47 Native Plants for Florida: Flowers, Shrubs, and Trees

closeup of tickseed, Florida's state wildflower

Along with Florida’s enviable subtropical climate comes a diverse selection of beautiful native plants that would look great in your landscape. Native plants grow naturally in your area, so you can be sure they’ll thrive in the Florida heat, humidity, and occasional overnight freeze. We’ve compiled the 47 best native plants for Florida, including flowers, shrubs, and trees.

Landscaping with native plants supports your local ecosystem and prevents the spread of invasive, non-native species. If you’re looking for low-maintenance plants that will make your Florida landscape stunning, look no further.

Sunday tree and live plants ad

Native Florida Flowers

Beach Sunflower (Helianthus debilis)

yellow beach sunflowers
Photo Credit: Daniel Di Palma / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Beach sunflower makes a perfect ground cover for coastal areas because it loves sandy soils and tolerates high levels of salt. This drought-tolerant plant sprouts bright yellow, sunflower-like blooms year-round and attracts butterflies

  • Hardiness zones: 8b – 10b
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Sandy soils
  • Duration: Perennial (annual in areas with freezing temperatures)
  • Height: 2-10 inches
  • Maintenance: Water occasionally during dry spells, but make sure not to overwater

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Field of black-eyed Susans
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Black-eyed Susans are another salt and drought-tolerant plant that thrives in coastal landscapes. These wildflowers feature vibrant yellow, orange, or red petals that last through the sweltering heat of summer, even after most other flowers have wilted. 

  • Hardiness zones: 3a – 9b
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Tolerates most soil types
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Height: 1-3 feet
  • Maintenance: Remove dead or faded flowers to encourage more blooms

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)

Closeup of red and yellow blanket flower
Photo Credit: Peter D. Tillman / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Blanket flowers can grow anywhere in Florida because they tolerate heat, sandy soils, and high salt levels. These flowers grow in a spreading mound that can function as a ground cover, with blooms in bright summer colors like orange, yellow, red, and reddish purple.

  • Hardiness zones: 3a – 10b
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Any well-draining soil
  • Duration: Perennial 
  • Height: 12-18 inches 
  • Maintenance: Remove dead flowers to encourage more blooms

Blazing Star (Liatris)

Field of purple blazing star flowers
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Florida has more than 13 native species of blazing star (aka gayfeather and colic root), a flower tough enough to survive even the most disaster-prone gardeners. The blazing star’s vibrant bottlebrush-shaped flowers bloom in fall and attract pollinators such as butterflies and bees.

  • Hardiness zones: 8a – 10b
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Any well-draining soil
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Height: Up to 5 feet
  • Maintenance: Water regularly during growing season, ensure plants get sufficient air circulation to avoid leaf spots, mold, and similar problems 

Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens)

yellow Carolina jessamine flowers
Photo Credit: Homer Edward Price / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Carolina jessamine, aka yellow jessamine, grows as a vine, so it’s a perfect choice to climb up a landscape feature such as a trellis, arbor, or pergola. These butter yellow trumpet-shaped flowers release a sweet fragrance, but beware: They are poisonous and can be fatal if eaten. 

  • Hardiness zones: 7a – 9b
  • Sun: Full sun 
  • Soil: Rich soils 
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Height: 10 – 20 feet (climbing)
  • Maintenance: Water regularly 

Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

Red columbine flower
Photo Credit: Jason Hollinger / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

In general, columbine is a wildflower that comes in many colors, but Florida’s native species has interesting red and yellow blossoms that attract hummingbirds. Columbine is native to the Panhandle and best for North Florida landscapes.

  • Hardiness zones: 3a – 8b
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Well-draining soils, even sandy soils 
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Height: 6 inches to 4 feet depending on growing conditions
  • Maintenance: Water regularly, but don’t let the soil stay wet 

Coral Bean (Erythrina herbacea) 

Red tubular coral bean flowers
Photo Credit: gailhampshire / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Coral bean grows differently in different parts of the state: in North and Central Florida, it’s a large flower, but in South Florida, it can grow into a shrub or even a small tree. This plant is gorgeous in spring, when its bright red tubular flowers bloom, and in fall, when its seed pods burst to reveal shiny red seeds (which are poisonous).

