I think that I shall never see a rouge plant lovely as a tree. But they are still really cool plants.
A shade-loving and long-lived perennial, rouge plant (Rivina humilis) grows naturally in the dappled shade under trees, in low-light areas where grass often refuses to grow. All year long it produces delicate white flowers visited by pollinators, and clusters of bright red berries relished by birds. It is fashionable with evergreen leaves but also resilient in surviving freezes and droughts.
This great little Florida native grows quickly to 3-4 feet tall. After a few years if it gets too leggy, simply cut it back in late winter. In a couple of months, it will return to its old self, full-leaved and flowering once again.
Rouge plants are hardy, evergreen, shade-loving, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance, and attractive to birds and bees. That, my friends, is Florida Friendly!
A rouge plant may not be as lovely as a tree, but it can fill the space beneath one in both pleasing and practical ways.
This article was contributed by Leslie Nixon, a Master Gardener in Volusia County