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Florida Starter Garden in Winter

Odontonema Firespike

Photo above: Bauhinia blakeana - Hong Kong Orchid Tree

Q: We just moved to Florida and our yard is currently just plain grass. I want to add some beautiful tropical plants, but I'm not sure where to start. Can you suggest easy-to-care-for plants that look nice in winter, preferably with flowers? Considering it's Winter time and some trees look dormant... But I can't wait to start my tropical garden!

A: Florida residents are blessed to have mild winters, and many tropical and subtropical plants enjoy this climate year around. Just be mindful of your location's specific conditions (sun-shade, wet-dry, cold sensitive or hardy). Here are some recommendations for easy-to-grow, evergreen plants that love Florida and look great even in winter. They'll establish well during cooler months, add a splash of color to your garden with their flowers, and even treat you with fruit!

Winter flowers - will bloom now!

Clerodendrum Winter Starburst
Clerodendrum Blue Butterfly
Eranthemum Blue Sage
Odontonema Firespike
Pavonia - Brazilian Candles

Odontonema Firespike

Photo above: Odontonema cuspidatum - Firespike

Fragrant Garden

Banana Magnolia
Jasminum sambac Little Duke Supreme
Vietnamese Gardenia
Nyctanthes - Parijat
Ylang Ylang vine

Gardenia (Kailarsenia) vietnamensis - Vietnamese Gardenia

Photo above: Gardenia vietnamensis - Vietnamese Gardenia

Curious unusual trees

Hong Kong Orchid Tree
Candle Tree

Parmentiera edulis - Candle Tree, Guahalote

Photo above: Parmentiera edulis - Candle Tree, Guahalote

Easy fruit

Noni Tree
Yellow Dragon Fruit Palora
Coffee Tree

Morinda citrifolia - Noni Tree

Photo above: Morinda citrifolia - Noni Tree

Great looking now:
for Shade and Indoor Garden

Calathea zebrina - Zebra Plant
Black Bat Head Lily
White Bat Head Lily
Vanilla Orchid
Reed Ground Orchid
Calathea Fuzzy Pheasant
Colocasia Mojito

Tacca nivea - White Bat Head Lily

Photo above: Tacca nivea - White Bat Head Lily


Sunshine Boosters
Winter use... and discount!

Sunshine Boosters different formulas

Do you remember that Sunshine Boosters fertilizers can be applied year-round?

As natural fertilizers, their scientifically created formulas provide perfectly balanced nutrition for your plants throughout the year. Follow the instructions on the labels and apply Sunshine Boosters with every watering. Give your plants extra boost during winter months! The fertilizer amount is balanced, adjusting proportionally to the water amount, which is tailored to the plant's winter needs. Unlike dry fertilizers, Sunshine Boosters can be used all year without fear of burning plants with excessive nutrient lockup.

Take advantage of the winter sale and stock up on this perfect plant food. You'll need plenty by Spring when your plants begin active growth! Use the code below for 20% off all Sunshine Boosters products. Hurry up, the sale will end in a few days!


Min order $20, excluding S/H. Exp. 1-12-24

Sunshine Boosters effect in the garden

In the photo above: This picture was taken on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2023. The little garden by our B-farm office, irrigated automatically with Sunshine Boosters using the Robuster injector, is thriving in spite of cool nights. Look at this crazy banana, it is taller than the building, we honestly have never seen a banana of that size! The solution we are using there is Sunshine Robusta; now available for pick up in 2.5 gal jugs!


Ten New Year Resolutions:
Diversity in Tropical Garden

Cat diversity in the garden

1. Diversity. Grow different plants. Add more types of tropical plants to your garden for a colorful and diverse look.

2. Save Water. Use water wisely by installing drip systems, collecting rainwater, and using mulch to keep the soil moist.

3. Improve Soil. Make your soil healthier by adding compost or manure regularly. Healthy soil promotes robust plant growth and enhances overall garden resilience.

4. Deal with Pests Smartly. Keep pests in check with a plan - use natural solutions and check your plants often. Preventing program is easier than dealing with infestations.

5. Right Fertilizing. Feed your plants with Eco-frintdly fertilizer such as Sunshine Boosters (safe to use year around). If you use slow-release fertilizers - apply in right amounts, from March to November.

6. Trim Regularly. Keep your garden tidy and healthy by pruning and removing dead or sick parts of the plants.

7. Companion Planting. Explore which plants work well together to enhance nutrient uptake, fight pests and provide shade for those species that need it.

8. Right Climate and Zone Pushing. Pick plants that love your climate, considering sunlight, temperature, and humidity. For more sensitive tropical plants, work on a plan for cold protection: grow them in pots or set up temporary covers.

9. Teach Others. Share your gardening knowledge with the community. Propagate your plants from seeds, cuttings, divisions - and share them with friends and neighbors. Remember: live plant is the best gift, and love is sharing!

10. Make a Relaxation Spot. Create a cozy corner in your garden with comfy seating or hammock, shade, and maybe a water feature for a peaceful retreat.

Cat in hammock


What to do with a Dragon fruit?

Cat with dragon fruit

Q: What can you do with Dragon Fruit? I bought some from the grocery store, but they don't have much flavor.

