Native Landscape Plants for South Florida
Jody Haynes, John McLaughlin & Laura Vasquez
Native plants were once thought of by many Florida
gardeners, nurserymen, and landscapers as being appropriate only for
informal gardens or in highly specific and often difficult garden
situations, such as boggy or coastal areas (Osorio, 2001). Because of
this negative (mis)perception, native plants have often received a
‘bad rap’ in Florida. In recent years, however, the attributes of
native plants have been increasingly recognized and
appreciated—especially in central and north Florida.
The Florida Yards & Neighborhoods (FYN) program
has been encouraging the use of ‘Florida-friendly’ landscaping
principles here in south Florida since February 2000. FYN does not
restrict its recommendations to native plants, but rather recommends
putting the right plant in the right place. South Florida natives, by
their very nature, are generally well adapted to the nutrient-poor,
alkaline, and sand- or limestone-based soils of south Florida. They also
have relatively low fertilizer requirements, few pest and disease
problems, and typically do not require frequent maintenance— such as
regular watering, pruning, or spraying—to remain healthy and maintain
an acceptable aesthetic quality. It is also important to note here that
not all native plants have the same requirements, and any plant put in
the wrong place may either present problems or may require more
A previous publication, ENH
listed over 350 native and non-native plant species for south Florida.
This new publication was developed as a supplement to ENH
854, but it is
also a good stand-alone reference for people wishing to add native
plants to their private yards or public landscapes, or to simply learn
more about them.
of Native Plants
While south Florida’s native plants may not offer the
striking floral displays of some tropical exotics, many do possess
attractive foliage, colorful fruits, or add a pleasing form or texture
to the landscape. South Florida has a wide variety of native plants that
are both attractive and useful as landscape plants. The species listed
herein grow well in urban landscape settings in part or all of south
Florida without much fuss—assuming they are planted in the right place
in the landscape. In addition to being interesting additions to urban
yards and landscapes, native plants also increase the diversity of
natural insect predators, and many are also attractive to other types of
sought after wildlife species (i.e., birds and butterflies).
and Using Native Plants in South Florida
Although it is not difficult to find native plants in
local garden centers, the range of species is usually extremely limited,
particularly compared to the great number of exotic species available.
With many local ordinances requiring an increasing percentage of native
plants in new landscapes, it is becoming increasingly important that
more native species be made available to the public. We have created a
list of retail and wholesale nurseries in south Florida that sell native
plants. If you are interested in this list, you can either click
here to download it
from our website
or call or e-mail us and we will send you a free copy.
Much of south Florida is similar with respect to
climate and other growing conditions. Therefore, most of the plants on
this list should be widely applicable throughout the region. However,
once you pass from the sandy soils of Palm Beach, Broward, and northern
Miami-Dade County into the alkaline rockland type soils of central and
southern Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, the landscape environment
changes dramatically, and this can affect the ability to grow certain
species. Add to that the appearance of pockets of marl soil and the
varying types of fill soils that can be found in urban areas, and the
issue of soil compatibility becomes increasingly important. For example,
buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus) will not grow well in marl soil,
but excels in limestone soils. Conversely, butterfly weed (Asclepias
tuberosa) will not grow well in the alkaline limestone of south
Miami-Dade home landscapes, but performs quite well in the sandy areas
in north Miami-Dade and further north. When applicable, we will include
notes on soil preference for particular species.
The 135 native plant species listed in this
publication are grouped according to their functions in the landscape.
Separate pages are provided for the following categories:
of Florida Native Nurseries website: http://www.afnn.org.
D.F. Pine Rockland Plant Guide. Miami-Dade County Department of
Environmental Resource Management, Miami, FL.
C.R. & B.J. Taylor. 1982. Florida Wildflowers and Roadside Plants.
Laurel Hill Press, Chapel Hill, NC.
R.J. 1997. Native Florida Plants for Home Landscapes. University
of Florida-IFAS Publication ENH-25, Gainesville. (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/EP011)
Native Plant Society website: http://www.fnps.org.
Water Management Districts. 2001. Water Wise Florida Landscapes:
Landscaping to Promote Water Conservation Using the Principles of
R.G. & J. Brookwell. 1999. Native Florida Plants. Gulf
Publishing Co., Houston, TX.
A.W. 1991. Native Shrubs for South Florida. University of
Florida-IFAS Publication EES-59, Gainesville. (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/EH159)
A.W. 1996. Native Trees for South Florida. University of
Florida-IFAS Publication EES-57, Gainesville. (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/EH157)
A.W. 1999. Native Ground Cover for South Florida. University of
Florida-IFAS Publication EES-60, Gainesville. (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/EH402)
County. 2001. Dade County Landscaping Manual. Miami-Dade County,
R. 2001. A Gardener’s Guide to Florida’s Native Plants.
University of Florida Press, Gainesville.
W.K. 1998. Florida Wildflowers in their Natural Communities.
University of Florida Press, Gainesville, FL.
Wunderlin, R.P. & B.F. Hansen. 2000. Atlas of
Florida Vascular Plants. Institute for Systematic Botany, University
of South Florida. Internet: http://plantatlas.usf.edu.