UF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service

458 Highway 98 North

Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578

Phone: (863) 763-6469

January 11, 2007 

Quick Links:   Purple Lovegrass    Thyrallis/Shower of Gold    Mexican Zamia/Cardboard Palm    Holly Fern     Limelight Dracaena     References  

Feature Article - for release the week of January 7, 2007

Dan Culbert - Extension Horticulture Agent


For the past nine years, Florida’s nursery industry has identified new and less well know ornamentals that are worthy of a careful look by Florida residents.  I usually take the time each January to review the Florida Nursery Grower & Landscaper Association’s (FNGLA) selections for the New Year.

I am running a bit behind schedule with a column about the 2007 Plants of the Year.  Our office has been a bit pre-occupied with holiday festivities, a recent event in Arizona (NATIONAL CHAMPION GATORS!), plus getting ready for the upcoming Cattlemen’s Institute and our fairs and farm tours. But it’s still not too late in the New Year to consider another resolution - to add some new plants to your Florida Yard.

This year’s five selections include a native ornamental grass, a flowering shrub, a palm-like cycad, a shade loving fern and a new house plant.   I hope you review these plants, resolve to see them at your local FNGLA nursery and consider adding them to your home and landscape.

Purple Lovegrass

A native clumping grass found in the southeast, Purple Lovegrass can provide an unusual look in Florida Yards. Photo: Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society, www.forestryimages.org   Purple Lovegrass erupts with attractive colored panicles in midsummer.  Photo: Mike Haddock A close-up look at the colorful panicle shows that there are many seed packed into this ferny flowerhead. These seed will help rejuvenate this plant in the landscape. Photo: Mike Haddock

Mention grass to the average person and they may think of lawns or pastures.  More and more gardeners are discovering that there is a lot more to grass that mowing lawns or baling hay.  This year’s 2007 Plants of the Year include Purple Lovegrass (Eragrostis spectabilis), a native bunchgrass that forms a tight clump.  In the warm months it is topped with attractive purple-red seed heads.

Round, hairy stems and wide leaf blades give this one-foot tall plant a casual appearance.  Its native range is throughout the southeastern US, from Virginia to Kansas.  Because of both drought tolerance and wide adaptability, this accent plant can fit in well in local landscapes. 

In the wild, cattle are known to eat this grass up until mid-summer, when it produces its showy flowers.  The reddish open feathery panicles appear in late summer, tipped by colorful persistent seed clusters that add another two feet of height to the clump.  Another similar species, Elliot’s Lovegrass (E. elliottii), has white rather than red seed coloration.

This ground cover takes to full sun and is used in wildflower gardens, along driveways or in mass plantings.  It is not know to have any significant pest problems, and can be propagated by dividing large clumps or grown directly from seed.  While more northern areas sometimes call this plant a weed in pastures and non-crop areas, in Florida it is not a problem and a welcome addition to Florida Yards

 Shower of Gold 

Shower of Gold has lots of year-round golden yellow flowers. Photo: Grandiflora Note the leaf color may be slightly bluish green, and there is a lacy look to its flower petals. The plant is still referred to as Thryallis by many in the nursery industry. Photo: Dan Culbert

Picture a drought tolerant, evergreen shrub with blue-green foliage, and then add lots of clusters of yellow flowers all year long. You can see why Shower of Gold has been named a Plant of the Year.  Some nurseries and references still call it Thryallis, a former scientific name, while botanists now call this plant Galphimia gracilis.

This Central American native is easy-to-grow, and will fill in fast when given full sun.  As a specimen plant, it may reach 6 - 8 feet, but more often it is kept smaller as a foundation or accent plant.

Nursery workers may call this the “ice plant” because its brittle stems may snap like icicles.  Ask your nursery professional to put this plant in a sleeve when moving it home.  Place it where people will not bump and break the branches of this showy shrub.  To maintain a great-looking plant, pruning once or twice a year are advised.  As far as pests are concerned, keeping it dry reduces the chances of powdery mildew and discourages occasional caterpillars

Mexican Zamia

   Give Mexican Zamias plenty of room in your Florida Yard.  Note the female cone in the smaller picture.  Photo: Grandiflora. This Cardboard Palm  Mexican Zamia was found growing at Pelham's Nursery, a local Okeechobee nursery. Photo:  Dan Culbert   New leaves from this cycad have a slight copper color, but soon turn deep green. Photo: cycadsandseeds.com 

Back in the times of dinosaurs, a group of primitive plants dominated the landscape.  And like the large reptilians, only a few of these species are alive today.  Reptiles like the Gator are still found on our planet, while botanists look to these cycads as living fossils.

The Mexican Zamia is one of these ancient plants.  At first look, many would think this coarse cardboard-like plant is a fern or small palm.  But its unusual male or female cones on separate plants give it away as something else. 

While Florida nursery growers may call this the Cardboard Palm, I feel a more proper name is the Mexican Zamia (Zamia maritima). This name gives us an idea of where it is from, and avoids confusing it as a palm. 

The Mexican Zamia needs plenty of room to grow, but once established will not require much in the way of fertilizer, water or other kinds of care.  One clump can average 3-4 feet tall, but may get larger as plants get older, sucker and spread from the seed the female plants produce.

Its use adds a tropical flair to any Florida Yard, and will be an easy addition to local landscapes. This cycad is exceptionally salt tolerant and pest problems are rare - an occasional scale or mealybug problem can be cleared up with soaps or horticultural oils.

