Native Florida Plants: 5 Things (2022) You Have To Know

Some plants are native to Florida and others aren’t.

What is the distinction?

A plant is considered native if it’s occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction.

These special plants have a number of benefits.

Let’s take a look at native Florida plants and what you should know about the beauty of this region.

1. Why is it important to protect native plants?

When you restore native plant habitats, you help to preserve biodiversity.

Whether you’re on this page to learn more about native Florida plants already in your yard, or you want to create a native garden of your own, you’re in the right place.

You have the opportunity to learn about how to incorporate and care for plants that are intended to be in your area.

Too often, the plants that are available in nurseries are actually an alien species from other countries.

These exotic plants sever food webs and become invasive pests.

When you reflect on the best plants to put in your garden for your area, you do the environment a service.

2. What are the benefits of native plants?

Some people think that sticking to native plants is a bit of a hassle.

Why can’t you plant beautiful plants from around the world? Is it really that big of a deal?

It can be.

Your plant could harm the other native plants that are already there.

Plus, because the native plants were there to begin with, they were probably there for a reason.

The best way to illustrate this is through the benefits of native plants.

bulletNative plants are low maintenance

Once native plants are established, they typically require little maintenance because they were created to grow and thrive in that space.

bulletNative plants are beautiful

There are numerous beautiful flowers, delicious fruit trees, and colorful leaves that come from native plants.

While you may have a favorite that isn’t native, there may be a native plant that offers you the beauty that you desire.

bulletNative plants help the climate

Native plants can help to combat climate change because they are effective at storing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

Both oaks and maples are examples of good native plants that serve this purpose.

bulletNative plants conserve water

Native plants are more adapted to local environmental conditions.

As a result, they require far less water and save both time and money.

bulletNative plants provide vital habitats for wildlife

These plants are intended to be in a particular area, which means that ecosystems are built off them.

For example, native plants often provide nectar for pollinators including hummingbirds, native bees, butterflies, moths, and bats.

They may also provide protective shelter for many mammals, or they could produce seeds, nuts, and fruits that are essential for all forms of wildlife.

3. How do you choose the right native Florida plants for your yard?

While native plants generally work in the area that they are intended to be, not every native Florida plant is right for every yard in Florida.

This is because specific plants require specific conditions (like sunlight or a certain soil type) to grow and thrive.

If you want to know if a plant will work well in your yard before you plant it, use the following factors to guide you.

bulletHardiness zones

The USDA has created “plant hardiness zones” that represent the lowest yearly temperatures in an area.

The zones range from 1a (coldest) to 13b (hottest).

In Florida, the zones range from 8a in the northwest to 11a in the southeast.

Find out what your area’s hardiness zone is and always make sure the native Florida plants you’re purchasing are well-suited to your zone.

Otherwise, your plant could be at risk of freezing and dying in the winter.

bulletSunlight needs

Not every plant requires the same amount of sunshine each day.

Here are the three levels of sunlight that your plants may need.

  1. Full sun: At least six hours of direct sunlight daily
  2. Partial sun/partial shade: Three to six hours of direct sunlight per day
  3. Full shade: Less than three hours of direct sunlight per day (preferably in the morning)

To figure out the best area to plant your Florida native plants, pay attention to how long the sun touches each area of your yard.

This way, you can choose the best spot for your plants depending on their sunlight needs.

bulletSoil needs

Before you plant anything new, learn your soil type and pH.

Different plants thrive in soils with different levels of drainage and acidity.

If you attempt to grow plants that aren’t suited to your natural soil type, then it’ll result in additional maintenance for you.

bulletDuration

How long does your plant last each year?

Here are the terms used in the gardening community.

  1. Annuals: These plants bloom for only one season. If you purchase annuals, you’ll need to replace them the following year.
  2. Biennials: These plants bloom for only two seasons, after that, you’ll need to replace them.
  3. Perennials: These plants bloom year after year. If you purchase short-lived perennials, then they’ll last 3-5 years. Long-lived perennials can last far longer than that.

bulletFoliage

The foliage of a plant consists of its leaves.

Foliage changes depending on the plant.

