Fall is prime planting season in Southwest Florida. The worst of the stifling summer heat is finally behind us, and the milder temperatures make tending to our gardens a lot more enjoyable, says Liz Chehayl, curator of collections for Naples Botanical Garden and a Florida-certified horticultural professional. She shares her ideas for what to plant in the fall.
First, Chehayl suggests starting a simple but colorful container garden using a complementary mix of three diverse plants: ornamental peppers, Thai basil, and nasturtiums.
“It is a great container combination you can easily grow on your lanai, and all three are edible,” she says. “The purple ornamental peppers look great with the Thai basil, which has a purplish cast to it. Nasturtiums are a colorful trailing plant, and you can get varieties that are mixed with red, yellow, and orange. When you put these all in one container, you’ll have two upright plants and the trailing nasturtium, and even the flowers are edible.” All three plants have the same watering requirements and require partial to full sun, she says.
If you have limited time or travel frequently, opt for a tough but beautiful succulent or a woody herb that is nearly impossible to kill. Chehayl points to the desert rose as one of the most stunning of the bunch.
“It is a succulent that usually loses its leaves, then flowers. It’s a great plant to trade cuttings of with other people,” Chehayl says. “A hardy plant like that you can leave alone, and as long as it gets some water from rainfall, it will be fine.”
The desert rose’s striking blooms come in a variety of colors, including white, pink, and red, and the trunk swells as the plant grows older, which Chehayl says is part of its unique appeal. However, the sap from the desert rose is poisonous, so keep it away from children and pets, and make sure to wash your hands right after handling it.
Echeveria, another pretty succulent, is not toxic and safe to grow around pets and kids. The succulent’s thick leaves create dense rosettes that come in many variations, from leaves that are blue-green to deep green tinged with red or pink.
Finally, if your passion for cooking matches your interest in gardening but you have little time for both, Chehayl suggests growing a resilient (and delicious) herb like rosemary, which has fragrant evergreen leaves that are perfect for a home garden.
“Rosemary can be grown in the ground or in a container,” Chehayl says. “It’s more of a woody plant that comes from a Mediterranean climate, so it’s going to get along fine with less watering.”