A: Dragon fruit, or Pitaya, comes in many varieties that differ in flavor, sweetness, and texture. In the store they usually carry simple varieties that are easy to ship and store but have very little flavor. This is why we prefer grow our own Dragon Fruit, same way like we grow many varieties of Mango - to enjoy their excellent flavors that you can't find in a store. Our favorite is the Yellow Dragon Fruit that is not only the sweetest of all but also have the best flavor, with pineapple-mango hint. It is best enjoyed fresh out of hand.

Pitaya Yellow Dragon Fruit, Selenicereus megalanthus Equador Golden

Yellow Dragon Fruit - Selenicereus megalanthus Equador Golden

Dragon Fruit Smoothie: simple and tasty recipe

Dragon fruit, regardless of variety, makes excellent smoothies. A perfect Dragon Fruit Smoothie can be made with a creamy blend of dragon fruit, mango, and banana. The tropical flavor is played up with a squeeze of fresh lime.

Dragon fruit pink smoothie with lime, mint, mango and banana


Mix in a blender:
2 dragon fruit, peeled

  1. cup of mango pulp
    1 banana
    1 cup of milk of your preference
  2. tbsp sugar
    1/2 tsp Lime juce

Some Ice
Mint for decoration

Dragon fruit smoothie ingredients: lime, mint, mango and banana

Dragon fruit contains lots of of nutrients, most notably high vitamin C and iron. Its low calorie content helps give it superfood status because of high nutrient density. Try it today, even from the grocery store! Although these fruit can be quite costly. So, plant your own Dragon Fruit variety collection and enjoy an endless palette of deliciousness!


Our New Year Wish to You:
Stay Young

Hugging cats with plumeria flowers

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away."
- Maya Angelou -

"...Remember, spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever...
...Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side...
...Remember to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent...
...Remember to say "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all - mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you...
...Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak, and give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind...
...And always remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."

(A Life message from George Carlin after he lost his wife)

Spathodea campanulata - African Tulip Tree

In the photo: Spathodea campanulata - African Tulip Tree

How to Stay Young

10 secrets of Eastern Wisdom

1. Throw out nonessential numbers, including age, weight and height. Let the doctor worry about them. That is why you pay them.
2. Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down.
3. Keep learning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening. Never let the brain idle. "An idle mind is the devil's workshop." And the devil's name is Alzheimer's.
4. Enjoy the simple things.
5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.
6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person who is with us our entire life, is ourselves. Be ALIVE while you are alive.
7. Surround yourself with what you love, whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies. Your home is your refuge.
8. Cherish your health. If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.
9. Don't take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall, to the next county, to a foreign country, but NOT to where the guilt is.
10. Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity.

Cat on keyboard with avocado 


Cats in the Garden.
Cat Breed: The Norwegian Forest Cat - Skogkatt

Norwegian Forest Cat - Skogkatt on a cat tree

By Alex Butova, the Witch of Herbs and Cats

Meet the cats around us - they're our friends, protectors, and magical mascots. They keep us healthy and can even save us in emergencies...
Winter brings a special time called the Solstice. It's when the earth pauses its yearly cycle and starts a new one. This magical moment marks the beginning of something enchanting...
Let's begin with the Norwegian Forest Cat. It's a mysterious and northern feline friend, also called Skogkatt. It's like the wildcats in Scandinavian fairy tales...

Norwegian Forest Cat - Skogkatt with flowers

Skogkatt's favorite flower

What's Skogkatt's favorite flower in their homeland? Viking Poms, small yellow daisies. But in more southern regions, Daisy Trees - Montanoa - serve as substitutes, reminding them of their distant Northern homeland.

Montanoa atriplicifolia - Tree Chrysanthemum, Tree Daisy

Montanoa atriplicifolia - Tree Chrysanthemum, Tree Daisy - one of the most impressive winter bloomers.

Montanoa atriplicifolia - Tree Chrysanthemum, Tree Daisy, flowers


Blue Sage: Winter Wonder

Eranthemum pulchellum - Blue Sage, Lead Flower

Q: I am looking for some interesting shrub that will flower in shade and doesn't grow too big. I am a snow bird, living in Florida during winter and will appreciate a winter bloomer.

A: In the shady corners of the tropical garden, the Eranthemum pulchellum, affectionately known as Blue Sage or Lead Flower, emerges as a vibrant winter surprise. Its petals boast a bright gentian blue hue, a hue so unusual in the tropics that it's as if the plant got a memo about standing out in a sea of green.

This botanical maverick flaunts its blossoms when the rest of the garden is caught napping, making it the prima donna of the winter bloomers. With a penchant for the shadows, the Blue Sage is the introvert of the garden, thriving in the cool embrace of shade. So, if your garden needs a touch of cool and a dash of mystery, invite the Blue Sage - the shade-loving sensation that's always fashionably late to the blooming party.

Blue Sage is an easygoing champ in your garden. You can trim it how you like, and guess what? The more you trim it, the bushier it becomes. This plant doesn't mind shade, and when winter hits, it shows off its bright flowers, making your garden extra pretty without any fuss. So, if you're all about simple gardening joy, the Blue Sage is your go-to pal that turns your garden into a happy, colorful spot.