  • Hardiness zones: 8a – 11b
  • Sun: Full sun to partial shade
  • Soil: Well-draining or sandy soils 
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Height: 5 – 15 ft
  • Maintenance: If growing as an ornamental tree, prune into shape and remove dead branches

Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)

closeup image of lonicera sempervirens flower
Photo Credit: Zeynel Cebeci / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Also known as trumpet honeysuckle, this flowering vine can climb up trellises, pergolas, fences, walls, or any other surface in your landscape that needs a pop of color. Its bright red tubular flowers bloom in spring and summer, attracting hummingbirds, songbirds, and butterflies.

  • Hardiness zones: 4a – 9b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Any well-draining soil
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Height: 3 to 20 feet (climbing)
  • Maintenance: Prune occasionally if you don’t want the vine to get too long

Elliott’s Aster (Symphyotrichum elliottii)

Pale lavender Elliott's aster flowers
Photo Credit: Titus Tscharntke / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

In late fall, Elliott’s aster produces clumps of small lavender flowers with yellow centers, which attract pollinators, including bees and butterflies. You can use this wildflower for a pop of color in your fall/winter landscape and, if pruned carefully, the foliage can even function as a hedge.

  • Hardiness zones: 8a – 11b
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Moist soils
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Height: 4 to 5 feet
  • Maintenance: Prune regularly to keep it contained 

Milkweed (Asclepias)

Clusters of red milkweed flowers
Photo Credit: Eric Hunt / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Several species of milkweed are native to Florida, including butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) (pictured), which is probably the most popular and widely available variety. Milkweed produces brightly colored flowers in summer, and it’s famous for housing butterflies, especially monarch butterflies. 

  • Hardiness zones: 4a – 10a depending on the species
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Dry, sandy soils 
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Height: 1 to 4 feet
  • Maintenance: May need to discourage aphids, but don’t use pesticides because milkweed is popular with pollinators 

Passion Flower (Passiflora)

Closeup of purple passion flower
Photo Credit: PumpkinSky / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Five species of passion flower are native to Florida, including the popular and extremely showy purple passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) (pictured), which produces flowers with a pretty fringe around its lavender petals and an interesting pattern in the center. The passion flower grows on a vine that’s good for climbing up structures and blooms in summer or early fall.

  • Hardiness zones: 6a – 10b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Rich, moist, well-draining soils
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Height: Up to 30 feet (climbing)
  • Maintenance: Water twice a week during dry spells in growing season, protect from frost in winter

Powderpuff Mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa)

Closeup of pink powderpuff mimosa flower
Photo Credit: Pixabay

This fun, colorful ground cover produces powderpuff-shaped, soft pink flowers from spring through fall and has interesting fern-like leaves. If you’re an impatient gardener, this plant is perfect for you because of how quickly it spreads. 

  • Hardiness zones: 8a – 10b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Moist but not flooded loam and sandy soils
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Height: 3 to 4 inches
  • Maintenance: Prune regularly to keep it contained 

Railroad Vine (Ipomoea pes-caprae)

Railroad vine flowers in sand
Photo Credit: Pikist

Railroad vine, aka beach morning glory, is the perfect plant to use as ground cover in your landscape because it spreads extremely quickly, sometimes growing an entire foot in one day. This vine tolerates salt spray and produces pink or white trumpet-shaped flowers that can bloom at any time of year. 

  • Hardiness zones: 9a – 11b
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Any well-draining soil
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Height: 4 to 6 inches
  • Maintenance: Prune regularly to keep it contained 

Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea)

closeup image of salvia coccinea
Photo Credit: David J. Stang / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Scarlet sage gets its common name from its bright red tubular flowers that stay in bloom from spring to fall. The flowers can sometimes be white or pink instead, and regardless of color, they attract hummingbirds and butterflies. 

  • Hardiness zones: 7a – 11b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Well-draining sandy, loam, or rocky soil
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Height: 1 to 4 feet
  • Maintenance: Cut the plant back each year after flowering season to keep your garden neat

Swamp Mallow (Hibiscus coccineus)

Bright pink swamp mallow flower
Photo Credit: Pxhere

This species of hibiscus is a classic tropical flower that can add a touch of color to your garden. Swamp mallow blooms in mid to late summer, and the whole plant usually goes dormant in the winter. 

