Expert Guide: Top 17 Favorite Landscape Plants in Florida (with photos)

Discover Florida’s top 17 landscape plants that can transform your garden. Learn why these plants are popular and how they enhance biodiversity in the unique Florida environment. Get tips on choosing the right plants for your garden needs, whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out. Create a beautiful and thriving outdoor space with this comprehensive guide.

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The Importance of Landscape Plants in Florida

Florida’s landscape plants have an important role in keeping the ecosystem healthy. They stop soil erosion and clean pollutants from water runoff. Also, planting shrubs and trees are good for energy conservation because they give shade and block wind. But, you need to choose plants that are suitable for Florida’s climate and geography, so they can live long.

Characteristics of a Florida-Friendly Landscape Plant

Heat Tolerant

To choose plants for Florida’s hot climate, consider the hardiness zone of your specific area. The USDA determines the zone based on the lowest annual temperature. North Florida ranges from 8a to 9a, Central Florida from 9a to 9b, and South Florida from 9b to 10b. Check that plants thrive in your zone and can withstand intense sunlight without fading or getting damaged.

Drought-tolerant Plants

Water conservation is important in Florida’s dry and hot climate. Choosing drought-tolerant plants not only helps you save water but also ensures the survival of your landscape during periods of low rainfall. Some popular choices for drought-tolerant plants in Florida include the Firebush (Hamelia patens), which produces vibrant red flowers and attracts butterflies, and the Coontie (Zamia integrifolia), a palm-like plant that is native to Florida and requires minimal watering.

Salt-tolerant (Including Salt Spray)

Coastal areas have a soil with an above-average concentration of salt, which can pose challenges for plant growth. Excessive salt levels hinder the roots’ ability to absorb water, ultimately leading to the death of plants.

The salt carried by wind from the ocean or Gulf (depending on where you live in Florida) can harm plants by scorching newly emerging leaves and flower buds, as well as dehydrating the plant. The presence of salt presents significant difficulties for many gardeners in Florida, particularly those residing along the coast. To enhance plant survival, it is advisable to opt for varieties that are tolerant to salt.

Likes Nutrient poor sandy soil

Florida has six main soil types – clay, sand, silt, loam, chalk, and peat. Sandy soil is common in Florida but drains quickly and doesn’t keep plant nutrients. The best garden plants in Florida are those that tolerate nutrient-poor soil and need good drainage. They will thrive in sandy soils. Soil types can vary even from one area of your yard to another. It’s important to test your soil before choosing new plants to ensure you choose the right plants for the right soil type.

Frost-hardy (heat, cold, and freeze)

While Florida is known for its warm climate, it is not immune to occasional frost or freezes during the winter months. Therefore, selecting plants that can withstand both heat and cold, such as palm trees, is essential for a successful landscape in Florida.

Some frost-hardy plants that thrive in Florida include the Firebush (Hamelia patens), which is also a drought-tolerant plant, and the Simpson Stopper (Myrcianthes fragrans), a small tree with attractive red fruits that can tolerate temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Low maintenance and drought-tolerant

In Florida, where water restrictions and drought conditions are common, it is important to choose plants that are low maintenance, drought-tolerant, and can thrive in high heat and humidity. These plants require less watering and can survive in the hot and dry climate of the state.

Some examples of low maintenance and drought-tolerant plants for your landscape in Florida include the Coontie (Zamia integrifolia), a native cycad with attractive foliage, and the Beach Sunflower (Helianthus debilis), which produces bright yellow flowers and thrives in sandy soil.

Yucca plants are another great option for Florida landscapes. They are very easy to grow and do well in high heat and humidity, making them perfect for the state’s climate.

Overview of Florida’s Most Popular Landscape Plants

Florida boasts a diverse range of landscape plants that thrive in its unique climate. From the vibrant Firebush to majestic Live Oak trees, there are numerous options for creating an outdoor oasis. Popular choices include the delicate pink Muhly Grass and the textured Coontie.

To attract pollinators, consider Butterfly Milkweed and Coral Honeysuckle. These plants add beauty to your landscape and provide habitats for wildlife. With their hardiness, they can withstand Florida’s challenging weather conditions and bring years of enjoyment.

1. Firebush (Hamelia patens)

Firebush, also known as Hamelia patens, is a beloved landscape plant in Florida. Its vibrant red-orange tubular flowers are a magnet for hummingbirds and butterflies, adding a splash of color to any garden.

