Annuals are especially versatile in Florida adding wonderful color to our landscapes. We are fortunate that many different flowers will flourish and bloom here during the short winter days.
Some of the annuals good for winter are alyssum, begonia, geraniums, impatiens, carnation, calendula, dianthus, gerbera daisy, dusty miller, and marguerite daisy. You can also find traditional winter annuals like pansies, petunias and snapdragons. If you want to try planting seeds, try alyssum, calendula, nasturtium and sweet peas. In most of the US many of these are spring flowers, but we are fortunate to be able to plant then now. However, impatiens, calendula and sweet peas are likely to be consumed by dear. Rabbits also can eat the blooms of many flowers, so I usually plant them in large containers so that they are out of reach of the rabbits.
Our sandy soil is basically infertile, so add plenty of organic material (peat or compost) and a slow release balanced fertilizer formulated for flowers as you plant. Dig it into the planting area well. This should insure that your flowers create a lovely display. Be sure to give each plant plenty of room to grow. This will allow for good air circulation and fewer disease problems. Always water well when planting and continue to
water daily for a week thereafter. Then weekly watering should be sufficient. You may need to add more slow release fertilizer in two months to keep them healthy and looking good into the spring. Removing spent blooms periodically will also insure a continuous bounty of flowers.
We usually have fewer pest and disease problems with cooler temperatures. Lower humidity and less rain can decrease fungal problems. However, powdery mildew can develop when nights are cool and humidity is high for a few days, and insect pests might still pop up with the warm weather we have been having. Scout your flowers often and treat as soon as you see evidence of pests. Powdery mildew can be treated with Neem oil or a chemical fungicide, just be careful to read and follow the label carefully. Neem will also control many of the insect pests. However, you will need to use a Bt product like Thuricide for caterpillars.
Some of these plants are frost sensitive. Impatiens, geraniums and begonias will need some cover if a heavy frost is expected. With careful planning and care, you should have colorful flowers well into spring. For additional information, access the University of Florida/IFAS Extension publication Bedding Plants: Selection, Establishment and Maintenance on the Internet