The Leu Gardens were started by Mr. and Mrs. Harry P. Leu, who in 1936 purchased Leu House and 40 acres (160,000 m2) of land. The Leus traveled all over the world and brought back many exotic plants and many varieties (240) of camellias for their gardens. In 1961, the Leus deeded the house and the gardens to the city of Orlando, Florida.
Leu Gardens demonstrates plant materials suitable for cultivation in USDA Zone 9b. The climate of Central Florida permits Leu Gardens to grow and enjoy a wide array of temperate and tropical plants.
Leu Gardens teems with vigor and beauty, regardless of the season. We saw palms, cycads, flowering trees, azaleas, vines, bromeliads, tropical philodendrons, roses and camellias.
Those with a QR reader application on their phones could scan QR Code images on many of garden signs to display additional information about the collections of plants.
Harry P. Leu Gardens is handicap accessible. Complimentary wheelchairs are available in the Garden House Welcome Center on a first-come, first-serve basis. Wheelchairs cannot be reserved.
Visiting members from American Horticulutral Society receive free admission to Harry P. Leu Gardens. These benefits are extended to members on the membership card. Valid membership card and Photo I.D. are required.
Plant Collections (from their web site)
| ||Arid Garden|
This area displays a wide variety of plants that are drought tolerant. Many come from areas that are seasonally dry or from desert regions. Some types of plants found here include acacias, agaves, aloes, bromeliads, cacti, flowering trees, palms, succulents and yuccas.
Most aroids at Leu Gardens can be found in the Tropical Stream Garden. Some of the plants include Aglaonema, Amorphophallus, Anthurium, Alocasia, Caladium, Colocasia, Dieffenbachia, Monstera, Philodendron, Spathiphyllum, Syngonium and Xanthosoma. Aroids are a large group of plants that belong to the Araceae Family. This diverse family shares a similar distinctive inflorescence (flowering structure), a spadix surrounded by a spathe.
Most of the approximately 50 different varieties and species of azaleas can be found in the North and South Woods. Azaleas begin flowering in late winter (Jan/Feb) and are at their peak usually towards the end of February into early March. These are evergreen shrubs that belong to the genus Rhododendron.
Nearly 50 different species and varieties of this woody-stemmed grass are displayed. The plants range in species that grow only a few inches tall to giant timber bamboos that reach over 70 feet (21 m) tall and have canes over 5 inches (130 mm) in diameter.
There are many varieties of bananas that bear the familiar edible fruit, but there are other species that are grown for the colorful flowers or striking foliage. Several bananas have unique flavors including vanilla ice cream and even peanut butter. Bananas belong to the Musaceae Family.
Many bromeliads have brilliant colored flower structures (inflorescences) while others have strikingly colored foliage. Some bromeliads are terrestrial (grow in the ground) while many others are epiphytic (grow on trees). Bromeliads can be found throughout the gardens. Bromeliads are a large diverse group of plants that belong to the Bromeliaceae Family.
This garden contains a wide variety of annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees that are attractive to butterflies and moths. Some of the plants are nectar plants; others are larval plants that caterpillars eat. Many of these plants also attract hummingbirds and night-flying moths.
The foundation of this collection is the varieties of Camellia japonica and Camellia sasanqua originally planted by Mr. Leu. Today, over 2000 plants and 230+ cultivars are displayed throughout the gardens, including displays of Camellia sinensis, which is the Tea Camellia, and other Camellia species. This collection ranks among the largest in the United States and is one of the largest documented collections in the southeast.
Citrus is an important part of the history of Central Florida and to the former residents who lived on the property now known as Leu Gardens. The Grove contains over 50 different kinds of citrus trees.
As the name would imply, this is one of the most colorful areas in Leu Gardens. This area displays large plantings of annuals, perennials, and flowering shrubs suited to Central Florida.
Conifers can be found throughout the gardens and include the dawn redwood and many different kinds of pine, cypress, junipers, podocarpus, araucarias and yew. Conifers are a group of shrubs or trees that produce cones, although there are a few conifers that develop a fleshy, fruit-like structure.
|Crepe Myrtle Collection|
Crepe Myrtles can be found throughout the gardens. They are among the most commonly seen summer-flowering shrubs and trees in Central Florida and belong to the genus Lagerstroemia. The long-lasting colorful flowers which vary from deep purple to red to white, with almost every shade in between, are born in summer and autumn in clusters of crinkled, crepe-like texture. Most varieties and species have branches with a mottled appearance which comes from having bark that sheds throughout the year.
The Cycad collection displays over 50 species suitable for growing in Central Florida. Cycads are primitive plants that have existed for nearly 200 million years. They were the dominant plant life in the Cretaceous Period when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. They are palm-like in appearance, but have no relation to palms. They are instead cone-bearing plants that are most closely related to ferns, conifers and ginkgo.
