Florida Native Plant Society

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Florida Native Plant Society


Southeast Region

Atlantic Coast Species

Brevard to Dade Counties

Plants native to Florida are not the same as plants introduced from other places. Native plants provide conservation benefits that others rarely measure up to. When you select plants adapted to your growing conditions, they require very little attention once they are fully established. They will not need additional water and fertilizer to thrive, nor will they need pesticides to cope with typical insect pests. They also are the plants that will literally bring life to your landscape. Native plants form the only real foundation for Florida’s butterflies, bees, and other pollinators, hummingbirds, songbirds, and other interesting wildlife. Living landscapes connect us to the real world, and create a sense of wonder in what would otherwise be sterile and uninteresting. You will not be limited in your choices or aesthetics. There are hundreds of wonderful plants to choose from.

This brochure details some of the easiest-to-grow species native to your area. Also listed are resources to help you locate and use these plants most effectively. You may wish to join your local chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society. They host monthly meetings and field trips and provide an excellent resource to share information and answer questions.

Craig N. Huegel

Author of Native Wildflowers and Other Groundcovers for Florida Landscapes, and other titles


Different plants evolved to thrive in each light and moisture niche in the natural landscape. Once they become established in the right light and moisture zone, they require minimal ongoing maintenance. You should select plants for their future size at maturity to reduce pruning chores and allow them to flower and bear fruit. This right match of light, moisture, and size is the key to sustainable native landscaping. Everything about your climate, the local insects, the birds, the butterflies, and other wildlife, then conspire to create a fascinating landscape that is largely self-sustaining.

Use this brochure to select a "starter set" of native plants known to grow well in your region. Look at the Resources to find hundreds of additional species. Begin now or continue creating a landscape that helps the planet and expresses a natural partnership between the earth and ourselves.


  • Match native plants to the light, moisture, and size of the particular planting site.

  • On the reverse, 6 to 9 starter plants are recommended for each light and moisture zone.

  • Most yards have SUN, PART SUN, and SHADE with some large areas and some small.

  • A water feature, swale, or container garden can add a WET zone where there is none.


  • Select plants that fit the aesthetic and physical space at their mature size.

  • Usually very old plants in the South Florida tend toward the maximum sizes shown.

  • Allow plants to grow naturally without pruning to manifest their natural form and flower.

  • A light and artful pruning respects the species' natural form and compliments nature.

  • Hurricanes and fire are nature's pruning; some species do well with this drastic cut-back.


  • SUN is more than 6 hours of midday sun, perhaps with shadow only early or late.

  • SHADE is little or no midday sun, but some softer morning and evening sunlight.

  • PART SUN is the zone in between with fewer hours (perhaps 3 to 6) of direct sunshine.

  • Observe the shadows around structures and trees to identify your areas of light.

  • Your zones of light suggest areas for plant groupings based on their light preferences.


  • Watering new plantings too little and too late is the most common reason new plants die.

  • Water immediately and daily, tapering gradually to weekly until roots take hold.

  • Some large containered shrubs and trees need a year or more of regular weekly irrigation.

  • A weekly timer and drip irrigation conserves water and frees the gardener.

  • Drought tolerant plants cope with longer dry spells and establish roots to reach moisture.

  • Even well established plants may appreciate or require water during long dry spells.

  • To confirm your soils current moisture, dig a test hole about two feet deep.

  • WET is poorly drained, seasonally ponding, near open water, or wet to the touch.

  • MOIST is an average soil that usually feels damp or moist at the bottom of the hole.

  • WELL-DRAINED soil provides air to the roots between watering and rainstorms.


  • Plants may eventually self-compost; add leaf mulch or use bare sand in your design.

  • Often plants native to sandy or well-drained soils do not need or want any added compost.

  • Use melaleuca, eucalyptus, pine needles, or leaf mulch; never use unsustainable cypress or peat moss.

  • Avoid chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

  • Use small native species and groundcovers between and among shrubs to reduce the weeds.

