No other state can match Florida when it comes to the number of native plants suitable for home landscapes, says the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Department of Environmental Horticulture 's Professor Emeritus R.J. Black. These plants range from delicately flowered ground covers to majestic trees. Because they're naturally adapted to Florida's climate and soils, and resistant to Florida's insect pests, they mean less work for the Sunshine State's gardeners.
Tenpetal thimbleweed (Anemone berlandieri) is a low--6 to 14 inches high--buttercup family perennial. A sparsely leaved plant, it has stems that bear single white or purple-blue flowers between February and April. Blooms are up to 1 1/2 inches wide. In spite of its name, tenpetal thimbleweed lacks petals; instead it has colored sepals (bud-protecting bracts). Plants are dormant by summer. Use tenpetal thimbleweed in partly shady locations with well-drained soil. They like sand or chalky clay. Ingesting large quantities of any part of this plant is toxic, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) is a woody vine native to Florida's moist woods, thickets and riverbanks. Climbing up to 30 feet, it has compound, glossy green leaves. In May and June, its new branches have dense, hanging clusters of fragrant, 1-inch flowers. They may be white, pink, blue, lavender or purple. Brown seedpods follow them. Train deer-resistant American wisteria to climb walls, columns or arbors, suggests the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It performs best in rich, moist, neutral or slightly acidic (pH between 6.8 and 7.2) loam. Plants appreciate southern or southwestern exposure and protection from cold winds.
White fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus) is a deciduous, spring blooming tree native to Florida' s damp woods and thickets. Growing between 15 and 30 feet high, it has white-banded, light gray bark and shiny, narrow deep green leaves. In April and May, before or as its foliage emerges, white fringetree has fragrant white flowers with strap-like petals. Blooms occur in 4- to 6-inch, hanging clusters. On female trees, they give way to bunches of small, dark blue fruit. Wildlife feed on the tree's twigs, leaves and berries. Plant white fringetree, advises the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, in partial shade. It needs moist, loose sandy soil.
A broadleaf evergreen shrub, Florida hobblebush (Agarista populifolia) belongs to the heath family. Standing 8 to 12 feet high, it thrives on Florida's wet, shady hammocks. Red-tinged when new, its dense, glossy green leaves contrast well with the plant's fragrant, white May and June flower clusters. Foliage remains green through the winter. Use this shrub, suggests the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, for soil erosion control on shady stream banks. It needs rich, cool, moist acidic soil,