What can I grow in Zone 8?
September 25, 2009 6:49 AM   Subscribe

Gardening Filter: What can I grow in the Florida panhandle?

I'm from NC, and have thus far been able to grow whatever I wanted. Now I'm moving to Crestview, FL (near Pensacola), and I have no idea what I can successfully grow.

Most people there don't plant much in the way of flower gardens for fear that it will get destroyed in a hurricane, but I just can't like like that! *melodramatic sob*

The soil is VERY sandy, full of burrs, and beyond that... it never gets below about 50 there in the winter. (Zone 8a/b, I think)

Can I still grow bulbs as perennials since they won't really have that period of cold weather? Can I grow anything as a perennial other than the few hot weather plants I know (hibiscus, etc)? Can I grow my precious peonies and lilacs?

Do I need to settle on raised beds for veggies or just seriously amend the soil?

posted by unlucky.lisp to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not a direct answer per se but I would recommed checking out gardenweb's florida gardening forum. It is reasonably active.

I'm not sure if it's as much of an issue in the panhandle but I've seen some interesting comparing of notes and advice on various florida-specific topics like dealing with heavy duty nematodes (lots of people grow in submerged buckets), gators, etc.

good luck!
posted by aquafiend at 7:52 AM on September 25, 2009

* Start with the Lawn & Garden at the FL Ag Extension Service site. Looks like the Okaloosa County office is in Crestview, so you could give 'em a call or stop by.

* Dave's Garden has tons of discussion boards about gardening in every region of the country. You have to sign up but it's free and they don't spam. (I'm sure there other similar sites too.)

* Look for jonquils at Old House Gardens. It's the southern version of daffodils and it doesn't need the winter chill. I've loved everything I've ordered from them.
posted by dogrose at 7:56 AM on September 25, 2009

USDA Zone 8 means that it occasionally gets down to about 15°F or 20°F during a cold snap.

Gardening catalogs sell some lilacs that are supposed to be good through zone 8. Peonies are supposed to be good through zone 8, though some are listed as preferring zone 7 and cooler. Most daffodils and all tulips work best if planted as annuals every fall.

I live in Zone 9 and miss lilacs and naturalized daffodils, but there are so many things that grow wonderfully in the warmer planting zones that it's well worth the trade-off. My giant timber bamboo does well in hurricanes, and since it's a clumping bamboo, not a running bamboo, it does not spread invasively like some bamboos. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever grown. Crepe myrtles bloom most of the year. Most antique roses do wonderfully; avoid varieties that are prone to black spot.

Winter gardening is one of the rewards of living in the south. Grow cool-weather crops like peas, cilantro, broccoli, and lettuce in the winter. Pansies bloom all winter, too.

If you grow tomatoes in the summer, start them early enough in the spring that they are done producing before nighttime low temperatures get over 70°F.
posted by Ery at 9:30 AM on September 25, 2009

Can I still grow bulbs as perennials since they won't really have that period of cold weather?

It varies by the requirements of the bulb, but you can simulate winter by putting them in the fridge for a month or so before you want to plant them. Look up "forcing" bulbs and that should give you the info you need.
posted by electroboy at 4:02 PM on September 25, 2009

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