University of Florida Extension ServiceUF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service

458 Highway 98 North

Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578

Phone: (863) 763-6469

E- mail:

January 3, 2008

Quick Links:  2008 Program     Almond Bush      Blue Ginger     Sunshine Mimosa     Sand Live Oak     Dwarf Palmetto     Stromanthe Tricolor      References        Past Plants of Year Articles


Feature Article - for release the week of  January 6, 2008

Dan Culbert - Extension Horticulture Agent

Ten years  of Great Plants!   

My calendar says that the New Year has arrived, with lots of opportunities to make great choices for your Florida Yard.  And a peek at information from the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscapers Association tells me that in 2008 they are celebrating a decade of the “Plants of the Year” recommendations. 

Forty-eight landscape plant suggestions for this year’s extraordinary ornamentals came from Florida horticulturalists.   They were judged and selected by jury of 20 industry experts on their ease of maintenance, versatility, consumer appeal, pest and disease resistance, geographic use, ease of propagation and plant availability. 

Benefiting growers, garden centers and consumers alike, this year’s selections include a native groundcover, an almond-scented flowering shrub, a tropical-looking perennial, a native fan palm, a versatile tropical  foliage plant plus a storm-durable native tree.

This year, FNGLA will be celebrating 10 years of the Florida Plants of the Year by announcing the “Best of the Decade” plant selections.   These 10 plants were chosen by the same jury from the all-star line-up of plants previously named as Florida Plants of the Year.  Consumers may look forward to hearing about this year’s plants plus the “Best of the Decade” promotions in 2008!

And the 2008 winners are:

Almond Bush (Aloysia virgata).         This sweetly fragrant, vigorous, drought-tolerant, upright-growing tree/shrub is from Argentina.  It produces spiked flower clusters with small white almond-scented flowers.   With an extended bloom period from spring through fall, this shrub is a good nectar source for butterflies.  The branches of “Almond Verbena” have a slightly weeping growth habit.  

In northern Florida, this plant will freeze back, but will regrow as a 3’ – 4’ shrub.  If grown in ideal conditions in our area, it may reach 15 feet tall as a woody shrub or small tree. Dead- heading of spent flowers will not be needed, but for best results, pruning the shrub between bloom cycles is recommended for denser growth to overcome a leggy habit.  

 Photo: Herb Society of America

Photo: Caldwell Nursery.

The flower cluster of Almond Bush will give off an odor of vanilla or almond.

Blue Ginger (Dichorisandra thyrsiflora).       This tropical plant resembles ginger in growth and habit, but is actually a relative of the wandering Jew plant.  Also know as Brazilian Ginger, this is a native to the tropical woodlands of the Americas.   It is grown for their striking deep purplish -blue blooms that grow on 6" spikes in summer and fall.  The blooms can be cut for tropical floral arrangements.

This creeping tropical has glossy green foliage with stiff succulent stems that spread slowly to creating a dense mass with a tremendous show of blooms.  It can be used alone as a specimen, or grouped as a mass planting.  It grows well in part to full shade with moist, well-drained soil; mealy bugs are its only significant pest issue.  This is a great addition to most any Florida garden!

Blue Ginger grows best in reduced light conditions in Florida Yards. Photo: UF/IFAS  bgplant_dicho.jpg  Flower clusters of the Blue Ginger can be used in tropical cut flower arrangements.  Photo: Stephen Bishop, City of Dunedin 

Powderpuff or Sunshine Mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa).        Looking for a groundcover instead of turf grass?  This reliable and vigorous low-grower is a Florida native.  And,  it is a low-maintenance choice for Florida Yards, as it can do well growing in either moist or dry soils.  Powderpuff is a common name for this plant, because of its pink ball-shaped flowers it produces in warmer months.  (They resemble Mimosa tree flower clusters, and are both bean family relatives).  Flowers will attract butterflies and provide butterfly larva with food. 

The foliage is delicate-looking with small fern-like compound leaves which draw back when touched.  (Another relative is the sensitive plant, which is invasive but has undesirable thorns.)  Sunshine Mimosa is durable enough to walk on, park on, drive on and even mow.  In sun or shade, it grows best when well watered and grows well intermingled with sod.  It has virtually no major insect or disease problems.

