Florida Gardening Topics: Peonies, Kumquat, East Palatka Holly Plant

GARDEN TALK Q & A: Environmental Horticulture Agent III, Rebecca Jordi, addresses questions about landscaping and gardening in northeast Florida.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Environmental Horticulture Agent III, Rebecca Jordi, addresses questions about landscaping and gardening in northeast Florida. She is the Extension Director in Nassau County, Florida and also a University of Florida faculty member.

Pink Peony
Pink Peony
QUESTION: I just moved to Amelia Island from the North and I don’t seen peonies growing here. Why not? GH

JORDI: Well, welcome to Nassau County, Florida. We are certainly glad you decided to live here.

Peonies are long-lived, perennial flowers producing large, showy flowers in the spring. It is possible for those people located on the western most part of our county to grow certain older varieties of peonies as they live in cold hardiness zones 8b. However, people located east of I-95, which would be you, are in cold hardiness zones 9a. This area is not well suited for peonies.

Peonies grow best in cooler climates. We have long periods of warm, humid weather. Some mail order catalogs provide a chill rating range from 100 to 300 chilling hours per winter for certain cultivars of peony. Chilling hours is the number of cold hours the plant requires. This becomes very important for certain plants such as peonies and fruit trees.

If you decide you want to try peonies, select cultivars with a low number of chilling hour requirement. In general, most of the newer peony cultivars do not perform well in the south because they were bred and selected in northern nurseries and do not receive an adequate amount of cold weather here. It might be best to consider other types of flowering plants which grow beautifully here such as plumbago, hydrangea, azalea, or camellia. They produce beautiful flowers and are much easier to grow here.

QUESTION: I left some of the kumquat fruit on my tree and with the extreme cold weather over the last few weeks, some of the kumquats froze on the tree. Now, I am seeing some of the fruit with large, black spots, others have turned white and collapsed onto themselves. What should I do with this fruit? JK

Florida Kumquat Fruit
JORDI: The same thing has occurred to the tree in our demonstration garden. I have been removing the damaged fruit as it can be a source of fungal disease which can easily be passed to other parts of the tree. The fruit is not good to eat so I would recommend you take all the damaged fruit off and compost it or throw it away. No reason to take a chance at potentially spreading disease. Any fruit which does not appear to be damaged, I would leave on the tree until it has matured. One of the nice things about kumquat fruit is it can remain on the tree for longer periods of time than other citrus like Satsuma.

QUESTION: I’ve harvested the berries from an East Palatka Holly plant, can you please tell me the best way to germinate the seeds. Thank you. TT

JORDI: The publication I have attached is the best one I have seen on seed propagation which is from the North Carolina State University by Extension Agent Erv Evans and Professor Frank A. Blazich. Near the bottom of the publication is a table with different types of plants and hollies are on the list. It is important to note, propagation from seed, which it can be richly rewarding, may not give you the exact same characteristics of the mother plant. It is possible to end up with something even more spectacular or it may be less showy, or not as disease resistant, etc. If you are willing to wait in the hope of producing that one fabulous tree, then I say go for it. However, if the idea was to get duplicates of the mother plant, then cuttings would be a much better choice. In addition, you will not have to wait as long to get a small tree as a plant grown from seed. Growing the tree from seed may take years longer and possibly produce a tree with less desirable characteristics. In addition, you may purchase a mature holly tree from one of the local plant nurseries at a fairly reasonable cost. This publication goes into great detail and should be beneficial to any home gardener.

Rebecca L. Jordi
Nassau County Extension Director
UF/IFAS Environmental Horticulture
543350 U.S. Highway #1
Callahan, FL 32011

Providing practical education you can trust, to help people, businesses and communities solve problems, develop skills and build a better future.