Guide to Native Plants in Florida

I’ve discovered that growing native plants in Florida is a joy! They seem to be the only plants I can grow without killing them. This is just my opinion however. I’m sure there are people out there that can grow a tree through concrete. I just don’t happen to be one of them!

If you live in Florida and have an interest in growing native plants, then go online and get all the information you need. There is a lot out there covering every plant you think you want to grow.

Below is a guide to 5 native plants, with brief planting requirements. One plant was listed in each category for flowers, shrubs, trees, vines and grasses.

The list of plants is too extensive to list them all, so these are some of my favorite and maybe not so favorite plants.

Guide to Native Plants in Florida Black Eyed Susan (Flower)

The Black-Eyed Susan is a wonderful perennial plant to have around your home or in your garden because it attracts butterflies and birds. It is a native plant that thrives in zones 8 through 9, which ranges from North Florida to Central Florida.

The flower, which is also called Gloriosa Daisy, is a member of the daisy family, and can have either yellow, yellow- orange or red-orange petals. It’s a summer flower whose growth rate can be listed as medium and will grow as tall as 2 to 3 feet and spread as wide as 1 to 2 feet.

The reason I like this flower is because it grows in any texture soil and can tolerate some drought, but the pH of the soil has to be slightly alkaline and slightly acidic, which you can test by using litmus paper. Something to remember however, is that this plant does not do well in long periods of wet weather.

Although the Black-Eyed Susan does well in partial sunlight, for optimal growth, I would recommend planting it in a sunny spot, in soil that is slightly moist.

Guide to Native Plants in FloridaHibiscus (Shrub)

The Hibiscus is my favorite Florida native plant for planting, not only because it was the first plant I ever had any success growing without dying, but because it also attracts butterflies.

It’s a very hardy plant and can grow over the entire state, but for those who live in north Florida, please remember to check the growing zone of the hibiscus you purchase.

Depending on the variety or species, some hibiscus can be damaged by the freezes that take place in north Florida. Of course, any hibiscus can be damaged anywhere in the state if the temperature gets below 30 degrees for too long a period.

This is a relatively easy plant to grow otherwise – with many varieties, species and colors to choose from. The flowers on the hibiscus range in colors from pink to red and orange to white. Some flowers can even grow as large as a dinner plate. They have a medium growth rate and do best in sunny to partial sunny locations. The soil should be sandy with an acidic to slightly acidic pH level.

It can tolerate a high salt content in the soil and drought conditions to a certain degree, but you should try keep the soil moist. Their growth rate is about medium, but when it comes to their height and width… it will depend on the species, but most will grow as wide and as tall as you let them.

Dahoon Holly (Tree)

Okay, I included the Dahoon Holly because it is one of my favorite native trees. You will see these through out Florida from zones 8 to 10, which covers north Florida to south Florida – excluding the Keys.

You have probably seen these trees in public landscaping along the roads and parking areas of malls and fast food restaurants, but they can also be put in the landscaping around your home. Just remember, even though they can tolerate drought conditions to a point, you must keep the soil very moist. They love wet soil. I can’t emphasize this enough.

Anywhere on your property is going to be a good spot for the Dahoon Holly as long as it’s in a sunny or shady spot and the soil is either acidic or slightly acidic. In the spring, this tree will have white flowers that attract bees and the birds love the red berries. So be aware of this before purchasing – if you have a problem with bees or birds. The holly is a medium growing tree that will top out at about 20 to 30 feet and can spread as wide as 15 to 20 feet.

Coral Honeysuckle (Vine)

I love the fragrance of honeysuckle, but the Coral Honeysuckle produces a red flower during the spring and summer months, not the white flower you would associate with the white honeysuckle or white shrub honeysuckle.

This Florida native is a climbing vine that can be planted in any soil type in either a sunny or partial sunny spot. It can tolerate some drought conditions, but grows best in slightly moist soil. The pH level of the soil has to be either acidic, slightly acidic or slightly alkaline.

The Coral Honeysuckle is a fast grower for zones 8 through 10 in Florida, which covers north Florida to south Florida, but not the keys. It can grow as high as 10 to 15 feet and the flowers provides nectar for the humming birds and butterflies. This is a point to remember when purchasing.

Guide to Native Plants in FloridaFlorida Gama Grass (Grass)

I’m not a big lover of grasses, but this was included for anyone who has any steep slopes or banks that need to be stabilized. The Florida Gama Grass is one type of grass that can be used for this. It also makes a great ground cover and can be used in the landscaping of rock gardens

It is a Florida native and can be grown from north Florida all the way down to the Keys. The growth rate is medium and it can reach a height of 2 to 4 feet. This grass can get as wide as 4 to 6 feet, and during the spring and summer it produces yellow flowers.

If you live in Florida and love grasses and want to try this one, just remember to plant it in a sunny or partial sunny spot – in wet soil. The soil needs to be either acidic, slightly acidic or slightly alkaline.

Conclusion

Native plants are ideal for growing, just make sure you check the planting zones and requirements before purchasing any kind of plant. Some will be easy to take care of and some will require special treatment.

It all depends on how involved you want to become in tending your plants in your garden or landscape. Also be sure to pay attention to the types of insects, birds or animals that will be attracted to what you’re planting. Some of these can be beneficial to your plants and others can destroy them.

Resource

Picture header is of a monarch butterfly drawing nectar from a native milkweed.

Image By Jaret Daniels / Florida Wildflower Foundation