There has been a flurry of activity in our yards in the past two weeks, a frantic rush to get rid of dead and damaged foliage. We're in a hurry to put in new plants before humidity sets in and gardening becomes more chore than pleasure. If you don't have time to tackle major yard work, focus on the front walkway. Lining the walk with plants is a quick way to add color and texture — and draw the eye away from those areas of the yard that are still on the to-do list. (Mother's Day is May 9. She'll appreciate the effort if no one else does.)
B Buckberry Joyce, Times staff writer
TO ADD COLOR
Beach sunflower Helianthus debilis
This fast-growing Florida native produces a cheery, bright yellow sunflower that's about 2 inches in diameter. Beach sunflower requires little work and is drought- and salt-tolerant. Prefers sunny areas.
Begonia Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum
You'll get a double shot of color with begonias, which bloom in red, pink or white and also feature shiny, large leaves that are green, variegated or bronze-colored. (The bronze-leaved plants are better for full-sun areas.) Grows in full sun to partial shade.
Blue daze Evolvulus glomeratus
With gray-green foliage and soothing blue flowers, blue daze adds a calming note to the landscape. It's fast-growing and requires little maintenance as well. Tolerates most any soil and can grow in full sun to partial shade. Flowering may be reduced in partial shade.
Impatiens Impatiens wallerana
Even the novice gardener likely will recognize easy-to-grow impatiens, which are great for adding color to a shady spot. Colors range from red to apricot to white and hues in between. Prefers well-drained, improved soil and partial to full shade.
Knock Out rose Rosa 'Radrazz'
You'll get color but not much fragrance from most of these super-easy-to-maintain roses. (They are drought-tolerant, self-cleaning and resistant to black spot and powdery mildew.) Available in a range from blush to red and yellow. Prefers well-drained soil and six to eight hours of sun a day.
Marigold Tagetes spp.
Long a favorite for growing in elementary school, marigolds brighten the yard with yellow, orange, golden and bicolored blooms. Prefers moist, good soil and grows in sun or partial shade.
Others to consider: Blanket flower (Gaillardia), heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia) and trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis).
TO ADD TEXTURE
Boston fern Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis'
This popular Florida native can feature ruffled or divided fronds that add a unique shape to your yard. Fast-growing, it tolerates poor soil and both shady and sunny spots. Be careful to avoid similar-looking non-native species, some of which have been labeled Category I invasives.
Cast iron plant Aspidistra elatior
If your thumb is more brown than green, this may be the plant for you. Glossy, coarse-textured leaves add visual interest, and the cultivar Variegata has leaves alternately striped green and white in varied widths. Grows well in partial shade and full shade.
Littleleaf boxwood Buxus microphylla
This slow-growing plant is a popular choice along pathways and can be pruned in a variety of shapes. A fine-textured evergreen, it can lend a more formal air to the landscape. Prefers well-drained soil and grows in partial shade, partial sun.
Liriope Liriope muscari, Liriope muscari 'Variegata'
Liriope grows in clumps of slender, gently bending leaves that can either be green or variegated (green and white striped). Spikes of purple blooms add interest in the summer. Liriope will grow in a variety of light levels but prefers some shade. The green variety is the better choice for areas with some sun.
Shore juniper Juniperus conferta
This juniper grows low to the ground and adds a unique shape with gray-green or blue-green needlelike leaves. Fast-growing, it also is heat- and salt-tolerant. Prefers well-drained soil and full sun.
Sunshine mimosa Mimosa strigillosa
Dr. Seuss would surely have loved this Florida native, a fast-growing ground cover that sprouts purplish poofs, earning it the common name powderpuff. Low-maintenance and drought-tolerant, it grows well in full sun.
Others to consider: Schilling's dwarf holly (Ilex vomitoria Schillings dwarf), small varieties of heliconia (Heliconia spp.) such as 'Golden Torch' and cultivars of Asiatic jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum)
Sources: University of Florida Extension Service, edis.ifas.ufl.edu; Native Florida Plants by Robert G. Haehle and Joan Brookwell (Gulf Publishing Co., 1999); Complete Guide to Florida Gardening by Stan DeFreitas (Taylor Publishing Co., 1987)