When new residents move to the Sunshine State, they often comment on how vastly different the landscaping is than where they came from. This is one of the great draws of the area – the palm trees, the tropical flowers, and the unique plants which do not grow north of the frost line. The landscaping which we have become accustomed to makes many people feel as if they are on perpetual vacation, and their own home feels a bit like a resort. In order to celebrate the beauty of our region – and to help you to decorate your property in true southern style – here is a list of 4 of our favorite native Florida plants.
Not all tropical plants that you see around you are native to Florida. What defines native? Any species that has been here since the 1500s. Although nearly all plants probably traveled here via wind or bird at some point, if they have been living and thriving in Florida for 500 years, we call them native.
Florida Maple (Tree): This maple tree is not only native to this region, it offers a unique perk to transplanted residents from the north – it is one of the only Florida trees whose leaves change color when the weather cools. For those missing the foliage of the more northern states, the maple is a great choice. Its large leaves turn a reddish bronze before the brief but cool winter, and new growth also has a red tinge to it. Because the Florida maple is not nearly as tall as their relatives, they can be planted in small to medium sized yards. The tree can grow well among other trees, but landscapers recommend that you leave a grass-free bed around the trunk, as roots are close to the surface and can be damaged by mowers.
Bougainvillea (Shrub): This gorgeous shrub will stop you in its tracks with its abundant, showy flowers blooming in brilliant color. This is the grand dame of the native Florida plants, available in a range of colors from pink to purple to orange (and every shade in between). Take out word for it, every color is as spectacular as the next. They bloom on and off throughout the year – even through the winter – and therefore are a popular choice of many homeowners and landscapers. But beware! The shrub has spiky thorns that can cause quite a bit of pain, making them especially great for security around ground floor windows.
Bromeliads (Plants): As a rule, perennials do not bloom throughout the year, and can be sensitive to our cold snaps during the winter months. Still, bromeliads are tropical favorites that are worth the extra care and work – and are used in landscaping as well as in potted plants to decorate lanais, sunrooms and even home interiors that need a little sun-kissed dressing up. There are many varieties of the plant, but all have leaves arranged in a spiral design called a rosette; many of these feature an overlapping leaf base which forms a water reservoir. Popular alternate varieties include members of the pineapple family, air plants and Spanish moss.
Canna Lilies (Flowers): These native Florida plants are not true lilies, but are strikingly beautiful nonetheless. The unique color combinations and patterns are never quite the same from flower to flower, and they make for diverse and lovely flower beds. Blooms are typically red, orange, yellow, white or deep rose; while leaves and foliage range from deep green to burgundy, blue-green, or even striped with red-bronze or white. But beware, these lilies know they are special and tend to exhibit a real diva personality. That is, they are high maintenance and generally only a good choice for the most avid of gardeners. Anyone who spends hours in their garden will love these special flowers.
We’ve barely scratched the surface on some of the beautiful native Florida plants you can choose from. But once you decide, plan a trip to Big Earth Landscape Supply. We have all the fertilizers, mulch, compost and tools you need to grow a beautiful garden here in South Florida.