  • Plants that thrive in naturally fertile, humus, moist soils may benefit from added compost.

  • Fertilize nutrient-loving species with worm compost or other mild composted manures.

  • Organic materials like leaf compost help hold moisture in the soil for moist-soil plants.

  • Change your landscape design when you observe that a plant prefers a different place.

  • Seek out wild places for design inspiration; photograph but never take wild plants.

  • Pruning is best thought of as a gardener's partnership with nature's art; avoid geometry.


Commonly-available invasive plants that should be removed from landscapes include:

Mexican Petunia, Ruellia simplex Umbrella Tree, Schefflera actinophylla

Carrotwood Tree, Cupaniopsis anacardioides Snake Plant, Sansevieria trifasciata

Oyster Plant, Tradescantia spathacea Purple Orchid Tree, Bauhinia purpurea

Australian Pine, Casuarina equisetifolia Tuberous Sword Fern, Nephrolepis cordifolia

Shrub Verbena, Lantana camara More at: Facebook.com/IFASassessment

Pothos, Epipremnum pinnatum cv. Aureum or http://assessment.ifas.ufl.edu


Florida Native Plant Society, local Chapters and plant search: FNPS.org > Native Plants

Landscape plants, size, light, moisture, nurseries, wildlife interaction and native range:

RegionalConservation.org "Natives for Your Neighborhood" icon and "plant list" tab

Plant Status (native or invasive) and county range maps: Florida.PlantAtlas.USF.edu

Native wildflowers, seed, and how to grow them: FlaWildflower.org > Grow

The Florida Association of Native Nurseries, find local nurseries: PlantRealFlorida.org

Invasive plants, Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council: FLEPPC.org

Huegel, C. N., (2012). Native wildflowers and other groundcovers for Florida landscapes. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida. Also the Hawthorn Hill blog and other books.

Osorio, R., (2001). A gardener's guide to Florida's native plants. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida. Also a blog and articles.

Rogers, G. K., (2013). Native plants, weeds, and sustainable landscapes in south Florida. Palm Beach Gardens, FL: Palm Beach State College. Also online resources.

Stibolt, G., (2015). The art of maintaining a Florida native landscape. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida. Also the Green Gardening Matters blog and other books.

Tallamy, D. W., (2009). Bringing nature home: How you can sustain wildlife with native plants. Portland, OR: Timber Press Inc. (Not Florida-specific, but a native landscaping classic.)


RegionalConservation.org (Natives for Your Neighborhood) links many species with one or more nurseries that stock that species.

PlantRealFlorida.org lists local nurseries, professionals, species and has a grower's website.

FNPS.org lists local Chapters that have meetings, field trips, and native plant sales with like-minded native gardeners who may trade native plants.

FNPS Chapters may organize trips to shop cooperatively for hard-to-get species sold in adjacent counties. They cooperate with local nurseries to refer buyers especially when a nursery carries non-cultivar and local native species. FNPS members may propagate hard-to-get species for sale at Chapter meetings. Enthusiasts grow local species that gardeners and nurseries may later find desirable.

About 2,800 species are native to Florida. Not all are suitable for landscaping. No plant should be taken from the wild or any property. Some species are legally protected on certain public properties. Many, many native plants are imperiled. Only devoted enthusiasts now grow some local species that await discovery by you and the other early adopters of native landscaping. Growing properly-obtained species is wonderful.

Native landscaping on a large scale is in its infancy. Efforts to grow, buy, sell, and discover a greater variety of local species will make it easier for the general public to participate. Transforming more populated areas to wonderful native landscapes will help protect our natural resources and enable our rich legacy of native plant and animal species to survive.

