Plants for Shady Areas

Shade Plants_2


Plants that prosper in shade are some of the most beautiful plants that we work with. A challenge for our customers is to determine what degree of shade does a particular area receive and being aware of the change in the amount of light between winter and summer. A simple way to gauge your shade is light, partial, medium, full and dense.

How much shade:

*Dense shade is under the deck or stairs on the north side of the house. Never sees the sun - a cave, for instance.

*Full shade lasts all day and no sun shines there either but it is a little brighter.

*Medium shade is an area where the sun's rays are blocked for much of the day but receives sun in the morning and/or evening. This shade is under mature trees or a bright northern exposure.

*Light shade is characterized by a short period of mid-day shade with sun the rest of the day, or filtered or dappled sunlight most of the day.

Sometimes dense shade can be improved by lifting or thinning the tree canopy or large shrubs so more sun or indirect light can penetrate.

A great solution for dense shade is to convert it to an outdoor garden room enhanced by seating, garden art, mulch, hardscape, colorful containers, a water feature, a birdbath, or other focal points. Leave the leaf litter that falls and allow these areas to be "self-mulching."


tree plant diagram

Before You Plant

 These steps apply to all large plants:


• Choose a plant fits the site.

• Look up! Determine if the mature plant will interfere with power/phone lines or anything else overhead.

• Locate wiring, pipes or utilities before digging by calling Sunshine State One Call at telephone number #811.

• Handle plants carefully by grasping the container, NOT the branches or trunks.

• Prune out any broken branches and remove any tags on the plant.


Dig a wide (at least 50% larger than the root ball), shallow hole for your new plant. PLANT THE ROOT BALL approximately 10% ABOVE GRADE. Place the dirt from the hole around the rootball, NOT on top of the new planting.

 If plantings are made during the dry months or at sites without irrigation, it may be advantageous to create a soil “dam” around your new plant that can hold water. Once the plant is established or the rainy season arrives, the dam should be raked away so water will slope away from the new plant.

 It is NOT necessary to pull the roots away from the rootball before planting. Disturbing the roots can cause stress to the plant and defoliate or even kill the new plant. If a plant is rootbound, make several shallow vertical cuts on the sides of the rootball before planting. Significantly rootbound plants may not attain optimal growth. We strive to carry only “fresh” plants recently acquired from the grower.

 New plantings will need to be treated with care and attention. We recommend that these plants should be watered daily for the first month; every other day for the next thirty days; and every third day going forward. Plants should be carefully monitored during the first year to make sure that they are not stressed by lack of water as they become established. Establishment may take several months depending on the kind of plant and environmental conditions. ALL plants will need regular fertilization. 


A layer of mulch two to three inches over the root ball will help retard weed growth and retain moisture, particularly during the dry months. DO NOT PACK MULCH UP TO THE PLANT STEMS OR TRUNKS TO AVOID ROOT ROT. Mulch breaks down over an extended period of time to assist in bringing additional nutrients to the top soil.

Southwest Florida soils tend to be somewhat alkaline and many plants require more acidity for optimal health and growth. Some of these acid loving plants include the Magnolia, Ixora, Gardenia, Hibiscus, Rose, Azalea and Cordylines. Pine straw brings some additional acidity to the soil and can act in a limited way to retard weed growth.

Our soils usually lack nutrients necessary for lush, healthy plants. Plants will need a good CONTROL RELEASE fertilizer formulated for South Florida soil conditions. We recommend a high quality fertilizer such as Nurseryman’s Sure-Gro 12-4-12 or 8-2-12 palm fertilizer that can be used on ALL plants, including palms, edibles, trees, shrubs, and bedding plants. This fertilizer breaks down slowly and will last 90 to 120 days.  It contains all of the elements and micro-elements needed for optimal plant growth, and will also act to acidify the soil.  Lower quality fertilizers can break down quickly with our high soil temperatures and heavy rains, leeching into our groundwater and providing little benefit to the plants or our environment. Good control release fertilizers should be applied at intervals recommended by the manufacturer.

# # #

To download a PDF of this information click here.



These steps apply to all large plants:

• Choose a plant fits the site.

• Look up! Determine if the mature plant will interfere with power/phone lines or anything else overhead.

• Locate wiring, pipes or utilities before digging by calling Sunshine State One Call at telephone number #811.

• Handle plants carefully by grasping the container, NOT the branches or trunks.

• Prune out any broken branches and remove any tags on the plant.

Florida Plant_Hardiness_Zone_Map

Planting Zones


Planting zones, also called hardiness zones, divide the U.S., Mexico and Canada into 11 areas. Each of the gardening zones is based on a 10 degree Fahrenheit difference in the average annual MINIMUM temperature.