Florida Gardening Tips - Florida Friendly Plants

This low maintenance plant thrives in the Florida climate, tolerating drought and heat with ease. Growing up to 8 feet tall and wide, Firebush prefers full sun to partial shade. Not only is it visually stunning, but Firebush also has medicinal properties and is traditionally used to treat various ailments. Propagating through cuttings or seeds, this versatile plant is a wonderful addition to any Florida landscape or garden.

2. Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)

Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) is highly favored in Florida for its remarkable qualities. This majestic tree’s large size and impressive canopy make it a popular choice for both public parks and residential landscapes. Not only does Live Oak provide year-round shade with its dark green and glossy leaves, but it also boasts exceptional drought tolerance and the ability to withstand strong winds.

florida live oak native tree landscape
Expert Guide: Top 17 Favorite Landscape Plants in Florida (with photos) 1

Its resilience and long lifespan make it a sought-after choice for homeowners and landscapers alike. With its widespread presence and stunning beauty, Live Oak truly exemplifies the allure of Florida’s landscape.

3. Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

Muhly grass, scientifically known as Muhlenbergia capillaris, is a versatile native Florida plant that adds a touch of beauty to any landscape. In the fall, it produces stunning pink-purple plumes that create a mesmerizing visual display. This grass is not only aesthetically pleasing but also low maintenance and drought tolerant, making it an ideal choice for Florida’s climate.

Whether used as a border, accent, or mass planting, Muhly grass can effortlessly enhance the overall look of your garden. Its adaptability and resilience make it a popular choice among homeowners and landscapers alike.

grow native muhly grass florida landscape plant

4. Coontie (Zamia integrifolia)

The Coontie plant, also known as Zamia integrifolia, is a popular choice for landscaping in Florida. This native plant is drought-tolerant and requires low maintenance, making it ideal for the state’s climate. Its fern-like foliage and bright red seeds add visual interest to any landscape.

Not only is the Coontie plant aesthetically pleasing, but it also plays an important role in Florida’s ecology. It serves as a food source for the endangered Atala butterfly.

florida native coontie landscape plant
Expert Guide: Top 17 Favorite Landscape Plants in Florida (with photos) 2

Added benefit – Coontie plants are easy to propagate, making them a cost-effective option for landscaping projects.

5. Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Butterfly Milkweed, scientifically known as Asclepias tuberosa, is a native plant in Florida that not only adds visual appeal to gardens but also serves as a magnet for butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. With its clusters of vibrant orange flowers that bloom in the summer, this perennial plant brings a burst of color to any landscape.

florida milkweed for butterflies landscape plant
Expert Guide: Top 17 Favorite Landscape Plants in Florida (with photos) 3

One of the standout features of Butterfly Milkweed is its ability to withstand drought once established, making it highly suitable for Florida’s hot climate. Also, its low-maintenance nature and deer-resistant properties make it an ideal choice for gardens that coexist with wildlife.

6. Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)

Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is a beloved choice for Florida’s landscapes, thanks to its captivating red and orange blossoms. This native perennial plant not only adds beauty to gardens but also attracts hummingbirds and butterflies with its vibrant flowers.

how to grow florida native plants

With its ability to thrive in both full sun and partial shade, Coral Honeysuckle is a versatile plant that can be trained as a vine or grown as a shrub. Its long blooming season, from spring to fall, makes it a delightful addition to any garden.

7. Fakahatchee Grass (Tripsacum dactyloides)

Adding a touch of Florida’s native beauty to any landscape, Fakahatchee Grass (Tripsacum dactyloides) is a versatile plant that thrives in both sun and shade. Its unique, feathery appearance adds texture and interest to garden beds while attracting birds and butterflies, creating a natural habitat for wildlife.

This drought-tolerant perennial requires minimal maintenance, making it an ideal choice for busy gardeners. Whether used as a ground cover or as an accent plant, Fakahatchee Grass adds a touch of elegance to any garden in the Sunshine State.

florida-fakahatchee-grass-lanscape plant

8. Beach Sunflower (Helianthus debilis)

The Beach Sunflower, also known as Helianthus debilis, is a delightful addition to coastal landscapes in Florida. With its bright and cheerful yellow flowers, this perennial plant brings a vibrant pop of color to any garden. It thrives in sandy soil and can withstand the challenges of salt spray and coastal winds.

florida beach sunflower drought tolerant landscape plant
Expert Guide: Top 17 Favorite Landscape Plants in Florida (with photos) 4

The Beach Sunflower not only adds beauty to the landscape but also attracts important pollinators like bees and butterflies. Once established, it is drought-tolerant and requires minimal maintenance. This fast-growing plant spreads quickly, filling in empty spaces and preventing erosion.