For example, evergreen plants keep their leaves all year long while deciduous plants have foliage that changes and falls off.

If you live in a windy place, evergreen plants can be helpful to create a hedge or windscreen that’ll last the entire year.

bulletMature size

When you purchase a plant from a nursery, it won’t be its mature size.

You should plan your garden accordingly, so all your plants have space to grow and thrive into adulthood.

4. What are examples of native Florida plants?

bulletAmerican beautyberry

This is a colorful shrub that you may love having in your yard.

Here are some quick facts about the beautyberry.

  1. Sunlight needs: Full sun or partial shade
  2. Soil needs: Nutrient rich soils high in organic matter (also tolerates poor, sandy soils)
  3. Duration: Perennial
  4. Foliage: Deciduous
  5. Mature size: 2-8 feet tall and 4-8 feet wide

bulletAzalea native species

Florida has a few beautiful native azalea species.

If you love the look of these, they’re a great addition to your garden.

Here are a few of the varieties that are considered native Florida plants: Piedmont azalea, Florida flame azalea, Alabama azalea, and Swamp azalea.

  1. Sunlight needs: Partial shade
  2. Soil needs: Well-draining, acidic soil
  3. Duration: Perennial
  4. Foliage: Deciduous
  5. Mature size: Depends on species but up to 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide

bulletBlack-eyed Susan

Don’t mistake these flowers for daisies!

They’re even better when it comes to hardiness.

They can survive most harsh conditions —drought, heat, and high salt content in the air— and leave your garden looking better than ever.

  1. Sunlight needs: Full sun
  2. Soil needs: Just about any soil is okay
  3. Duration: Biennial and short-lived perennial
  4. Mature size: 1-3 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide

bulletBlazing star

You may also hear this flower called the gayfeather or colic root.

It’s beloved by bees and butterflies, and gardeners also enjoy it in their gardens because it’s difficult to kill!

  1. Sunlight needs: Full sun
  2. Soil needs: Tolerates most soils as long as they drain well
  3. Duration: Perennial
  4. Mature size: 2-4 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide

bulletButtonwood

You can use the buttonwood in a variety of ways in your yard.

If you cut it back, then it can appear as a shrub or small tree.

If you let it grow into a tree, then it can be used in a row as a privacy hedge.

The taller it grows, however, the more twisted and leaning its trunk will become.

  1. Sunlight needs: Full sun
  2. Soil needs: Tolerates most soils
  3. Duration: Perennial
  4. Foliage: Evergreen
  5. Mature size: 15-20 feet tall and 15-20 feet wide

bulletCarolina jessamine

This light-yellow trumpet flower resembles the daffodil.

They can be a great addition to your yard as they bloom first thing in late winter or early spring.

However, beware if you have small children or pets because these blooms are poisonous.

  1. Sunlight needs: Full sun
  2. Soil needs: Well-draining acidic to slightly alkaline soil
  3. Duration: Perennial
  4. Foliage: Evergreen
  5. Mature size: Spreads 10 to 20 feet

bulletCoontie

This plant is a cycad — a group that’s been on Earth since the dinosaurs roamed.

Coontie plants are native to South Florida, and they act as a superb border for a garden.

However, just like the Carolina jessamine, you’ll want to be wary of this plant for pets and small children.

It’s highly toxic and even a few seeds can be fatal.

  1. Sunlight needs: Grows well in any light conditions
  2. Soil needs: Tolerates most soils as long as drainage isn’t an issue
  3. Duration: Perennial
  4. Foliage: Evergreen
  5. Mature size: 2-3 feet tall and up to 3 feet wide

bulletCoral bean

These exotic looking flowers with a skinny, bright red bloom can add some flair to your landscape.

However, just as with the last two, this plant produces poisonous seeds, so it isn’t the best choice for a home with pets.

That said, hummingbirds and butterflies love the flowers, and it can be a great addition to a garden!

  1. Sunlight needs: Full sun or partial shade
  2. Soil needs: Prefer fast-draining sandy soils but can do well in any type as long as the drainage is sufficient
  3. Duration: Perennials
  4. Foliage: Deciduous
  5. Mature size: 5-15 feet tall

bulletElliott’s aster

If you want to make sure your yard or garden is pretty year-round, try planting Elliott’s aster.

