A variety of plants grows wild in the swamps of Florida, from the northern Okefenokee Swamp to the Everglades in the southern part of the state. These swamp plants have adapted to wet conditions and can thrive in Florida gardens if given proper care. Swamp plants perform well in wetland gardens, near ponds or in saturated areas of the yard where other plants may not grow.
Taxodium distichum, commonly known as bald cypress, is a deciduous tree that can grow up to 150 feet tall. Young trees form a pyramidal shape but produce a flat top as they mature. The yellowish green, needle-like leaves give the tree a delicate, feathery look and turn orange in the fall before dropping. Round, rough cones follow inconspicuous flowers and the shaggy bark and growth habit provide winter interest. When growing in completely waterlogged soil, bald cypress produces woody growths called knees. This tree grows wild in swamps across Florida and prefers wet, acidic soil but will adapt to slightly dry conditions. Plant this cypress tree in sun or shade and avoid alkaline soil.
The rounded shrub Hydrangea quercifolia, commonly known as oakleaf hydrangea, grows up to 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Long clusters of white flowers bloom in summer and turn pinkish purple as they mature. The bold, deeply lobed leaves grow up to 8 inches long and turn red in the fall. Native to the swamps of northern Florida, this deciduous shrub performs best in nutrient-rich, porous, acidic soil and partial shade. Prune back after blooming to control the size and shape of this hydrangea.
Spanish moss, or Tillandsia usneoides, grows wild among the branches of oak and cypress trees in the swamps of southern Florida. This member of the bromeliad family does not have roots and absorbs nutrients and moisture from the air and rain instead of the soil. It grows as long as 15 feet and features greenish-gray, threadlike foliage and inconspicuous flowers in spring or fall. Spanish moss grows well in shaded, humid conditions, but tolerates sun. It is sensitive to air pollution and will not thrive in urban areas.
The shrubby, evergreen perennial Hibiscus coccineus, or swamp hibiscus, reaches up to 10 feet in height. The showy, funnel-shaped, bright red flowers grow 6 to 8 inches wide and feature prominent stamens that extend from the center of the flower. Each flower only lasts for one day, but new blooms open continually from summer through fall. The glossy foliage is divided into three to seven pointed lobes. Swamp hibiscus grows in wet or well-drained soil but requires regular water if planted in a dry location. This perennial tolerates partial shade but will flower best in full sun.