever needed. This setup also makes trimming easier. If planted in the ground we like to minimize the vegetation around it to make it really stand out.
Gardenia - Gardenia jasminoides
A challenging plant that will reward patient gardeners with eye-catching flowers and an unmistakable fragrance.
Planting: Gardenia prefers acidic soils and will not grow well in alkaline soils. A pH test will ensure your chosen location is in the preferred range: 5 – 6.5 pH. You can have your soil tested at your county Extension office. Gardenias are salt sensitive and will die if planted near the beach. Plant in full sun to partial shade in an area with good air circulation.
Care: Gardenia should be watered regularly while still allowing for the soil to dry. Fertilize two or three times a year. Prune once it has stopped flowering. Gardenias suffer from pests, so use insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils at the first sign of infection.
Use: Gardenia is ideal for areas that people frequent, such as entryways, as their sweet scent will have people coming back for more. It can also be used as a backdrop for smaller plants such as dwarf tibouchina or Aztec grass. If your property’s soil conditions are too alkaline for gardenia, you can try growing it in a container, though you will have to be extra cautious about over or under watering it.