Florida gardeners have a wealth of choices when it comes to adding perennial shrubs to their gardens. The portion of the state you live in will determine which shrubs grow best in your landscape. Florida is broken into north, central and southern planting zones, and some plants that act as perennials in the southern regions will die back in cooler regions of the north. Selecting a shrub suitable for your region will assure year-round foliage and blooms.
Northern Florida gardeners have many choices in perennial shrubs that cannot tolerate southern Florida's consistently warm weather. Bamboo (Bambusa) has many cultivars, both spreading and clumping. Plants have a medium salt tolerance and height, and spreading habit depends on the choice of cultivar. For a less aggressive bamboo, select a clumping variety. Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla), also known as big leaf and French hydrangea, has a medium growth habit as well as a low tolerance to salt. White, pink or purple blooms are produced spring through summer. Plants grow 6 to 10 feet tall and wide, tolerating periodic wet conditions. Florida azalea (Rhododendron austrinum) produces an abundance of striking yellow/orange flowers in spring that attract butterflies, hummingbirds and wildlife. Plants grow 6 to 10 feet tall and spread 4 to 8 feet.
Many plants grown in both the northern and southern regions of Florida will tolerate Central Florida’s weather. Bush Allamanda (Allamanda neriifolia) is also known as bush trumpet. Plants have a low to medium salt tolerance, growing 5 to 15 feet high with a spread of 4 to 10 feet, and produce yellow trumpet-like flowers year-round. Plants flower poorly if planted in shade. Powderpuff (Calliandra) is fast-growing, reaching heights of 10 to 15 feet with a spread of 8 to 15 feet. It has a medium salt tolerance and produces red or white flowers spring through fall that resemble powder puffs. Croton (Codiaeum variegatum) is grown for its colorful foliage as the yellow or white flowers are small and insignificant. There are many cultivars with some reaching heights of 10 feet. The plant has a medium salt tolerance.
Gardeners in South Florida have many choices of heat-tolerant perennial shrubs. Ti plants (Cordyline) grow quickly, reaching heights of up to 9 feet depending on the cultivar. Flowers bloom year-round but are small and insignificant. Some cultivars have pinkish leaves, and all varieties are very salt-tolerant. Thryallis (Galphimia glauca) is also known as rain-of-gold due to its spikes of bright yellow flowers. Plants grow 5 to 9 feet tall and spread 4 to 6 feet. Hibiscus (Hibiscus), also known as mallow, has many cultivars, including native varieties. It is salt-tolerant, growing at a medium rate of speed and reaching heights of over 10 feet with the same spread, depending on the cultivar. Flowers come in a wide range of colors and attract butterflies.