Home & Garden Garden 20 Florida Native Plants That Thrive in the State’s Heat and Humidity By Katherine Gallagher Katherine Gallagher Writer Chapman University Katherine Gallagher is a writer and sustainability expert. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Chapman University and a Sustainable Tourism certificate from the GSTC. Learn about our editorial process Updated June 21, 2022 Share Twitter Pinterest Email DrWD40 / Getty Home & Garden Planting Guides Indoor Gardening Urban Farms Insects When it comes to natural resources, Florida’s climate is one of its most important assets. Nicknamed the “Sunshine State,” Florida boasts a humid subtropical climate in the north and central sections along with a tropical climate throughout a majority of the south. Florida native plants are already well suited for its climate and soil conditions, so they usually have the ability to thrive without additional irrigation or fertilization. Even better, since the state’s native plants evolved alongside its native wildlife, they’re able to enhance and nurture the biodiversity there, including important pollinators that are necessary to Florida’s plant and food production. Here are 20 native plants to include in your Florida landscape. Some of the plants on this list are toxic to pets. For more information about the safety of specific plants, consult the ASPCA's searchable database. 1 of 20 Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) Csaba_F / Getty Images The American beautyberry plant is known for its striking purple berries that grow in clusters on its branches. These berries represent an important food source for many bird species, while the foliage is a favorite of white-tailed deer. The perennial shrubs can reach heights of 9 feet when grown in the right soil and moisture conditions. USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 11.Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.Soil Needs: Well-draining. 2 of 20 Yellow Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) PatrikStedrak / Getty Images The yellow jessamine is native to the Southern states of the country. With its trumpet-shaped yellow flowers and sweet scent, this vine blooms from February to May in small clusters with evergreen foliage. The stems can exceed 20 feet, climbing over trellises and fences to provide dense coverage all year round. It's deer and rabbit resistant. However, it's important to note that all parts of the plants are highly toxic and the sap may cause skin irritation, so it's important to keep children away from it. USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 9.Sun Exposure: Full sun.Soil Needs: Moist, well-draining. 3 of 20 Estern Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) David J. Stang / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0 Also sometimes called wild red columbine or little lanterns, these branching perennials grow up to 2 feet tall and show off their drooping, bell-like flowers from mid-spring to early summer. Also sometimes called unique blooms come in colors of red, yellow, orange, and multi-colors, often growing in two separate layers with star-shaped petals on the back and rounded petals in front. USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9.Sun Exposure: Full sun.Soil Needs: Well-draining and not too dry. 4 of 20 Buttonsage (Lantana involucrata) yogesh_more / Getty Images The densely clustered flowers—known for strong fragrances and whitish-lavender tones—of the buttonsage plant are found along coastal areas and pinelands from the west of Florida to the Keys. They’re a great addition to pollinator friendly gardens as the nectar is attractive to a wide range of butterfly species. USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 11.Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.Soil Needs: Sandy, well-draining. 5 of 20 Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) Ana Jecmenica / EyeEm / Getty Images Native to dry, prairie ecosystems and known for their brightly colored petals with dark contrasting centers, these biennial wildflowers require minimal care and bloom for weeks at a time. Black-eyed Susans really come alive in August, adding cheerful pops of color to personal gardens and open fields alike. USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9.Sun Exposure: Full sun.Soil Needs: Neutral pH and well-draining. 6 of 20 Firebush (Hamelia patens var. patens) Kevin Presley Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 Firebush plants (also known as scarlet bush) grow perennial clusters of long tubular flowers in the summer and berries in the fall. These vibrant shrubs are fast-growing and attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. There are several varieties of Hamelia patens, and the Hamelia patens var. patens is the one that's native to South Florida and can be identified by its smaller, redder flowers. The glabra variety of Hamelia patens is not native to Florida and has more yellow blooms. Frequently called African Firebush or Dwarf Firebush, conservationists recommend you avoid planting this variety in your Florida garden, because it can hybrize with the native shrub. USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 11.Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.Soil Needs: Well-draining. 7 of 20 Elliott’s Aster (Symphyotrichum elliottii) ntitelbaum / iNaturalist / CC BY-SA 4.0 Herbaceous perennials that typically bloom in the late fall, Elliott’s aster are compound flowers made up of light purple petals and yellow floret centers. They’re also known to overtake gardens as they spread quickly (and grow to 4 feet high), so it’s always a good idea to keep it pruned and controlled. USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 11.Sun Exposure: Full sun.Soil Needs: Moist, sandy. 8 of 20 Powderpuff Mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa) Yulia Arsenova / Getty Images Powderpuff mimosas are often used as ground cover since they spread very quickly and form a deep root system that helps control erosion and maintains drought tolerance. Their puffy, round flowers bloom from the spring until fall, and its bright green leaves look like ferns and fold up when they’re touched. Some gardeners even choose to use these plants as a turf replacement by keeping them mowed. USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 10.Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.Soil Needs: Sandy, well-draining. 9 of 20 Leavenworth’s Tickseed (Coreopsis leavenworthii) DrWD40 / Getty Tickseed plants have small yellow flowers, and alternate or opposite leaves. Some of these plants may bloom year-round but mainly in May, June, and July. The 12 species of Coreopsis that are native to Florida are collectively known as the state wildflower. The Leavenworth's tickseed, also called a common tickseed, is almost entirely endemic to Florida. USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 11.Sun Exposure: Full sun.Soil Needs: Slightly moist, well-draining. 