Florida’s native plants are attractive and useful in both rural and urban landscapes. Just as the word “Florida” means “flowery,” the Sunshine State could be considered America’s garden, notes Florida Plants.com. Florida has more native plants than any other state and has almost half of the tree species of North America north of Mexico. The state’s diverse climate ranges from temperate, with spring dogwoods and azaleas in north Florida, to the tropical southern area, where lush vegetation continues to grow throughout the year.
Plant life in Florida is extremely varied. Florida has more than 4,000 identified plant species, with most of them considered noninvasive, according to Floridian Nature.com. There are more than 450 native tree and shrub species.
Florida has four growing zones. North Florida experiences temperature drops similar to states farther north and winters there can be too cold for growing tropical plants. Central Florida is milder and has sandy soil, although there are some clay- and peat-based soils there. Fruits and tropical vegetables can be grown in winter if they’re protected from rare freezes. South Florida has mostly sandy soils, along with some limestone and peat aggregates, notes Florida Gardener.com. Citrus fruit and tropical plants thrive here. Tropical Florida is generally Key West, where freezes and frost rarely occur.
Camellias grow mostly in north Florida, notes Florida Plants. They produce colorful blooms and are used in landscaping, foundation plantings, hedges and background groupings. Hibiscuses are flowering shrubs found in south Florida. Most hibiscuses bloom for one day, opening early in the morning only to wilt later in the afternoon. They’re odorless, although some varieties are somewhat fragrant, notes the University of Florida. Oleanders are poisonous plants often found in Florida landscapes. They have showy white, pink, light yellow or salmon colors and leathery leaves, says Floridata.com.
It’s easy to confuse even common plants because they can appear different when growing in different regions, notes the University of Florida. An example is the frog’s-bit plant, which resembles a water hyacinth. Often, it takes a botanist to be able to make a distinction between some similar-looking plants.
Sometimes even south Florida experiences a hard freeze. When this happens delicate plants should be shielded from the frost by covering them with old sheets. Don't use plastic because when the sun does come out warmer temperatures can “cook” the plants under the plastic.