Most Underused Plants in Florida Landscaping

Incorporate underused plants in your landscape for their visual appeal and hardiness. Native Florida plants and those well-suited to Florida's semi-tropical environment make good sense because they will perform satisfactorily and add a unique element as well. Whereas other yards are full of crepe myrtles and azaleas, use a few underused Florida plants to stick out in the landscape crowd.


Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spp.) is an evergreen, clambering woody vine with a sprawling form. Most species are hardy only in southern Florida, but varieties exist for the central Florida climate. Bougainvillea size varies by whether it's allowed to spread. Its leaves are 2 to 4 inches long, and the plant has small flowers with three large, very showy, brightly colored bracts (petal-like leaves). The bracts are up to 2 inches long and range in color from purple, white, yellow, pink, red and orange. Grow bougainvillea in full sun and sandy, well-drained soil. Prune bougainvillea to maintain size and shape.

Cast Iron Plant

Cast iron plants (Aspidistra elatior) are evergreen, herbaceous perennials that grow well in all areas of Florida. Cast iron plants reach heights of 2 feet with a wider spread and have long, dark green, upright, leathery leaves. These plants grow on a wide range of soils and require partial to very dense shade. They can also tolerate a lot of abuse. Use cast iron plant as a ground cover, in planters, in edgings and for textural contrast with other landscape plants.

Winged Elm

Winged elms (Ulmus alata) grow to 60 feet tall with a 30-foot spread. They are deciduous trees noted for interesting bark with grayish brown flat-topped ridges and slender twigs with winglike outgrowths. Winged elms are sturdy trees and are recommended as shade or street specimens. Grow winged elms in full sun or partial shade on various, well-drained soils. Winged elms are native to the southeastern United States and grow in north and central Florida.

American Hornbeam

The American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), also known as musclewood, ironwood, or blue beech, is a small deciduous tree reaching a height of 35 feet with a slow growth rate. Its native habitat includes Florida, and it grows in north and central Florida. American hornbeam has a crooked, "muscular-looking" trunk and 4-inch long, simple, alternate leaves with doubly serrated margins. Grow American hornbeam in full sun or partial shade on a wide range of moist soils.

Keywords: underused Florida plants, Florida underused landscaping, Florida plants underused, American hornbeam, winged elm, cast iron plant

About this Author

Marie Roberts is a freelance writer based in north central Florida. She has a B.S. in horticultural sciences from the University of Florida. Roberts began writing in 2002 and is published in the "Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society."