These lavender flowers unfurl their petals in late fall when most everything else is prepping for winter.

  1. Sunlight needs: Full sun
  2. Soil needs: Moist soils
  3. Duration: Perennials
  4. Mature size: 3-5 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide

bulletFakahatchee grass

Fakahatchee is a native grass that’s a fairly standard and hardy option.

Its long, crisp, spear shaped blades are often selected to border a driveway or flower bed or inhabit a rain garden.

  1. Sunlight needs: Full sun or partial shade
  2. Soil needs: Can survive in most soils as long as there’s proper drainage
  3. Duration: Perennial
  4. Foliage: Evergreen
  5. Mature size: 4-6 feet tall and 4-6 feet wide

bulletFern native species

There are a variety of native Fern species in Florida.

Here’s a list of several kinds: southern shield fern, swamp fern, giant leather fern, Venus maidenhair fern, long strap fern.

  1. Sunlight needs: Partial or full shade
  2. Soil needs: Moist but well-draining soils
  3. Duration: Perennial
  4. Foliage: Some species are deciduous, and some are evergreen
  5. Mature size: Depends on the species (ranges from 1 foot tall and wide to 12 feet tall and 6 feet wide)

bulletFirebush

This shrub is named “Firebush” because it’s covered in splashes of bright red and red orange from spring to winter.

The color attracts birds and butterflies to the shrub.

One thing that gardeners love about firebush is that it’s salt tolerant, drought-tolerant, heat-tolerant, pest-resistant, and disease-resistant.

  1. Sunlight needs: Full sun or partial shade
  2. Soil needs: Tolerates most soils as long as they drain wall
  3. Duration: Perennial
  4. Foliage: Evergreen
  5. Mature size: 8-12 feet tall and 8-12 feet wide without support; if it’s growing up a trellis or other structure, then firebush can reach up to 15 feet

bulletGumbo-limbo tree

When you look at the gumbo-limbo tree, you’ll immediately think of the South.

It’s the classic shade tree that’s present in so many hot, humid states.

It’s the ideal tree to picnic under, and it’s known for being sturdy and strong (even in hurricane winds!).

  1. Sunlight needs: Full sun or partial shade
  2. Soil needs: Sandy soils or clay soils with good drainage
  3. Duration: Perennial
  4. Foliage: Deciduous
  5. Mature size: 30 to 40 feet tall with a canopy of up to 60 feet

bulletMarsh hibiscus

This native flower blooms deep red in the mid- to late summer.

It does best in marshy wet areas (streams, ponds, wetlands, etc.) as its name suggests, but it can also tolerate drier soils.

  1. Sunlight needs: Full sun or partial shade
  2. Soil needs: Does best in wet soils but tolerates some dry soils
  3. Duration: Perennial
  4. Mature size: 4-8 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide

bulletMilkweed native species

If you’re thinking about starting a garden with all native Floridan plants, then you must plant Milkweed!

It’s one of the best flowers for a pollinator garden.

Its nectar attracts butterflies, and it also serves as a host plant for caterpillars.

Here are some of Florida’s native milkweeds: Butterfly Milkweed, Clasping Milkweed, Curtiss’ Milkweed, Pineland Milkweed, and Savannah Milkweed.

  1. Sunlight needs: Full sun
  2. Soil needs: Dry, sandy soils
  3. Duration: Some species are perennials while others are annuals
  4. Mature size: 1-4 feet tall and less than a foot wide

5. Where can you find more information?

If the examples above aren’t enough, there are so many more!

Here are two resources that can help you find the ideal native Florida plant for your landscape.

bulletOption 1: University of Florida – Native Plants Database

bulletOption 2:  Florida Native Plant Society

Native plants are the first step to low-maintenance landscaping.

After this, you can consider xeriscaping, mulch, or hardscapes depending on your area and preferences.

Final Thoughts

Try these native Florida plants in your garden or yard!

Native plants are the lowest maintenance and most sustainable option.

Take advantage of all the beautiful options above and improve the environment simultaneously.

Additional Resources

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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.

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