Most are low growing plants, although some are tree-like and can grow over 10 feet (3.0 m) tall. Most ferns prefer a shaded location and can be found throughout the gardens. Ferns are ancient plants that reproduce by spores.
|Flowering Tree Collection|
Many different flowering trees can be found throughout the gardens with specimens in bloom every month of the year. With our Central Florida climate, both temperate and tropical trees grow well here.
|Fruit Tree Collection |
Different temperate, subtropical and tropical fruit trees can be found throughout the gardens including acerola (Barbados cherry), avocado, coffee, guava, jaboticaba (Brazilian grape tree), jackfruit, longan, loquat, lychee, macadamia, mango, nectarines, papaya, peaches, pears, persimmon, pineapple, plums and starfruit.
|Ginger and Heliconia Collections|
These two collections are found mainly in the Tropical Stream Garden. The Ginger Collection is a diverse group with plants having colorful flowers or foliage and contains plants in the Zingiberaceae Family. Heliconias have banana-like foliage and bear spectacular flower structures (inflorescences) that are brilliantly colored and tropical looking.
Displays of culinary, medicinal, ornamental, educational, historic, and aromatic herbs, some of which are also butterfly attractants, can be found here. Reminiscent of kitchen gardens from the turn of the century, herbs appropriate for the Central Florida landscape are demonstrated near the Cottage. It, along with the Vegetable Garden, makes up the Kitchen Garden.
|Hibiscus and Mallow Collection|
Important commercial, edible and ornamental members of this family includes cotton, okra, cocoa tree tropical Hibiscus, Rose-of Sharon, abutilon, mallow, floss silk tree, baobab tree, kapok tree, pink ball tree, shaving brush tree and other showy plants. These are found throughout the gardens.
These include many selections of the Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), Liriodendron, and other temperate and tropical species. Many of the trees in this collection bear very fragrant flowers. The Magnolia collection contains members of the Magnoliaceae Family many of which formerly belonged to such genera as Manglietia, Michelia, Parakmeria, and Talauma.
|Native Wetland Garden|
This garden was created to invite wading birds and other wildlife into the area. The plants here are almost all entirely native. They help filter pollutants from the water and protect the shoreline from erosion. They also provide food, habitat, and shelter for birds, fish and other wildlife.
|Ornamental Grass Collection|
Ornamental grasses are one of the most versatile groups of plants in the garden landscape. During the growing season, the ornamental grasses range in height from 6 inches to 14 inches or more and can be used as accent plants, ground covers, screens, border edgings, or as companions with a wide range of other plants. Color of foliage in the growing season includes shades of green, green/yellow, green/blue, blue, red, brown, and variegated. Flowers vary in form, size, color and time of bloom providing a wealth of choices..
|Ornamental Tree Collection|
The Ornamental Tree Collection is found throughout the gardens and consists of trees that don’t produce showy flowers but still make ornamental specimens for landscapes. Many of these make good shade trees while others are good for street plantings or smaller specimens. Just like the Flowering Tree collection, our climate allows for tropical and temperate trees. An assortment of oaks, maples and ficus are included in this collection.
This collection contains nearly 400 species of cold hardy and semi-tender palms suited for the central Florida climate. This collection ranks among the most extensive collections in the United States.
|Perennial Trial Garden|
Many temperate and tropical perennials from all over the world are grown here and evaluated for their suitability as landscape plants in Florida. Many bear showy flowers, others have attractive foliage.
Mary Jane’s Rose Garden is named after Mrs. Leu. She planted her first roses by the lake, and in 1944, a small rose garden was developed on the site where the current garden is located. Over 215 varieties and 650 roses are displayed in this garden. All are suited for Central Florida growing conditions.
|Tropical Stream Garden|
This garden creates the atmosphere of a tropical rainforest with a gurgling stream that winds its way into Lake Rowena. Many tropical and subtropical plants suitable for Central Florida are displayed here including aroids, bananas, bird-of-paradise, traveler’s tree, bromeliads, calatheas, tropical conifers, crotons, gingers, heliconias, palms, ti plants, ferns, tree ferns, flowering trees, banyan tree, vines, and others.
The 1500 sq. ft. vegetable garden demonstrates varieties of fruits and vegetables suitable for Central Florida’s climate. The attractive display also exhibits many old and new growing techniques that can be utilized to maximize production and save time in the garden.
Nearly every plant family has members with a vining or climbing habit. There are vining herbs, orchids, aroids, and even vining palms and bamboo. A majority of the vines grown throughout the world are found in tropical or subtropical climates. The vine displays are grown on the chain link fence that borders the Idea Garden and the Tropical Stream Garden. The total display contains over 150 different vines, many with showy flowers, suitable for Central Florida.
Get more great photos, tips and tours by subscribing to my blog! Just leave your email address below: (I will not share it or use it other than to transmit our latest posts. Thanks so much!)