Planting Zones 1 and 2a, are the coldest and represent Canada. The U.S. falls within zones 2 through 10. Hawaii and Mexico are represented by zone 11, the hottest score.

Suitable hardiness means a plant can be expected to grow in the zone’s temperature extremes, as determined by the LOWEST average annual temperature.

As an example: If a plant is recommended for a range of zones 5 – 9, the plant is suitable for growing in zones 5,6,7,8 and 9. The Planting Zone chart should be used only as a guideline to help select the right plant for your location. The Planting Zone map is updated every 10 years and the new map will be published this year. It is likely that the zones will be moved downward to reflect the cooler weather that we have experienced the last several years.

Water Conservation

South Florida has experienced significant development in the last decade which has put pressure on our amount of available water in our aquafirs that are used for irrigation and drinking. Approximately 50% of the water that is consumed is for irrigation. In addition, we have had lower rainfall amounts than normal over the last few years. The result has been chronic water shortages to various degrees.

Download a great guide with some water saving tips here.

Most people are unaware that Palm Beach was three weeks away from running out of fresh water earlier this summer! It is critical for the future of our communities, that we design "smarter" landscapes which use less turf , grouping and using plants that require less water, and using more efficient irrigation systems such as drip.

digging in soilHow is your soil?

Southwest Florida soils are generally sandy. Sandy soil is ideal for plant success in south Florida. because of the amount of rain that we receive during the summer months. Most of our plants like "dry feet" and many will not prosper or will even die if drainage is poor. You generally do not need to amend the soil if it is primarily sand.

Compacted soil with rocks and shells drain poorly. If you have these soil conditions you may benefit from a good soil amendment. We have had excellent results at the nursery and in our landscape projects using Fafard's Organic Soil Growers Conditioner. This dark, rich composted pine bark holds moisture, breaks up hard, dense soil, and stimulates root growth. Mix it half and with the existing soil.

Growers of citrus and other edible plants usually use containers containing rich, fertile soil. These plants may benefit from using a soil amendment when they are installed, and may experience less transplant stress as the roots become extablished into the existing soil. Other soil amendment products can be used such as worm castings, and manure. Remember, it is important to mix these amendment products with the existing soil.  Too rich of soil can create significant stress on newly installed plants.


nurserymen suregroFertilizers and Nutrients  


One of the most common questions asked by our customers is what kind of fertilizer to use, how to keep their plants healthy when they are away during the summer, and the benefits of using organic vs. inorganic fertilizers. This is a subject that has overwhelming amounts of information available, much of it contradictory

SW Florida soils are unique in that they are generally sandy, alkaline, and very nutrient poor. Add in our heavy summer rains and regular irrigation, and you can imagine how soil amendments and fertilizers leach into groundwater and waterways. Most of us are from “somewhere else” and are used to different soils, nutritional needs, and fertilizers.

Nutrient deficiencies are much more easily prevented than corrected once they occur. The correction of nutrient deficiencies in palm trees can take as long as two to three years for some elements. Florida’s soils have very low capacities to retain these elements in the root zone during periods of heavy rainfall or irrigation.

Drift Rose_800x800

Growing Roses in Florida


Roses have long been admired for their fragrance and beautiful flowers.  We can successfully grow roses in South Florida depending on the variety that is selected.  Even better, many of these roses will bloom year-round, making them a wonderful addition to any garden. The key to growing roses successfully is to select a rose variety that has demonstrated superior pest tolerance and landscape performance in our unique climate and soil conditions.

The Drift and SunRosa roses have been developed to perform well in our hot, rainy and humid summers. They come in various colors and fragrances, and will grow to 2 ½ feet making them an ideal border plant with color.  The 'Knock-Out' series of roses are also hardy and can bloom throughout the year.  Pope John Paul is our favorite fragrant shrub rose.  The Don Juan, mini-rose, and Louise Phillipe roses are great climbers.  These low maintenance roses produce open, informal blooms in repeat cycles throughout the year.

Hybrid tea, grandiflora, floribunda, and polyantha are rose varieties that produce an assortment of lovely, florist quality blooms. Certain cultivars of these roses will perform very well in Florida when they have been grafted during nursery production onto Fortuniana rootstock.  This is a hardy, proven Florida rootstock, resisting nematode infestation while developing an extensive root system to provide the water and nutrients necessary for long term success.