Plants grouped by recommended sunlight-moisture zone, then tallest to shortest

Sun - Well Drained

Slash Pine

Live Oak

Bay Cedar

Pinus elliottii var. densa

Quercus virginiana

Suriana maritima

30-50'+ open crown

30-50'+ and as broad

6-10' accent shrub

Majestic canopy tree

Big horizontal limbs

Artistic dark branches

Sandy soils ideal

Epiphyte habitat

Small yellow flower

Seed eating birds

Wildlife, butterflies

Nectar and host plant


Cools and shades

Salt tolerant

Key pineland feature

Magnificent stature

Fleshy, fuzzy leaf

Leaf mulch source

Cramped roots OK

Chapman's Gayfeather


Gopher Apple

Liatris chapmanii

Opuntia humifusa

Licania michauxii

3' flower stalk

2-4' high and broad

1-5' clumping mound

Showy pink "poker"

Artful cactus form

Spreads by rhizomes

Can grow from seed

Cream to intense yellow

Cream flower cluster

Butterfly nectar

Red edible fruit

Fruit for wildlife

Pineland habitat

To root, bury pad end

Sun or part sun

Nice basal rosette

Spines protect

Edible 1" fruit

Narrowleaf Silkgrass

Wild Pennyroyal

Railroad vine

Pityopsis graminifolia

Piloblephis rigida

Ipomoea pes-caprae subsp. brasiliensis

1-3' or dense patch

1-2' soft dense mound

Low groundcover

Silky, yellow bloom

Showy lavender flower

Showy pink trumpet

Reseeds and suckers

Sandy, not too wet

Runners to 50+ feet

Rabbit forage

Butterflies and bees

Butterfly nectar

Briefly deciduous N.

Replace in 2-3 years

Excels on sand

Use local source

Propagate cuttings

Appreciates moisture

Nice cut flowers

Sun - Moist Soils

Pigeon Plum


Common Torchwood

Coccoloba diversifolia

Guapira discolor

Amyris elemifera

30-40'+ and broad

10-25'+ shrub varies

10-15'+ slender trunks

New leaves reddish

Light arching trunks

Shiny aromatic leaves

Straight flaky trunk

Glossy leaf, red berry

Edible dark 1/4" fruit

Wildlife and nectar

Bird and wildlife food

Wildlife food, butterflies

Edible purple fruit clusters

Female produces fruit

Light shade OK

Female produces fruit

Seek local varieties

Twigs burn as incense

Light shade OK

Jamaica Caper

White Indigoberry

Sea Lavender

Capparis cynophallophora

Randia aculeata

Argusia gnaphalodes

6-12' shapely shrub

6-8' artistic shrub

3-6' distinctive mound

Stunning flower and fruit

Gray bark, glossy leaf

Gray-green fuzzy

Nice shiny leaf

Prickly, slow grow

Regular water 1st yr+

Wildlife and butterfly

Wildlife and butterfly

Specimen plant

Light shade OK

Attractive potted

Sand, 10% organic

Adaptable and slow

Berries blue inside

Old leaves dangle

Salt tolerant

Light shade OK

AKA Tournefortia gnaphalodes

Dune Sunflower

Beach Verbena

Low Rattlebox

Helianthus debilis

Glandularia maritima

Crotalaria pumila

1-2' groundcover

Low spreading mats

Low creeping patches

Hearty, colorful

Profuse pink flowers

Bright flower clusters

Remove spent plants

Fast growing

Among other plants


Butterfly nectar

Butterflies and bees

Sandy, well-drained

Roots along stems

Disturbed moist sand

Obtain local variety

Avoid G. tampensis

Seedpod rattles

Likes sandy soils

Butterfly host

Sun - Wet Soils

Red Maple

Pond Apple

Common Buttonbush

Acer rubrum

Annona glabra

Cephalanthus occidentalis

30-60' erect tree

20-40' accent tree

10' shrub

Seasonally red

Along lakeshores

Cool orb flowers

Rich organic soils

Buttress roots

Wet garden ideal

Bird food and cover

Hosts epiphytes

Butterflies and wildlife

Whirligig seeds

Unsavory apple

Loved by bees

Local stock best

Formerly old trees 60'