  • Hardiness zones: 8a – 10b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Prefers wet soil but can tolerate some drier soils
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Height: 4 to 8 feet
  • Maintenance: Check for pests regularly 

Tickseed (Coreopsis)

Three bright yellow tickseed flowers
Photo Credit: Pxfuel

It’s no wonder why the tickseed, with its vibrant yellow petals spreading out in every direction, is the Sunshine State’s official state wildflower. Many tickseed varieties are native to Florida, and all of them bloom in spring and summer and reseed themselves most years. 

  • Hardiness zones: 4a – 10b 
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Well-draining soils, even sandy or rocky soils 
  • Duration: Some varieties are perennials, some are annuals
  • Height: 1 to 4 feet
  • Maintenance: Water regularly during long dry periods, cut away dead flowers to encourage new growth

Violets (Viola)

Closeup of violet flowers
Photo Credit: Pikist

Florida has loads of native violet species, including the common blue violet (pictured), Walter’s violet, bog white violet, and sand violet. Different varieties grow in different parts of the state, with flowers in white, purple, or yellow. 

  • Hardiness zones: 8a – 10a
  • Sun: Partial shade, full shade
  • Soil: Clay or sandy soils depending on the species
  • Duration: Some varieties are perennials, some are annuals 
  • Height: Up to 12 in
  • Maintenance: Most are maintenance-free

Native Florida Shrubs 

Azaleas (Rhododendron)

Azalea bush full of pink flowers
Photo Credit: Pxhere

Azaleas are one of the showiest flowering shrubs, with loads of spring blossoms in bright pink, red, white, or other colors depending on the cultivar. Florida’s native azalea species grow best in North and Central Florida.

  • Hardiness zones: 5a – 9b
  • Sun: Partial shade
  • Soil: Any well-draining soil
  • Duration: Mostly evergreen, some deciduous species
  • Height: Typically 3 to 5 feet, some varieties can reach 10 feet 
  • Maintenance: Prune shortly after flowering season each year, water every 14 days during dry periods

Bahama Cassia (Cassia bahamensis)

The Bahama cassia is an upright shrub with interesting compound leaves and tiny yellow flowers that bloom in fall and attract butterflies. This shrub can sometimes be short-lived and die after only four or five years, but it easily produces new seedlings on its own. 

  • Hardiness zones: 10b – 11b
  • Sun: Partial shade
  • Soil: Well-draining sandy, clay, or loam soils 
  • Duration: Evergreen
  • Height: 3 to 9 feet
  • Maintenance: Cut the plant back to the ground every few years to rejuvenate it 

Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

Beautyberry branches with clusters of bright purple berries
Photo Credit: Donald Lee Pardue / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Beautyberry, sometimes called American beautyberry, blooms pale lavender-pink flowers in spring and summer, which then develop into the plant’s signature clusters of bright purple berries. The berries attract birds and are perfect for adding a pop of color to your hedge or shrub border. 

  • Hardiness zones: 6a – 10b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Prefers rich soils but can sometimes grow in sandy soils
  • Duration: Deciduous 
  • Height: 3 to 8 feet
  • Maintenance: Prune before flowering season to keep the shrub compact

Buttonsage (Lantana involucrata)

Small buttonsage shrub
Photo Credit: David J. Stang / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Buttonsage is a hurricane-resistant shrub that you can use in a privacy hedge, windscreen, or as ground cover. The plant has tiny green leaves and produces small white flowers and purple fruits year-round.

  • Hardiness zones: 8b – 11b 
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade 
  • Soil: Dry soils 
  • Duration: Evergreen
  • Height: Up to 5 feet 
  • Maintenance: Prune regularly if you want it to remain dense 

Coontie (Zamia integrifolia)

Green coontie plant with many fronds
Photo Credit: Leonora (Ellie) Enking / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The coontie (technically not a shrub but a shrub-sized cycad) has feathery leaves that resemble palm fronds and can add a tropical look to any landscape. This plant is especially good for North Florida and the coasts, since it’s cold-hardy and salt-tolerant. 