After selecting the right cultivar, the rose must be planted in a location which will provide it with at least six hours of daily sunlight. It should be planted with enriched, quality soil and the root ball should be one to two inches above grade. Roses require regular watering and soil with good drainage. They will perform best with regular fertilization, preferably with a controlled-release fertilizer containing all 16 elements and microelements, specifically formulated for our climate and soil.  Our preference is Nurseryman's Sure-gro 6-8-10 rose fertilizer which is a highly effective 60 day product used in some of the most prestigious rose gardens throughout Florida

Most importantly, when gardening with these lovely plants, "take time to smell the roses."

# # #




PapayaGrowing Fruit Trees in the Landscape


Our customers are often amazed to learn that we can successfully grow wonderful edible plants such as Apple, Avocado, Barbados Cherry, Blacberry, Carambola (starfruit), Grumachama (Brazilian plum), Grape, Guava, Longan, Lychee, Macademia nut, Mango, Mulberry, Olive, Papaya, Passion fruit, Persimmon, Raspberry, Sapote, Strawberry tree, and many more. We have a beautiful and expansive Tropical Fruit garden to allow our guests to stroll through and see how lovely these edible plants are, not to mention what they taste like!

Many of our edible plants grow to become lovely trees that can provide interest, shade, and of course food!

Riverland carries some unique and delicious plants. We have sought the best growers of edible plants throughout the state with plants viable for our local climate and growing conditions. Come and see why edible plants are increasingly being included in many of our gardens and landscape!



Leafminer on_CitrusUnwanted Garden Pests


Probably the most frequently asked questions from our customers are about insect activities in their gardens. There are many good online websites about pests and how to control them. This is a summary of several informative articles distributed by the University of FL, IFAS Extension. We will list various websites at the end of this article to allow those who wish more information.


Pests of ornamental plants may be divided into five groups according to the way they damage plants:


Insects with Piercing-Sucking Mouthparts. These insects have beak-like mouthparts which are used to pierce the plant and to suck plant juices. Examples include Scales, Aphids, whiteflies, mealybugs, thrips, and lace bugs


Foliage-Feeding Insects. They may feed on the leaves, flowers or attack the roots. Examples include caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, katydids.


Spider Mites. These pests are not insects but are closely related to spiders. They suck plant juices with their piercing, sucking mouthparts.


Leafminers. These are very small larvae of flies, beetles, or moths that tunnel between the upper and lower leaf surfaces.



Bamboo in the Landscape

Black Bamboo

We have grown to appreciate non-running (Clumping) bamboo as an exceptionally useful and attractive plant choice, providing unique beauty and great privacy. Clumping bamboo grow vertically to reach their full height in just a few years.

Bamboo is hardy and requires little maintenance once established. Some of our favorite cold tolerant and non-running varieties include Angel Mist, Asian Lemon, Blue Chungii, Black Timor, Dwarf Buddha Belly, Gideon's Blue, Graceful Bamboo, and Seabreeze.

We are testing several newer bamboo varieties in our bamboo garden. We are especially excited about Sacred Bali which is considered one of the world's most beautiful bamboo; boniopsis and subtrancuta, which have a very dense form and stay small; black diamond which is a beautiful smaller black bamboo; Malay variegated bamboo with beautiful foliage, Ying Yang and emerald with a beautiful erect form and pretty canes.

We have an extensive selection of bamboo in various sizes. Come and see our bamboo garden, with bamboo hedges and beautiful specimen bamboo to learn why we believe the use of bamboo will increasingly be found in the coolest SW Florida landscapes!




Maple tree_5_600x800Using Trees for Energy Conservation

It is estimated that the potential value of "low energy" landscapes can result in a 20-30% reduction in total energy consumption. A major benefit of landscaping is to limit solar radiation on windows and exterior walls. In South Florida during the five-month period from mid-May to mid-September, temperatures exceed human comfort levels. Trees are the most effective form of plant material for limiting solar radiation. Proper placement should ensure maximum shading. Tree shade can be most effective on the surfaces of east and west sides of residences. Deciduous trees can be used effectively during winter months (Nov – February) when the warming effect of the sun can be beneficial.*

We believe that trees are underused in Florida and have a large and varied selection of trees. Come and visit to view and evaluate the best tree options for your home.

*Information courtesy of the Dept. of Environmental Horticulture, IFAS, University of Florida.



# # #




allamanda vine

Poisonous Plants

We are often asked about plants which may be poisonous to pets, livestock or horses. There are several listings of toxic plants available online but they are lengthy and encompass many plants that aren’t grown in SW Florida.

