Florida's warm, year-round tropical and subtropical climates make it a prime growing location for many plants. Gardeners will find they have a wealth of choices in flowering trees, and fruit-bearing and evergreen plants that thrive in the growing conditions offered by the state. As with any area of the country, consideration is required for each plant's growing requirements for a successful and problem-free landscape.
Florida is broken into three planting zones: north, central and south. Northern areas of the state lie within USDA planting zones 8A, 8B and 9A. Central Florida is broken into USDA planting zones 9A and 9B and south Florida lies within planting zone 10. Where you live will determine which plants will grow best in your area. North Florida experiences annual frosts and freezes, as do northern regions of central Florida. These cold temperatures are uncommon in southern areas of the state allowing for more tropical plantings.
Plants such as the coconut palm will grow well in southern sections of central and south Florida, but will not tolerate the annual cold snaps in the northern sections of the state. Plants such as hydrangea can tolerate the cooler temperatures of north and north-central Florida but will die in the consistently warm temperatures of the southern regions.
How far you live from the coast will also determine which plant will grow best in your landscape. Those living directly on the coast suffer a constant barrage of salt-spray, which affects the growth of plants. What will grow planted even a few blocks from the coastline might not be hardy planted directly in landscapes along the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico shorelines.
Plants range from low to medium to having a high salt tolerance, and gardeners should consider this when selecting plants for their landscape. Many plants will grow in a salty environment such as the tropical almond, bottlebrush, natal plum, lirope, coconut palm and daylilies. Plants such as gardenia, wax begonia, butterfly bush and camellia have a lower tolerance to salt and are good inland plantings.
Soil and Water
The majority of Florida's soil is sandy. Only in swampy wetlands will the soil retain water and have any organic matter. This requires the gardener to add compost, peat or some other organic material to the planting site to add nutrients to the soil. The only way to get around this is to plant native varieties as they are accustomed to Florida's sandy soil, or plants that thrive in hot, sandy conditions. Native plants are usually hardy and require less maintenance than most non-native plant species. Plants are graded in how drought-tolerant they are, being divided from low drought resistance to high. Using plants that are drought-tolerant, such as princess flower, Indian hawthorn, philodendron and palms, will cut down on the need to water frequently.