On Gardening: Florida Sunshine, golden in cool-season mixed containers


This has been a great year of cool-season container color thanks to the addition of a little Florida Sunshine. Your first thought might be that the cloud cover finally broke and the sun was shining ever so brightly. However, we are under rain and thunder it seems forevermore, but our mixed containers or ever so beautiful thanks to Florida Sunshine anise.

James, my color guru son, will be the first to ask what is this “WE” you are referring to pops? Sadly, I can take no credit only admiration. He has hundreds of containers, some very large that he not only designs but carefully manages every day of the year. Large containers this time of the year are filled with pansies, dianthus, heuchera, and more but there is a need for evergreen plant material for not only height but to serve as a foil for the colorful blooms which is where Florida Sunshine comes in with a dazzling presence.

Florida Sunshine is a shrub that will reach 7 feet tall and 8 feet wide and brings sunshine and happiness to the woodlands garden. But in a cool-season container, its chartreuse to golden foliage seems to light up in stunning contrast to companion plants like Rocking dianthus or blue pansies. Florida Sunshine anise just seems to make all other plant materials look even better.

This species of anise comes from moist areas of Florida and Georgia but will look quite at home in woodland areas throughout zones 6-9. Florida Sunshine will also look striking as a hedge and will make a show stopper thriller plant in a mixed container.

In the cool winter growing season you can take liberties with your Florida Sunshine and grow it with a lot more sun than you would in the summer. In other words, we recommend partial shade to shade in the landscape. But in a cool-season container use it where you wish. When you transition to warm-season color, the Florida Sunshine will need to head to a shadier location.

Large mixed containers filled with peat-based potting soil seem to be just perfect for not only cool-season shrubbery but all annual color as well. If you decide to transfer to the woodland garden come spring dig the planting hole two to three times as wide as the rootball but no deeper. When you dig these large holes, you are opening the door to the fastest root expansion and establishment in your bed. Place the plant in the hole and backfill with soil to two-thirds the depth. Tamp the soil and water to settle, add the remaining backfill, repeat the process and apply mulch.

Keep in mind they have the potential of reaching 6 to 10 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide. Prune lightly anytime to shape and keep bushy. Feed you Florida Sunshine with an azalea camellia type fertilizer with the beginning of spring growth.

While some illicium may be used for spice, Florida Sunshine is NOT to be eaten. Thankfully you will not find this on the menu of the deer cafe either. While the blooms are inconsequential the tiny seeds that may follow are reportedly eaten by birds.

Florida Sunshine is one shrub to get you out of the winter doldrums and is a terrific choice for your woodland garden or large mixed containers.

(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

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