  • Hardiness zones: 8a – 11b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade, full shade 
  • Soil: Any well-draining soil
  • Duration: Evergreen
  • Height: Around 3 feet
  • Maintenance: Cut off dead leaf stems 

Fakahatchee Grass (Tripsacum dactyloides)

fakahatchee grass blades
Photo Credit: David J. Stang / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Fakahatchee grass, aka eastern gamagrass, grows in a shrub-sized clump that people often use to create borders around landscape beds. This grass can live through drought or flooding but sometimes dies in extended periods of freezing temperatures. 

  • Hardiness zones: 8a – 11b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Any well-draining or moderately well-draining soil
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Height: 4 to 6 feet
  • Maintenance: Prune occasionally to prevent excessive spreading 

Firebush (Hamelia patens)

Firebush in bloom with red tubular flowers
Photo Credit: Mokkie / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

This durable shrub is heat-tolerant, drought-tolerant, and resistant to pests and diseases. It grows taller in South Florida than in other parts of the state and blooms bright orange-red tubular flowers that last from spring until winter and attract butterflies, songbirds, and hummingbirds. 

  • Hardiness zones: 8a – 11b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade 
  • Soil: Any well-draining soil
  • Duration: Perennial in South Florida, annual in North and Central Florida Height: 5 to 8 feet typically, can reach 15 feet in South Florida 
  • Maintenance: Water regularly, prune to maintain desired height and shape

Jamaica Caper (Capparis cynophallophora)

Pink flower of the Jamaica caper shrub
Photo Credit: Bob Peterson / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Jamaica caper has light green, glossy, oval-shaped leaves and produces flowers with long, showy purple stamens. As with many other shrubs, you have a few options for how to grow a Jamaica caper: Plant a row of them to create a hedge or remove the lower branches and grow it as a small tree. 

  • Hardiness zones: 10a – 11b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade 
  • Soil: Well-draining loam, lime rock, or sandy soils 
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Height: 6 to 18 feet
  • Maintenance: Prune as needed to maintain desired shape 

Marlberry (Ardisia escallonioides)

White flower cluster of the marlberry shrub
Photo Credit: Treeworld Wholesale / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Marlberry shrubs work well as backdrop plants in garden beds or as privacy hedges. They have glossy dark green leaves and grow small white flowers year round, as well as purple fruits in spring. 

  • Hardiness zones: 9b – 11b
  • Sun: Partial shade 
  • Soil: Loam or sandy soils 
  • Duration: Evergreen
  • Height: 12 to 20 feet
  • Maintenance: Prune as needed to maintain desired shape 

Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

Pink muhly grass in bloom
Photo Credit: Ken Kennedy / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

This ornamental grass grows in shrub-like clumps and blooms in fall with fluffy pink, purple, or white flowers that seem to form a cloud. Muhly grass looks good as a border plant and in group plantings. 

  • Hardiness zones: 7a – 11b
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Tolerates most soils, even with extended flooding 
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Height: 3 to 5 feet
  • Maintenance: Cut plants back in late winter to prepare for rapid growth in spring

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

Oakleaf hydrangea bush in bloom with white flower clusters
Photo Credit: Anne Norman / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

The oakleaf hydrangea has broad, oakleaf-shaped green leaves and sprouts cones of small white flowers in summer. This shrub makes a good understory planting and is perfect for landscaping around trees because it grows best with a lot of shade.

  • Hardiness zones: 5a – 9a 
  • Sun: Full shade
  • Soil: Fertile, well-draining soils 
  • Duration: Deciduous
  • Height: 6 to 10 feet
  • Maintenance: Water during dry periods, prune occasionally 

Seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera)

Seagrape leaves
Photo Credit: Pxfuel

Seagrape has light green, rounded leaves with red veins and produces little clusters of green fruit that resemble grapes (though they aren’t actually grapes as we would typically think of them). As a shrub, seagrape makes a good privacy hedge or windscreen, or you can prune the lower branches to expose the trunk and grow it as a small tree.