9. Southern Shield Fern (Thelypteris kunthii)

Adding a touch of lushness and tropical vibes, the Southern Shield Fern (Thelypteris kunthii) is a popular choice for shady areas in Florida’s landscapes.

florida southern shield fern for landscape shady plant

This native Florida fern is a beautiful fern species that can be found throughout Florida. It typically grows in moist habitats such as swamps, wetlands, and along riverbanks. This fern has lacy, delicate fronds that can reach a height of 2 to 3 feet, adding a touch of elegance to its surroundings.

10. Wild Coffee (Psychotria nervosa)

Native to Florida, Wild Coffee (Psychotria nervosa) is a well-suited landscape plant for the local climate. Its small white flowers attract butterflies and other pollinators, while the berries provide a food source for birds.

florida wild coffee for you garden attracts birds and butterflies
Expert Guide: Top 17 Favorite Landscape Plants in Florida (with photos) 5

This versatile plant thrives in partial shade to full sun and requires regular watering, although it can tolerate some drought conditions.

With its native origin, Wild Coffee adds a touch of Florida’s natural beauty to any garden. From its vibrant blossoms to its green foliage, this perennial plant brings both visual appeal and ecological benefits to the Sunshine State.

11. Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)

Native to Florida, Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) is a stunning clumping landscape plant that adds a touch of natural beauty to any outdoor space. This drought-tolerant and low-maintenance plant thrives in both sun and shade, making it a versatile choice for any garden.

Apart from its aesthetic appeal, Saw Palmetto also provides essential habitat and food for wildlife, promoting biodiversity. Its unique fan-shaped leaves create an interesting focal point, while its ability to withstand varying weather conditions, including the occasional frost, makes it a reliable perennial choice for landscaping projects throughout the state of Florida.

saw palmetto native florida landscape plant

12. Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

With its vibrant yellow petals and dark centers, Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) adds a burst of color to any garden. Not only is it visually appealing, but it also attracts butterflies and bees, making it beneficial for pollinators. This perennial plant is drought-tolerant and requires minimal watering, making it a low-maintenance option for gardeners.

native black eyes susan flower for landscape

While it thrives in full sun, it can also tolerate some shade. Black-Eyed Susan is easy to grow from seed and blooms throughout the summer, providing a beautiful addition to any landscape.

13. Walter’s Viburnum (Viburnum obovatum)

Walter’s Viburnum (Viburnum obovatum) is an evergreen shrub with glossy leaves that provides year-round interest. Its fragrant white flowers in spring attract pollinators, adding to the beauty of any garden. This versatile plant is tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions and once established, it is drought-tolerant.

Florida Gardening Tips - Florida Friendly Plants
Expert Guide: Top 17 Favorite Landscape Plants in Florida (with photos) 6

Walter’s Viburnum can be pruned into a hedge or used as a specimen plant, making it a great choice for both formal and informal landscapes. Its ability to thrive in different environments makes it a favorite among gardeners in Florida. There are also dwarf varieties of Walter’s Viburnum available if you’re looking for a smaller shrub. These dwarf varieties still maintain the glossy, dark green leaves and produce masses of small white flowers in spring.

14. Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens)

Carolina Jessamine, also known as Gelsemium sempervirens, is a beautiful addition to any landscape in Florida. Its stunning yellow flowers bring an elegant touch to gardens and outdoor spaces. Blooming in late winter or early spring, this plant provides a burst of color during the early season.

florida carolina jessamine yellow flowers landscape plant easy to grow
Expert Guide: Top 17 Favorite Landscape Plants in Florida (with photos) 7

The fragrance of its flowers is irresistible to butterflies and bees, making it a magnet for pollinators. Carolina Jessamine is drought-tolerant and requires low maintenance, making it an ideal choice for busy gardeners. As a twining vine, it can be trained to climb walls or trellises, adding vertical interest to the landscape.

15. Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus)

Buttonwood, scientifically known as Conocarpus erectus, is a popular choice for Florida landscapes. This native plant is well-adapted to the local climate and can tolerate salt spray and coastal winds, making it ideal for beachfront properties. Its robust root system also provides excellent erosion control along shorelines.

florida buttonwood shrub native tree landscape

Buttonwood can be pruned into an upright hedge or used as a specimen plant, adding both versatility and beauty to any landscape. With its drought-tolerant nature and minimal maintenance requirements, this plant is a perfect choice for those looking for a low-maintenance yet visually appealing option.

16.American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

American Beautyberry is a species of flowering shrub native to Florida and the southeastern United States. It is known for its clusters of bright, purple berries that adorn the plant in the fall. In addition to its ornamental value, American beautyberry has been used in traditional medicine for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

florida native american beautyberry landscape plant shrub purple flowers

The leaves and stems of the plant have also been used as a natural insect repellent. During the fall season, the beautyberry shrub showcases its vibrant purple berries, which stand out against the broad, green leaves. This combination of colorful berries and green leaves adds visual appeal to the plant and attracts birds to the garden.

17.Azalea native species (Rhododendron spp.)

Azaleas are one of the most popular landscape plants in Florida. Known for their vibrant blooms and low-maintenance care, these native species (Rhododendron spp.) can be found in a variety of colors and sizes throughout the state. With proper care, azaleas can thrive in Florida’s warm and humid climate.

florida rhododendron spp native flowering shrub plant landscape
Expert Guide: Top 17 Favorite Landscape Plants in Florida (with photos) 8

They prefer slightly acidic soil and partial shade, making them a great addition to any garden or landscape. Whether planted as a border or in a container, azaleas are sure to add a burst of color to any outdoor space.

How Can These Plants Improve Your Garden’s Ecosystem?

Incorporating these popular landscape shrubs in your garden can have multiple benefits for the ecosystem. They attract beneficial insects and pollinators, provide habitats for butterflies and wildlife, prevent soil erosion, and improve soil health. Some plants even have medicinal properties.

Creating Habitats for Wildlife

TipDetails
Choose native plantsNative plants in your landscape provide food and shelter for wildlife. Select plants of different heights and textures for a diverse habitat.
Avoid pesticidesAvoid pesticides to protect insects and larger animals.
Add birdhouses and birdbathsAdd birdhouses and bird baths to provide more habitat and resources for birds and other wildlife.
Seek guidanceSeek guidance from local conservation or wildlife organizations for tips on creating a wildlife-friendly garden.

Are Native Plants the Only Option for Florida Landscaping?

No, native plants are not the only option for landscaping in Florida. While native plants have their benefits, non-native plants can also thrive in Florida’s climate and soil conditions.

By combining both native and non-native plants, you can create a diverse and visually appealing garden that benefits the environment as well. Just make sure to choose non-native plants that are well-suited to Florida’s specific conditions.

FAQ

Are there any full sun landscape plants that thrive in Florida?

Yes, there are several options to choose from! Some of the best plants suitable for full sun exposure throughout Florida include bougainvillea, hibiscus, oleander, and plumeria. These plants are not only able to withstand the intense Florida sun, but they also offer beautiful blooms and foliage. It’s important to note that even the best plants for full sun will benefit from some shade during the hottest part of the day, so be sure to plan your landscape accordingly.

What native Florida plants would you most recommend for use in a landscape?

Landscaping with native Florida plants offers both beauty and low maintenance. Recommended options include Simpson’s stopper with white flowers and red berries, coontie plant with cycad-like leaves and orange cones, and firebush with red-orange tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. For coastal landscapes, consider sea oats, muhly grass, and seagrape. These plants enhance your surroundings and provide habitat for wildlife.

How Do I Choose a Landscaping Shrub for Florida?

  • Start by determining your needs – whether you want an evergreen or deciduous shrub.
  • Consider the local growing conditions, as Florida’s subtropical climate can be challenging for some plants.
  • Choose the right size plant for the space you have available.
  • Consider mature size and growth rate.
  • Look for disease and pest resistant varieties if possible.
  • Research and choose a plant that will thrive in your specific location and landscape conditions.
  • Pay attention to factors like sun exposure, soil type, salt tolerance if near coast, etc.

How Do Native Plants Help Florida’s Environment

Florida’s climate is great for native plants, which are easy to maintain and durable. Planting them will preserve Florida’s habitats and attract pollinators. Native plants also reduce the need for pesticides or fertilizers, keeping the environment healthy. These plants also enhance biodiversity and create a sustainable ecosystem in Florida’s landscapes.

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