This is a list of plants that are considered poisonous to dogs and cats to some degree that are found in our area. We have compiled this list from the and the ASCPA websites. This is NOT a comprehensive list and should be used only as an initial and cursory source of information. If you believe that your pet has ingested a poisonous plant, call your veterinarian or your local emergency vet immediately. Asterisks (*) denote a higher degree of toxicity.

The degree of clinical signs of ingesting poison are often dependent on the species, age, breed, or size of your pet; and how much of the poisonous plant ingested.

Sustainable Garden

What Is A Sustainable Plant or Landscape?

Florida’s unique climate of intense rain, heat and humidity during the summer, followed by a lengthy dry season can create a daunting challenge for those wishing to establish successful gardens and landscapes.

Riverland Nursery embraces the concept of sustainability which is the practical application of designing and selecting plant material that will flourish in our unique and often challenging climate and soil conditions. Our objective is to provide our customers with the information needed to enable them to select plants  that will flourish with minimal water and care. These include native Florida plants, as well as non-natives that have the characteristics needed for long-term success. 

Many plants that we showcase and recommend are wildlife attractants. These are plants that attract various types of birds, hummingbirds and butterflies that can make your garden and landscape an educational and joyful experience.



Dune SunflowerSalt Tolerant Plants

Many homeowners in Southwest Florida live very near the Gulf of Mexico and other places with elevated salinity levels, which can adversely affect plant success.  Wells that have experienced some degree of saltwater intrusion can also present planting challenges.  It may be useful to test your well water and to take soil samples.  We have found that many retail pool stores will test water at no charge.  Non-potable or greywater usually does not present a salinity issue.


Paurotis Palm

Plants That Can Tolerate Standing Water

With the advent of the rainy season, we are frequently asked about plants that will survive in standing water. These are some of our suggestions for our SW Florida climate. Many of these are also great plants to use if you are building a rain garden.

Note: Some of the wet tolerant shrubs and trees will need to be established in drier soil in order to tolerate standing water for lengthy periods. The success of many of these plants during seasonal rain and ponding water can be dependent on the duration of the wet conditions.

TREES: Bald Cypress, Banana, Dahoon Holly, Elderberry, Galberry, Black Mangrove, Ironwood, Loblolly, Pond Apple, Pond Cypress, Pop Ash, Red Bay, Red Mangrove, Red Maple, River Birch, Screw Pine, shrimp plant, Simpson's Stopper, Slash Pine, Swamp Bay, Sweetgum, Sweetbay Magnolia, Sycamore, Tupelo, Water Hickory.

PALMS: Needle, Majestic, Paurotis, Royal, Sabal, Saw Palmetto.

SHRUBS: Buford Holly, Buttonbush, Fedderbush, Firebush, Florida Anise, Galberry, Green Buttonwood, Ferns: (Cinnamon, Leather, Royal, Swamp), Goldenrod, Milkweed, Myrsine, Philodendron Selloum, Pickerel Weed, Silver Buttonwood, Simpson Stopper, Walter's Viburnum, Yaupon Holly, and Wax Myrtle.

GRASSES, IRIS, LILIES: African Iris, Blue Flag Iris, Canna Lilly, Fakahatchee, Lemon Grass, Louisiana Iris, Miscanthus, Muhly, Rain Lily, Sand Cordgrass.

# # #

raingarden_002Rain Gardens for Watershed Protection

This is a summation of an article by Nancy Miller, TAPP Project Coordinator & Pam Sawyer, Master Gardener. The source of the article is from Think About Personal Pollution (TAPP), City of Tallahassee.

Almost every homeowner has occasionally been stumped about what to do with excess water washing across the yard during and after a rainstorm. Sometimes the water puddles in an inconvenient place beside the walkway or rushes off so fast that it carries the soil away with it. The moment has arrived to consider replacing some of that lawn with a rain garden.
A rain garden is a landscaped area designed to capture and hold excess water for a short period, allowing it to soak into the soil. The garden is planted with vegetation that prefers a slightly wetter environment, but can tolerate dry times, too. It is a place to grow beautiful plants like Blue-flag iris and Black-eyed Susans, and offers a break in the monotony of ordinary landscaping. Rain gardens are easy to maintain and many rain garden plants attract birds and other wildlife.
As towns grow into cities with more and more roofs, driveways, lawns and highways, the water that once filtered down to underground water supplies now runs into the nearest storm drain. A typical city block absorbs five times LESS water than a wooded area of the same size. Water managers are concerned about replenishment of underground water supplies and increasing pollutants in storm water runoff. Rain gardens are becoming more and more popular because they divert water away from streets and parking lots and provide a place for water to “rest” temporarily while it is absorbed and travels downward into the ground.