The thought of insects invading their flower beds might keep some gardeners awake at night. Many insects, however, play an essential role in plant reproduction. Bees, wasps, butterflies and moths--as well as hummingbirds and bats--feed on flower nectar. In the process, they transfer pollen from flower to flower, fertilizing the plants so they produce seed. Many of Florida's native plants are especially attractive to pollinators.
Hummingbirds can't resist funnel-shaped red flowers with curved petals that provide easy access to nectar, says J. Stein Carter, associate professor of biology at the University of Cincinnati's Clermont College. Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is a native Florida plant that meets the description. This trailing woody vine produces 2-inch coral-red and yellow tubular blossoms and red-orange berries that attract songbirds.
While coral honeysuckle thrives in Florida's wilds, it also does well as a garden planting. It prefers full sun--six or more hours per day--and needs a fence, trellis or other shrubbery for support. Winter pruning increases spring bloom. Drought-tolerant, coral honeysuckle needs only light fertilization.
The sky-blue and pink-tinged blossoms of Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum), says Floridata, have a hue that almost defies imagination. Growing wild in Florida's wetlands, this perennial will keep a garden bright with butterflies during its autumn bloom. Mistflower, however, can be invasive if not controlled. While keeping it on the dry side reduces flowering, it also discourages the plant from spreading.
Flowers appear as flat clusters on 1- to 2-foot stems. Sow the seeds in the fall, or divide existing plants in the spring. Mistflower does well in sun or partial shade and makes a pleasant display when allowed to naturalize in a large area. Its flowers work very well in arrangements.
Lanceleaf tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata), a tough plant tolerant of the poorest soil, grows wild throughout Florida. Its bright yellow daisy-like blooms on stiff 2-foot stems bloom throughout the summer. Lanceleaf tickseed attracts butterflies, bees and wasps. Its long vase life makes its flowers excellent choices for floral arrangements.
Lanceleaf tickseed grows easily from seed. Sow it in a sunny spot in early spring. Poor soil will produce more flowers and fertile soil, more foliage. While it tolerates short dry spells, keeping the plant moderately watered brings the best results.
Swamp Rose Mallow
A perennial shrub, swamp rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutosibiscus) grows wild in Florida's marshes. Reaching a height of 7 feet, it dies back each winter. The mallow's flowers, with pink or white petals and crimson throats, can be 6 inches across when open.
While the shrub does best in damp areas, it performs well as a container plant with regular watering and feeding. Rose mallow also makes an attractive patio screening plant. It likes full sun, rich soil and a layer of mulch to prevent its roots from drying.