Garden Photo of the Day

Florida-Style Foliage

The difficulties and pleasures of a tropical climate

Today we’re visiting Lillian Miller’s garden in St. Petersburg, Florida.

I have gardened in Italy; Germany; Tacoma, Washington; and the Berkshires in Massachusetts. Now I am retired, but this is the most difficult place to garden because of the year-round heat and poor, sandy soil. Despite that, plants flourish, annuals become perennials, and everything is vivid and grows to be huge.

The whole garden is also filled with looming oak trees and lined by an old brick road, so although it’s hot, there is sufficient shade. Gardening is a wonderful activity any time, but it is really life-supporting during retirement, pandemic, and intense heat.

Cast iron plantsCast-iron plants (Aspidistra elatior, Zones 7–10) with variegated foliage, backed by a philodendron with bright orange new leaves. All of these make great houseplants in climates where it is too cold for them to live outside.

MonsteraMonstera deliciosa is another plant best known as a houseplant in most areas, but in Florida it can live outside, get huge, and even produce these unusual-looking flowers.

bromeliadA purple bromeliad backed by the colorful leaves of a croton (Codiaeum variegatum).

colorful foliage plantsMore crotons and other colorful foliage plants make a bright display in the shade of the oaks.

Chinese pagoda clerodendrumThis tall red Chinese pagoda clerodendrum (Clerodendrum paniculatum) is practically a weed in Florida, growing vigorously and easily.

Variegated pandanusVariegated pandanus (Pandanus utilis) is striking backed by the pink-blossoming medinilla bush, which is fragile if not watered enough.

crotonsMasses of crotons make a durable, long-lasting, colorful display outside in frost-free climates, and they are great houseplants or annuals in colder climes.


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    treasuresmom 08/26/2020

    Those crotons are amazing!

  2. nwphillygardener 08/26/2020

    I am impressed with those very glossy purple bromeliads. It seems many of the thriving tropicals have broad and somewhat more glossy leaves than the many plants that are more common in cooler climates. I imagine with all the humidity and rain showers, the plants with soft silvery surfaces might rot….. being happier in drier environments.

  3. moyra_b 08/26/2020


  4. User avater
    simplesue 08/26/2020

    I enjoyed seeing your Florida garden- it just amazes me how it looks so tropical with palms and yet there are big woodsy looking Oaks growing too.
    My neighbor has several pots of Codiaeum variegatum (we are zone 6b) as annuals, and I'd been wondering what they were like in their natural planting zone- so I really enjoyed seeing them in your garden in the ground looking so natural.
    Your garden is really pretty, and you sure have learned to garden in many different places and zones!

  5. schatzi 08/26/2020

    Magnificent color and texture combinations! Truly a beautiful garden.

  6. cheryl_c 08/26/2020

    Love those crotons!

  7. User avater
    meander_michaele 08/26/2020

    Your photos are great, Lillian. The colors are so vibrant and the details so clear, I feel like I am standing right next you as you snap the pictures. I love seeing tropicals doing their natural "thang" as they thrive in a hospitable climate and friendly growing conditions. Thanks for sharing.

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