Gardeners in Florida desiring a low-maintenance landscape that thrives in hot conditions add native plants to their gardens. Florida has many species of flowering plants, shrubs and trees that are acclimated to the state's sometime harsh growing conditions. Native plants not only thrive but also are usually drought tolerant and require little or no maintenance to keep them looking their best.
Florida has many native species of both perennials and annuals. Milkweed (Asclepias), also known as butterfly weed, is a great addition to butterfly gardens. Monarchs love the bush and use it as a host plant. Fast-growing, the plant can act as an annual in cooler regions of the state, but it reseeds. It grows 2 to 5 feet in height and spreads 1 to 4 feet. Flowers are orange and yellow. Violet (Viola), also known as Johnny-jump-up, grows best in moist north and central regions, producing deep purple flowers. The plant only grows 1/2 to 1 foot tall with the same spread. Blanket flower (Gaillardia pulchella) grows wild throughout the entire state. Growing 1 to 2 feet in height with a width of 2 to 3 feet, the striking reddish/orange and yellow flowers bloom spring through summer, attracting butterflies.
From flowering to evergreen, Florida has many native species of trees that will thrive in your landscape. Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) grows best in the north and central regions of the state, reaching heights of up to 50 feet with widths of 25 feet. This evergreen attracts wildlife to its berries. Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) thrives in the entire state, living hundreds of years. Not for small gardens, the tree spreads anywhere from 60 to 120 feet and grows 40 to 80 feet tall. Wildlife uses the trees as homes and for food. Cabbage Palm (Sabal palmetto) claims fame as being the state tree of Florida, growing throughout its entirety. Salt tolerant and wind resistant, the tree grows 25 to 60 feet tall and has a width of 10 to 15 feet.
Florida has many species of native shrubs that will be hardy additions to the Florida gardener's landscape. Century plant (Agave americana) grows 6 feet tall with a width of 2 to 5 feet, depending on the cultivar. Plants are drought tolerant and their sharp spines make them unsuitable for walkway plantings. Yellow flowers produced on tall spikes sometimes reach over 10 feet tall. Beauty berry (Callicarpa americana) with its bright purple berries is a hardy addition throughout the state. Plants grow 6 to 8 feet tall with a spread of the same. Purplish flowers emerge from spring through fall, and wildlife eats the clusters of berries. Hibiscus (Hibiscus), also known as mallow, grows throughout the state, with some species acting like annuals in cooler, northern regions. Generally found in moist areas, the plants produce pinkish flowers, depending on the cultivar.