  • Hardiness zones: 9a – 11b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade 
  • Soil: Sandy, well-draining soils 
  • Duration: Evergreen
  • Height: 10 to 50 feet 
  • Maintenance: Prune regularly to maintain desired shape and size, protect from frost in winter, clean up leaf litter

Southern Shield Fern (Thelypteris kunthii)

Southern shield fern fronds
Photo Credit: Mx. Granger / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0

Southern shield fern, aka southern wood fern, aka Kunth’s maiden fern, has triangular light green fronds that grow in each spring and turn bronze each fall. The fern forms clumps and spreads easily, so it makes a good ground cover, and it’s deer-resistant

  • Hardiness zones: 7a – 10b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade, full shade
  • Soil: Moist but well-draining soils 
  • Duration: Perennial 
  • Height: 3 to 4 feet
  • Maintenance: Prune regularly to keep it contained

Southern Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera)

Southern wax myrtle leaves
Photo Credit: BotBln / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The southern wax myrtle is easy to take care of and salt-tolerant, so it grows well in coastal landscapes. It gets its name from the waxy berries it produces, which attract butterflies and birds. 

  • Hardiness zones: 7b – 11b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade, full shade
  • Soil: Tolerates most soil types, even with extended flooding 
  • Duration: Evergreen
  • Height: 15 to 25 feet
  • Maintenance: Remove sprouts from the roots to keep the shrub tidy

Star Anise (Illicium)

Red flowers of the star anise shrub
Photo Credit: peganum / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Florida has three native star anise species, Illicium anisatum, Illicium floridanum (pictured), and Illicium parviflorum, with flowers in red, white, or yellow. These shrubs grow rapidly and are hardy enough to survive most conditions, so they make a great addition to a new gardener’s landscape. 

  • Hardiness zones: 7a – 10b
  • Sun: Partial shade, full shade
  • Soil: Moist soils 
  • Duration: Evergreen 
  • Height: 15 to 20 feet
  • Maintenance: Water regularly during dry spells 

Walter’s Viburnum (Viburnum obovatum)

Small Walter's viburnum shrub
Photo Credit: Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

You can grow Walter’s viburnum as a specimen shrub, privacy hedge, or shape it and grow it as a small tree. The viburnum has glossy dark green leaves and blooms in spring with small white flowers that attract butterflies and songbirds.

  • Hardiness zones: 7a – 10b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Well-draining or occasionally wet soils 
  • Duration: Evergreen
  • Height: 20 feet (dwarf cultivars also available)
  • Maintenance: Prune regularly 

Wild Coffee (Psychotria nervosa)

wild coffee shrub with bright red berries
Photo Credit: Katja Schulz / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Though this shrub is in the same family as true coffee, its bright red fruits don’t contain caffeine (sorry to burst your bubble, coffee addicts). Wild coffee has shiny dark green leaves and sprouts clusters of white flowers in spring and summer, then produces its fruit in late summer and fall.

  • Hardiness zones: 10b – 11b
  • Sun: Partial shade, full shade
  • Soil: Tolerates most soils 
  • Duration: Evergreen
  • Height: 4 to 10 feet
  • Maintenance: Protect from frost in winter 

Yucca

sharp leaves of a yucca plant
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Yucca plants have sharp, blade-like leaves that are usually green or variegated in color, and they bloom with upright clusters of white flowers in midsummer or early fall. Florida has several native yucca species that vary in shape and size, including the Spanish bayonet, Adam’s needle, and mound lily varieties.

  • Hardiness zones: 5a – 10b depending on species
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Well-draining soil that doesn’t get soggy 
  • Duration: Evergreen
  • Height: Depends on species, some can reach 30 feet 
  • Maintenance: Cut away dead leaves, prune flower stalks every year after flowering season 

Native Florida Trees

Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus)

large contorted buttonwood tree
Photo Credit: Cayobo / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

This multi-trunked tree looks shrubby when young, but it can grow into a towering tree with an interesting contorted trunk. One buttonwood planted alone can be an eye-catching specimen tree, or a row of them can form a privacy hedge.

  • Hardiness zones: 10b – 11b
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Mostly wet to well-draining soils 
  • Duration: Evergreen
  • Height: 30 to 45 feet
  • Maintenance: Prune regularly if using as a hedge, otherwise no maintenance once established 

Chickasaw Plum (Prunus angustifolia)

White flower cluster of the Chickasaw plum tree
Photo Credit: Homer Edward Price / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Before the Chickasaw plum tree grows new leaves in spring, it blooms small white flowers that develop into tart plums that humans and wildlife can both eat. In landscaping, people often use it as a specimen tree.