Some pruning OK

Climbing Aster


Golden Canna

Symphyotrichum carolinianum

Ilex glabra

Canna flaccida

10' climbing wildly

6' spreading shrub

5' big erect leaves

Fast and showy

Black drupe

Showy yellow flower

Needs climbing support

Holly family

Rich organic soil

Monarch nectar

Wildlife food and bees

Skipper, moth feed

Blooms all year

Light shade OK

Swamp or wet pot

Prune spent vines

Avoid cultivars

600-year seed grew

Dense Gayfeather

Leavenworth's Tickseed

Narrowleaf Yellowtops

Liatris spicata

Coreopsis leavenworthii

Flaveria linearis

3' feathered spike

2' skinny-leaf annual

2' sturdy perennial

Fall color accent

Charming, delicate

Short, colorful

Nutrient-poor soil

Easy, self-seeds

Cut back after seed

Butterfly nectar

Butterfly nectar

Many butterflies feed

Use as cut flower

Local seed best

Easy to grow

Avoid cultivars

State wildflower

After start, drier OK

Part Sun - Well Drained

Paradise Tree

Myrtle Oak

Spanish Stopper

Simarouba glauca

Quercus myrtifolia

Eugenia foetida

30-60'+ elegant tree

15-30'+ broad mound

8-15' accent shrub

New growth orange

Forms thickets

Buffer plantings

Handsome leaf

Attractive foliage

Starburst flowers

Fruit is bird food

Butterfly host

Wildlife food

Fruitdrop messy

Wildlife food

Fragrant flower

Frost sensitive

Drought tolerant

Small fruit on stems

Saw Palmetto


Partridge Pea

Serenoa repens

Callicarpa americana

Chamaecrista fasciculata

4-6' shrubby palm

5-9' arching branches

1-3' variable form

Fan accent leaves

Showy bright berries

Easy, yellow bloom

Teeth on stiff stems

Aromatic leaves

Sun and moist OK too

Wildlife food

Birds eat berries

Birds, butterflies, bees

Butterfly host and nectar

Hearty, easy

Control seedlings

Green or bluish

Periodic cut-back OK

Attractive leaf

Part Sun - Moist Soils




Exothea paniculata

Ardisia escallonioides

Lasiacis divaricata

25-35'+ accent tree

8-15'+ hearty shrub

3-6' bamboo-like grass

Lush glossy leaves

Fragrant flower clusters

Showy black seeds

Fragrant flowers

Thick glossy leaves


Wildlife eat berries

Birds and wildlife

Buntings eat seed

Male lacks berries

Likes some shade

Gracefully arching

Bark and berry ink

Not A. elliptica, A. crenata

Easy to maintain

Remove dead canes

Wand Goldenrod

Perfumed Spiderlily

Cocoplum "Horizontal"

Solidago stricta

Hymenocallis latifolia

Chrysobalanus icaco forma Horizontal

4' flower spikes

2-3' lush strap leaves

2' tough shrub

Bright yellow pokers

Showy, fragrant flower

Lush foliage

Low basal plant

Spring to fall flower

Easy to grow


Good in rain garden

Edible plum

Easy to contain

Salt tolerant

Drought tolerant

Tall, dainty blooms

Divide bulbs

Other forms 10-15'

Part Sun - Wet Soils

Sweet-bay Magnolia

Dahoon Holly

Giant Leather Fern

Magnolia virginiana

Ilex cassine

Acrostichum danaeifolium

10-30'+ tall tree

10-30'+ upright tree

6-12' arching fronds

3" fragrant flower

Tight berry clusters

Suede-like spores

Spring-summer bloom

Female and male tree

Striking yard accent

Swallowtail host

Berry is wildlife food

Pond, lakeside

Wildlife food

Lichens and epiphytes

Brackish tolerance

Botanically "primitive"