Holly Fern

The foliage of Holly Fern has small stickers that make it look like the leaf of an American Holly.  Also note the bottom of leaves have small spots where reproductive spores grow. Photo: \UF/IFAS Environmental Horticulture Dept. Holly Fern grows best in low light locations. It would be a good choice for growing under the shade of a tree.  Photo HortusOasis

For the fortunate few that have shady spots, there is a demand for drought tolerant ornamentals that can thrive in shady spots.  When choosing plants where grass will not grow, look no further than Holly Fern (Cyrtomium falcatum).  This native of Africa and Asia forms loose 3-foot tall clumps of deep green feathery leaves with pointy edges that give it a holly-like appearance.

Holly Ferns can be used in partially sunny to fully shady spots as a border plant, ground cover, or in a woodland garden.  They can also be kept in pots as indoor foliage or on covered patios.

Keep the soil moist but not too wet.  Some pests can be found on Holly ferns:  scales, mites, mealybugs and snails are found when the watering is excessive. However, those bumps on the bottom of the leaf are not pests - ferns reproduce by dust-like spores produced under the leaves.

 Limelight Dracaena 

  Limelight Dracaena has light green foliage and will perform well in low-light conditions inside the home or office. Photo: Michael's Nursery Dracaena Limelight  A prime specimen of Limelight can be 4 feet tall. Photo: Gardenbuddies.com

For the indoor parts of your Florida Yard, consider this new variety of the old-time Corn Plant, Limelight Dracaena (Dracaena deremensis ‘Limelight’ PP-12793). With its striking bright glossy lustrous lime-green leaves, this tropical foliage plant thrives as a low-light interior plant.

Limelight’s durability makes it ideal for home or office settings.  A low-light location helps keep its lime coloring.  This plant will grow more quickly than other Dracaenas like ‘Janet Craig’.  And if it gets too big for the container, it can also be used outdoors in shady spots in your Florida Yard.


Florida Plants of the YearIf you have any trouble finding any of these plants, check out our on-line Okeechobee Green pages, which lists many locally-owned nurseries and garden centers.  Or check with our office for FNGLA nurseries outside our area that can supply you with these outstanding plants for 2007.

I’ve placed more information on our Okeechobee web page, http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu.  If you need additional information on choosing new plants for your Florida Yard, please email us at okeechobee@ifas.ufl.edu or call us at 863-763-6469.  Local residents can stop by our office at 458 Hwy 98 North in Okeechobee, and visit our Okeechobee County Master Gardeners from 1 to 3 PM on Tuesday afternoons.  GO GATORS!


Trade names, where used, are given for the purpose of providing specific information. They do not constitute an endorsement or guarantee of products named, nor does it imply criticism of products not named. The Florida Cooperative Extension Service - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin.  Florida Cooperative Extension Service / IFAS / University of Florida.  Larry A.  Arrington, Dean Last update: 02/05/2007 .  This page is maintained by Dan Culbert 


Purple Lovegrass  Eragrostis spectabilis

Bradley, Kevin and Hagood, Scott.    Purple Lovegrass: Eragrostis spectabilis.  Blacksburg:Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide, 2007. http://www.ppws.vt.edu/scott/weed_id/erasp.htm

Haddock, Mike. Purple Lovegrass - Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses.  Manhattan: Kansas State University, 2006. http://www.lib.ksu.edu/wildflower/purplelovegrass.html

Shower-of-Gold / Thyrallis   Galphimia gracilis

Davis, Todd.  Golden Thyrallis provides year-round tropical color.  Fort Worth: GreenBeam website,  Branch-Smith Publishing, 3/04.   http://www.greenbeam.com/features/plant030104.stm

Gilman, Ed. Galphimia gracilis FPS-219. Gainesville: UF/IFAS Extension Service, October 1999. http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/shrubs/GALGLAA.PDF   

Cardboard Palm  Zamia maritima (formerly furfuracea)

Gilman, Ed. Mexican Zamia FPS-618. Gainesville: UF/IFAS Extension Service, October 1999. http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/shrubs/ZAMFURA.PDF 

Scheper, Jack  Zamia furfuracea, Cardboard Palm.  Floridata.com website, 2/17/04 http://www.floridata.com/ref/Z/zami_fur.cfm

Holly Fern Cyrtomium falcatum

Harrison, Marie. Holly Fern Dresses up a Shady Corner. Tallahassee: UF/IFAS Leon County Extension Service, 2006. http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu/LAWN-GDN/Holly%20Fern%20Dresses%20up%20a%20Shady%20Corner.htm 

Lemke, Cal  Holly Fern (Plant of the Week).   Norman: University of Oklahoma Department of Botany & Microbiology, 7/99. http://www.plantoftheweek.org/week038.shtml

Locke, Darlene.  Holly Fern Cyrtomium falcatum. (Ornamentals for the Texas Gulf Coast website). College Station, TX:  Texas Master Gardner Program, 2006. http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/ornamentals/coastalplants/cyrtomium.html

Limelight Dracaena   Dracaena deremensis ‘Limelight’ PP-12793

Gilman, Ed. Dracena deremensis. FPS-183. Gainesville: UF/IFAS Extension Service, October 1999.  http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/shrubs/DRADERA.PDF