Eranthemum pulchellum - Blue Sage, Lead Flower, bush size


Heat Pack will keep them snug!

cat keeps warm on the stove

How to keep plants warm during shipping

Q: Can I buy tropical plants mail order during winter? I have a warm sunroom for plants but it is pretty cold outside, is it a problem for shipping plants?

A: If you are thinking of getting a tropical plant to brighten up your winter, but worried it might get too cold during delivery, no worries! We have a simple solution for you - the Heat Pack.

The Heat Pack, or Shipping Warmer, ensures that your plants stay warm and safe during their journey from Top Tropicals to your home. It keeps a cozy temperature for up to 72-96 hours (depending on outside temperature), making it a must-have if the weather drops below 40F in your area.

For larger orders, you might need 2-3 packs, and if you're ordering big 3-7 gallon plants, especially the extra-sensitive ones, consider using one pack per plant. Reach out to us for more details about specific plant species.

Hold locations. Also note that the carriers we use - FedEx and UPS - keep their boxes in temperature controlled rooms during transportation (unless it's a ground service). To ensure the box is not sitting on your cold porch all day, you may use temperature controlled FedEx Hold locations at FedEx stores, Walgreens, many Dollar General Stores and others. See more information on Hold locations.

Don't let the cold weather spoil the excitement of getting your new plants - grab a Heat Pack and keep them snug!

Heat Pack, Shipping Warmer


Butterfly Bush: Fast, Pretty, Low Maintenance...

Cassia (Senna) bicapsularis - Butterfly Bush

Five unbeatable reasons to plant Butterfly Cassia

Q: I am trying to find some easy flowering shrub to screen the ugly corner of my neighbor's yard, can you suggest something fast growing and pretty?

A: One of our favorite flowering shrubs in Florida is the Cassia bicapsularis, commonly known as Scrambled Egg Bush or Butterfly Bush. It is one of the most desirable plants for the southern landscape. It has all the benefits any gardener may dream of, whether a beginner or an expert:

1. Very fast growing, can screen unwanted views and create a beautiful flowering hedge. Cassia bicapsularis is known for its rapid growth, making it an excellent choice for quickly transforming an unsightly corner into a vibrant and lush area. Its dense foliage and attractive yellow blooms add both beauty and privacy to your outdoor space.

2. Easy to grow, not fussy about soil or water, drought and flood tolerant, cold tolerant. Butterfly Bush is incredibly adaptable and resilient. It thrives in a variety of soil types, is not demanding when it comes to water, and can withstand both drought and occasional flooding. Additionally, it is cold tolerant and can withstand occasional frosts once established.

3. Blooms for many months, featuring especially in winter flowers from Fall to spring. Very pretty, large "sunny" flowers resembling bright yellow butterflies, hence the name. It is a generous bloomer, gracing your garden with vibrant yellow flowers for an extended period, particularly from fall to spring. The large, sunny blooms not only add visual appeal but also attract pollinators, enhancing the ecological balance of your garden.

4. Attracts lots of butterflies. As the common name suggests, the Butterfly Bush is a magnet for butterflies. If you enjoy the presence of these beautiful winged creatures in your garden, planting Cassia bicapsularis is an excellent way to encourage and support butterfly populations.

5. Low maintenance. Butterfly Bush can be trimmed and controlled at the desired shape if needed, but if you have room for a big bush in a full sun area - just let it go and it will form a nice dense bush without any pruning: this shrub is a low-maintenance delight. While it can be pruned and shaped according to your preferences, it also flourishes when left to grow naturally. Its ability to form a dense and attractive bush without constant pruning makes it an ideal choice for those seeking a fuss-free gardening experience.

If you're looking for a fast-growing, low-maintenance, and aesthetically pleasing solution to screen an unsightly corner, Cassia bicapsularis is an unbeatable choice. It ticks all the boxes for a beautiful and resilient flowering shrub in the southern landscape.

A lady standing next to Cassia (Senna) bicapsularis - Butterfly Bush

"...Without a doubt, Butterfly Cassia became one of my favorite plants during my visit to Florida for Christmas a few years ago. I only wish I could have taken it back home with me to Latvia. If only my windowsill hadn't already reached its greenhouse capacity!.." - Alex Butova.

To see more options for flowering shrubs, check out the reference chart Hedges with Benefits Chart.


Last minute gift shopping:
Gift Card with 15% BONUS VALUE

Gift Card Bonus offer

Live plants make perfect gifts! Take advantage of this special offer during this holiday season and make your loved ones happy with some tropical treasures. Remember, you can also purchase a gift card for yourself, especially if it's cold now in your area. Just use it later to buy plants when the weather is more permitting.

Order now and the gift card automatically will be 15% larger face value, for example:
You pay $100, we'll issue a $115 gift card
You pay $200, the card will be of $230 value.

Offer valid through 12/25/2023.
The Gift Card has no expiration date.
The Gift Card can be used to buy plants, seeds, and garden supplies.

Make Your Gifts Tropical!

Christmas tropical landscape