Subtle leaf spikes

Cut dead fronds

Holiday decor

Southern Wax Myrtle

Muhly Grass


Myrica cerifera

Muhlenbergia capillaris

Crinum americanum

8-15'+ dense shrub

2-3' graceful clumps

2-3' strap-like leaves

Waxy fruits on stems

5' red-pink plumes

Showy flower for days

Only female fruits

Sunlight behind, wow

Half-day+ of sun

Butterfly host, birds

Slowly spreading

Inundation OK

Sun increases density

Divide to reduce

Evergreen except freeze

Adaptable, fast

Adaptable accent

Sphinx moth pollinator

Feeds migratory birds

Shaded - Well Drained

Virginia Creeper


Cardinal Airplant

Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Zamia integrifolia

Tillandsia fasciculata var. densispica

High-climbing vine

2-4' fern-like cycad

2' spiky clump

Covers fence or wall

Male or female cones

Red flower bracts

Aggressive, contain

Orange seed poisonous

New plants from base

Keep out of trees

Atala butterfly host

Wind dispersed seed

Dark blue bird fruit

Very slow from seed

Epiphytic or terrestrial

Beautiful foliage

Sun-moist OK too

Florida endangered

Slower in shade

Sold as Z. pumila

Reflexed wild-pine

Wild Plumbago

Florida Peperomia

Tillandsia balbisiana

Plumbago zeylanica

Peperomia obtusifolia

1' spiky clump

1' sprawling groundcover

Low large-leaf succulent

Showy red spike

Dainty white flower

Grows in leaf litter

Epiphytic on shrub/tree

Beneath sparse shrubs

Interesting spikes

No harm to host

Cassius blue host

Needs humidity, moisture

Seed or division

Trim to contain

Not frost tolerant

Threatened in FL

Healthy green leaf

Great in shaded pots

Shaded - Moist Soils


Shiny-leaved Coffee


Nectandra coriacea

Psychotria nervosa

Rivina humilis

20-30' specimen tree

4-6' understory shrub

2-4' leaf canopy

Leaf dark, aromatic

Edible red berries

Bright red berries

Lance-like leaves

Needs water to establish

Dense in right place

Drupe is bird food

Butterfly nectar, birds

Songbirds, others relish

Crimson fruit cup

Do not try coffee bean

Weedy in wrong light

Laurel wilt susceptible

Attractive ribbed leaf

Balance sun-shade

AKA Ocotea coriacea

Southern Shield Fern


Corkytem Passionflower

Thelypteris kunthii

Oplismenus hirtellus subsp. setarius

Passiflora suberosa

1-3' accent groundcover

Very low creeping grass

Healthy-green vine

Adaptable, tolerant

May spread widely

Tiny green flower

Spreading, easy pull

Persists once planted

Gulf fritillary host

Among taller plants

May fill barren shade

Zebra longwing host

Dies back with freeze

Carolina satyr host

Polite shrub climber

May survive drier

Dies back winter

May be groundcover

Shaded - Wet Soils


Swamp Milkweed

Royal Fern

Itea virginica

Asclepias incarnata

Osmunda regalis

2-8'+ slender shrub

3-5' lance-leaf herb

3-4' clumping fern

Showy cream spike

Large flowerheads

Widely spaced leaflets

Fertile organic soil

Summer blooming

Needs wet organic

Wildlife food

Many butterflies

Some tidy pruning

Avoid cultivars

Cannot go dry

Ground cut infrequently

Not native in Dade

OK with sun, too

OK with sun, too

Plant in groups

Cinnamon Fern

Swamp Fern

Lizard's Tail

Osmunda cinnamomea

Blechnum serrulatum

Saururus cernuus

3-4' specimen fern

2-4' great green fern

1-2' upright stems

Cool spore spikes

New fronds orangish

Vigorous grower

Remove old fronds

Sometimes aggressive

Showy, fragrant tassel

Airy gracefulness

Pull to contain

Food for birds

Keep moist-wet

Good in barren shade

Best in colonies

OK with sun, too

Among shrubs, trees

OK in wet pots

Sunnier places, too

Revised January 8, 2016

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