Sunshine Mimosa is a low maintenance groundcover that can be used instead of turfgrass. Photos: Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS

Sand Live Oak (Quercus geminata).             Similar to the familiar Southern live oak but smaller in stature, this Florida native tree is     usually found in dunes and scrub habitats.  But its salt and drought tolerance have moved it into mainstream landscapes where the size of a Live Oak is too great.

It has an irregular growth habit and spreading canopy.  Some forms are tree-like and some may form a thicket.  The dark green cupped leaves are distinctly boat shaped with whitish grey on the undersides.  The acorns are a valuable wildlife food source.  The Sand Live Oak has proven severe storm durability making it an ideal tree for Florida’s sometimes stormy weather. 

Leaves and acorns of the Sand Live Oak are very similar to those of the Southern Live Oak, but the tree's size and habit help tell them apart.  Photo: UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation

Sand Live Oak has an irregular growth habit.  Photo Ed Gilman, UF/IFAS 

Dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor)           One of the most cold tolerant palms in the world, this Southeast native is a small (4 feet by 6 feet) drought-tolerant palm with fan-shaped fronds. The foliage is green to blue-green and long stalks of white flowers produce small black fruits enjoyed by wildlife. 

It can be distinguished from the Saw palmetto because it lacks the bumpy thorns on the leaf-stalks.  It grows in very moist to dry soils in shade or in sun. The dwarf palmetto usually appears trunk-less due to its subterranean trunk and adds a great native touch when a smaller scaled plant is needed.  Because of its slow growth, expect it to be a little more expensive than other palms.

The Dwarf Palmetto can be grown in most southeastern states. Photo: USF Atlas of  Vascular Plants. 

Sabal minor Fairchild Botanical Gardens reports that a "bluish form" of this Palm exits. Photo: FTBG

Stromanthe Tricolor (Stromanthe sanguinea ‘Triostar’).       This striking upright foliage plant is grown mainly for its beautiful coloration.  It has been selected from a native of the tropical Americas, a relative of the Prayer Plant.  It will also attract holiday plant lovers because of the red, green and white colored leaves, which are oblong, thick and glossy.

Tricolor, or ‘Triostar’ as known in the nursery trade, is very eye-catching and thrives as a container grown indoor plant.  In Central and South it can survive outside year-round in shady settings, but will not survive hard freezes.  Caterpillars and slugs may pose an issue as well as leaf-burn if grown in the full sun.  It will be a very popular choice for 2008. 


Stromanthe sanguinea 'Triostar'

Tricolor Stromanthe is a variegated form of this tropical foliage plant. Photo:   C. Vandaveer.

While this plant can be used in shady areas of South Florida landscapes, in our area the danger of frost may keep Stromanthe in the container.  This photo shows a highly unusual bloom on a plant grown in Ohio. Photo: Julie Zickefoose

I’ve placed more information on our Okeechobee web page,  If you need additional information on the FNGLA’s Plants of the Year or Decade, please email us at 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: 01/03/2008.  This page is maintained by Dan Culbert  


Dan Culbert has produced articles about previous FNGLA Plants of the Year.  Here are links to past issues: 

Five New Plants for 2007 

More Plants for 2006 (part 2) 

Plants for 2006  (part 1)

Eight Plants for 2005

2004 Plants of the Year

New Plants for the New Year (2003)
These following articles have not yet been posted - please notify the author if you wish to see a copy: 
New landscape plants for 2001
New Plants for a New Year (1999)
Fire Bush Named Florida Plant of The Year  (10/19/1997)

Nelis, Jennifer. “FNGLA Names Six Plants as 2008 Florida Plants of the Year.”   Orlando: FNGLA, 9/28/2007.



Aloysia virgata /Almond Bush 

Dichorisandra thrysiflora / Blue Ginger

    Bishop,  Stephen    Tender Blue Ginger.  Dunedin: City of Dunedin What's Happening in the Garden (website),

Mimosa strigillosa/ Sunshine Mimosa 

Quercus geminata / Sand Live Oak 

Sabal minor / Dwarf Palmetto

Gilman, E.  Sabal minor Bluestem Palmetto, Dwarf Palmetto [FPS-518].  Gainesville: UF/IFAS Extension Service, 9/07.

Stromanthe sanguinea / ‘Triostar’

Wichman, T.   Gainesville: UF/IFAS Gardening in a Minute Website.12/3/07 

Vandaveer. C.  "Plant of the Week 09/25/2006."  Largo, FL: Killerplants website.