Both the subtropical climate of northern Florida and the tropical climate of the southern part of the state support a diverse population of native plants. Many trees, shrubs and vines have adapted to the hot, humid conditions of the area and perform well in home gardens. Once established, these native Florida plants thrive with little water or fertilizer, while resisting many pests and diseases.
The evergreen shrub Yucca aloifolia, commonly called Spanish bayonet, grows up to 25 feet tall. The trunk bears dense, sword-shaped, dark green leaves that may reach 2 feet in length. In summer, an erect flower stalk blooms with clusters of bell-shaped, white flowers, reaching up to 2 feet above the foliage. Spanish bayonet grows wild throughout Florida in sandy soils but will grow in any soil as long as it drains well. It tolerates salt and works well in coastal gardens but should be planted away from walkways or high traffic areas of the yard to prevent injury by the sharply pointed leaves. Although Spanish bayonet tolerates shade, it performs best when placed in a sunny location.
Cherry laurel, or Prunus caroliniana, grows throughout northern and central Florida. The multiple, upright branches of this evergreen shrub or small tree can grow up to 40 feet tall and support the dense, glossy, smooth foliage. In late winter or early spring, white flowers bloom on spikes, followed by small, black fruits. Cherry laurel tolerates wind, heat and drought and responds well to pruning. Plant cherry laurel in nutrient-rich soil and partial shade for best flowering results.
The deciduous vine known as trumpet creeper, or Campsis radicans, grows quickly to lengths of 50 feet, using aerial roots to attach to wood, brick and other surfaces. From spring through summer, orange and red, trumpet-shaped flowers bloom in clusters among the glossy, bright green leaves. Native to north and central Florida, trumpet creeper tolerates any soil except alkaline and does not tolerate salt. Plant in full sun and provide water once every two to three weeks, especially during dry periods. Older plants may be weighed down by new growth and require regular pruning and support. If necessary, prune this vigorous grower back to the ground in early spring to control the size.
The single, unbranched trunk of cabbage palm, or Sabal palmetto, grows slowly, eventually reaching up to 90 feet tall. The top of this evergreen tree features a round, dense head made up of medium green leaves that grow up to 5 feet long and 8 feet wide. Mature trees produce small, inconspicuous flowers in summer. Cabbage palm grows throughout Florida, in marshes and coastal areas and requires full sun or partial shade. This highly adaptable tree tolerates wind and salt spray and works well in seaside gardens, thriving even when planted directly in the sand.