  • Hardiness zones: 5a – 9b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade 
  • Soil: Prefers sandy soils but can grow in some clay soils 
  • Duration: Deciduous
  • Height: 6 to 12 feet usually, can grow as tall as 25 feet 
  • Maintenance: Water regularly during dry spells, clean up fallen flowers and fruits

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

eastern redbud tree in bloom with pink flowers
Photo Credit: BETTY / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

This small to medium-sized specimen tree shows off a beautiful display of bright pink flowers in late winter, and its leaves change color in fall for another pretty look. However, these trees are usually short-lived and can die after a few years. 

  • Hardiness zones: 4b – 9a
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Well-draining to occasionally flooded soils 
  • Duration: Deciduous 
  • Height: Up to 20 to 30 feet
  • Maintenance: Prune regularly 

Florida Maple (Acer barbatum)

Orange leaves of Florida maple tree
Photo Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

The Florida maple is a smaller version of the northern sugar maple that’s more suited to Florida because it’s heat-tolerant. It works well as a shade tree because it grows so tall and wide, and its leaves turn a pleasant yellow and orange in fall. 

  • Hardiness zones: 6b – 9a
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Occasionally wet clay or sandy soils 
  • Duration: Deciduous 
  • Height: Typically 20 to 30 feet, can reach 60 feet 
  • Maintenance: Water regularly during long dry spells, clean up fallen leaves in fall

Gumbo-Limbo Tree (Bursera simaruba)

branches of bursera simaruba
Photo Credit: Fredlyfish4 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Native to South Florida and the Keys, the gumbo-limbo is a wind-tolerant tree that stands up to the area’s frequent hurricanes. Its copper-colored bark has an interesting peeling texture that has earned it the nickname “tourist tree” because it resembles a red, peeling sunburn.

  • Hardiness zones: 10b – 11b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Well-draining clay or sandy soils 
  • Duration: Deciduous 
  • Height: Up to 60 feet but usually smaller in landscapes 
  • Maintenance: Remove lower branches if they start to droop

Pine Trees (Pinus)

slash pine tree
Photo Credit: Homer Edward Price / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Several pine tree species are native to Florida, including the slash pine (pictured), sand pine, loblolly pine, and longleaf pine. They shed pine needles, which can work well as a natural mulch, but be careful planting a pine tree near a home because the needles can be a nuisance to clean up.

  • Hardiness zones: 7a – 11b depending on the species 
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade 
  • Soil: Grows in most soil types 
  • Duration: Evergreen
  • Height: 25 to 100+ feet depending on the species 
  • Maintenance: Clean up pine needles year-round

Pond Cypress (Taxodium ascendens)

Even though pond cypress trees survive well in wet, swampy areas, they’re also surprisingly drought-tolerant. If grown in wetter soils, they tend to grow root “knees” that can make mowing around them difficult, but in well-draining soils, these knees don’t typically occur. 

  • Hardiness zones: 5b – 9b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade 
  • Soil: Moist, well-draining soils 
  • Duration: Deciduous 
  • Height: Up to 80 feet
  • Maintenance: Remove dead limbs, clean up fallen leaves and cones in fall

Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

red buckeye tree in bloom with red flower clusters
Photo Credit: Pixabay

If you have a small landscape without room for large trees, the red buckeye might be for you. It’s small and produces red tubular flower clusters in spring that attract hummingbirds, but beware that its seed pods are poisonous, so this tree is probably not the best for homes with young children or pets.

  • Hardiness zones: 4a – 8b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade 
  • Soil: Any well-draining soil
  • Duration: Deciduous 
  • Height: Up to 20 feet
  • Maintenance: Clean up fallen leaves and fruit 

Sabal Palm (Sabal palmetto)

Several sabal palm trees
Photo Credit: James St. John / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Nothing says Florida quite like a classic palm tree, and that’s why the sabal palm, aka cabbage palm, is Florida’s state tree. It works as a shade tree, especially near swimming pools, and it can make any landscape a little more tropical. 

  • Hardiness zones: 8a – 11b
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Well-draining loam or sandy soils 
  • Duration: Evergreen
  • Height: Up to 40 to 50 feet
  • Maintenance: Preventive treatments to protect from lethal bronzing disease 

Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)

Saw palmetto fronds
Photo Credit: Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The saw palmetto isn’t a true tree but a clumping palm with fan-shaped leaves. It’s salt-tolerant, so it’s good for coastal landscapes, and you can use it for anything from ground cover to a privacy hedge. 

  • Hardiness zones: 8a – 11b
  • Sun: Full sun to partial shade
  • Soil: Dry soils 
  • Duration: Evergreen
  • Height: 5 to 10 feet
  • Maintenance: Remove dead fronds and fruit stems 

Southern Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)

Long oak branches
Photo Credit: Pixabay

A southern live oak is the perfect shade tree for a large property, but beware that it grows to be huge and needs plenty of room. Live oaks grow sprawling, curved branches that spread up to 100 feet, and they can survive for centuries.

  • Hardiness zones: 8a – 10b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Moist but well-draining soil
  • Duration: Evergreen
  • Height: Up to 60 feet
  • Maintenance: Prune regularly while immature, clean up fruit and leaf litter

Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

Magnolia grandiflora
Photo Credit: Syrio / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The magnolia tree is a staple of true southern landscaping, with its quaint dark green foliage and large white flowers that bloom throughout spring and summer. Southern magnolias are usually specimen or shade trees, but you can also plant a row of them and use it as a privacy hedge.

  • Hardiness zones: 6a – 10b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade, full shade
  • Soil: Moist but well-draining soils
  • Duration: Evergreen
  • Height: Up to 90 feet
  • Maintenance: Fertilize during the first three growing seasons, clean up fallen leaves and seed pods 

What Are Native Plants?

Native plants in Florida are plants that have grown in the area for hundreds or thousands of years. You may see them growing naturally in green spaces throughout Florida, or you may find them planted in yards of Florida homes. 

Benefits of Native Plants

When choosing options to enhance your yard, it is important to choose plants, shrubs, trees, and other greenery that will thrive in Florida’s natural environment. Since they’ve lived here for hundreds of years or more, Florida native plants grow well in the Sunshine State’s warm, humid climate with little attention from you. 

In addition to being low maintenance, here are a few other benefits native plants bring to your Florida landscape:

  • Require few, if any, pesticides
  • Attract local pollinators
  • Stabilize the soil
  • Provide food and shelter for wildlife

FAQs About Florida Native Plants

How can I Learn About Which Plants to Grow in my Part of Florida?

Florida’s climate is diverse. Therefore, you should ensure that the native plant you choose is right for your area of the state. If you want to learn more about the benefits of native plants, your local Audubon of Florida can help. 

What Should I Keep in Mind When Choosing Which Plants to Grow in Florida?

When you choose native plants, choose plants that thrive in your area of the state. Also, it is a good idea to consider the growing conditions in your landscape (sun, shade, soil) to make sure the plant you choose is a good fit for your space. Therefore, you won’t have to worry about diseases and problems since they are native to the area and suited for your yard. 

What Types of Pollinators Will Native Plants Naturally Attract?

Not all insects that frequent your yard may be pests. Some may actually be beneficial to your yard and the local environment. The great thing about native plants is that they help with pollination. In Florida, you’ll likely see pollinators in your yard, such as bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. 

Plants To Attract Bees

• Blazing star
• Elliot’s aster

Plants To Attract Birds

• Beautyberry
• Southern Wax Myrtle
• Walter’s Viburnum

Plants to Attract Hummingbirds 

• Columbine
• Coral Honeysuckle
• Scarlet Sage
• Firebush
• Red Buckeye

Plants To Attract Butterflies

•Beach Sunflower
• Blazing Star
• Coral Honeysuckle
• Milkweed
• Scarlet Sage
• Bahama Cassia
• Firebush
• Southern Wax Myrtle
• Walter’s Viburnum

For more information on Florida’s native plants and how to grow them in your own landscape, check out these local resources:

University of Florida’s native plant database
 
Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS)

Is It Time For You to Plant Native Florida Plants?

Have you tried to grow native Florida plants but are discovering that you don’t have a green thumb to keep them growing successfully?  If you need help planting and maintaining native Florida plants in your yard, call on a local lawn care expert to help.

Main Image Credit: Pikist

Jordan Ardoin

Jordan Ardoin

Jordan Ardoin is a writer, editor, and classical literature student based in Colorado. When she isn't reading or writing, she enjoys goofing off with her cats and spending time in nature.