10 of 20 Swamp Mallow (Hibiscus coccineus) Sergio Piumatti / EyeEm / Getty Images Also known as the scarlet rosemallow or wild red mallow, the swamp mallow looks similar to a small hibiscus with divided leaves and shiny petals. The flowers grow to over 6 inches in width and bloom late in the season over a long period in the summer. It's a freshwater plant that doesn't tolerate any saltwater. USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9.Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.Soil Needs: Very wet soil. 11 of 20 Bahama Cassia (Senna mexicana var. chapmanii, Cassia bahamensis) Diana Robinson / Getty Also known as Chapman’s wild sensitive plant, fast-growing Bahama cassias are pruned into either shrubs or trees, blooming usually in the late summer to fall in their native state of Florida. Their upright blossoms are bright and showy, with feathery leaves and a shallow root system. These plants are commonly found near mangrove forest edges along the coast as they are extremely salt-tolerant. They attract a range of butterflies. USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11.Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.Soil Needs: Sandy, well-draining. 12 of 20 Coralbean (Erythrina herbacea) seven75 / Getty Images Part of the pea family and native to tropical climates, the coralbean is a thorny annual that grows up to 6 feet. The leaves are scattered along the stems that are prickly underneath. The flowers are tubular and grow in scattered clusters on the upper portions of the stems, blooming primarily in the spring. USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 11.Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.Soil Needs: Sandy, well-draining. 13 of 20 Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera semperviren) Erica Gomez / Getty Images These vines are a favorite for pollinators thanks to their long tubular flowers with long stamens full of pollen. Their glossy, semi-evergreen leaves grow in an oblong shape and while they are climbers, they aren’t necessarily known for being too aggressive. Once the bloom has ended, they’re replaced by small, bright red berries. USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 11.Sun Exposure: Full sun.Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-draining. 14 of 20 White Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus) RichieChan / Getty Images With clusters of fragrant, white flowers that hang down about 4 to 6 inches long, white fringetrees grow in either shrubs or small trees of 15 to 30 feet. They’re one of the last trees in Florida to bear new leaves in the spring, which are dark green and glossy in contrast to their gray and white trunks. USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9.Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.Soil Needs: Well-draining. 15 of 20 Florida Anise (Illicium floridanum) seven75 / Getty Images An evergreen shrub or tree that tolerates heavy shade and moist locations, the Florida anise is both fast-growing and low-maintenance. Growing as tall as 15 feet, these plants enjoy habitats that are wet, swampy, and wooded with acidic soil, but can still tolerate full sun if kept adequately watered. USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 10.Sun Exposure: Full sun to full shade.Soil Needs: Acidic, moist. 16 of 20 Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) Alan Cressler / Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center These short-lived perennial plants grow thick clusters of light orange, tubular flowers that emerge in late spring, attracting butterflies and other pollinators. A member of the milkweed family, they tend to grow inland as they have low to no tolerance of salty wind or salt spray. USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9.Sun Exposure: Full sun.Soil Needs: Dry, well-draining. 17 of 20 Railroad Vine (Ipomoea pes-caprae) KenWiedemann / Getty Images Perennial, fast-growing railroad vines also go by the name beach morning glory, since they open up in the morning and last just one day at a time. With funnel shaped flowers that come in purple or pink, these flowers grow naturally in most of the coastal counties. USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 12.Sun Exposure: Full sun.Soil Needs: Sandy. 18 of 20 Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) igaguri_1 / Getty Images Oakleaf hydrangeas grow pyramid-shaped clusters of flowers that bloom in the late spring and summer, slowly turning from bright white to pink or purple as they develop. Their leaves are large, slightly fuzzy, and shaped like oak leaves. The deciduous shrubs grow anywhere from 4 to 8 feet tall and their flowers are especially known for their long-lasting qualities. USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9.Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.Soil Needs: Rich, well-draining. 19 of 20 Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus) AdamAntonio / Getty Images Both salt and drought tolerant, the buttonwood tree is popular to grow in coastal areas and as a screening or privacy plant. These trees are native to the entirety of Florida but are best suited for the southern parts of the state. They reach up to 40 feet in height and grow similarly to a mangrove plant. USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11.Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.Soil Needs: Gravel, sand, well-draining. 20 of 20 Gumbo-limbo Tree (Bursera simaruba) Mlyons / Getty Images The gumbo-limbo tree is native to tropical regions throughout the Americas from southern Florida to Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela. It’s a semi-evergreen tree that can reach 60 feet in height, with soft wood and copper-colored bark. Although their growing zones are limited, they’re one of the state’s most wind-tolerant trees. USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11.Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.Soil Needs: Well-draining. Avoiding Non-Native Plants To check if a plant is considered invasive in your area or a threat to native species, go to the National Invasive Species Information Center or speak with your regional extension office or local gardening center. Researchers Thought These Metallic Blue Bees Were Extinct — Until They Saw Them in Florida Correction—June 21, 2022: A previous version of this article included several photos of incorrect plant varieties. It also misstated that the Leavenworth's tickseed is more abundant in North Florida. View Article Sources Russ, Karen; Polomski, Robert F. “CAROLINA JESSAMINE.” Home & Garden Information Center, Clemson Cooperative Extension, Clemson University. Hammer, Roger. “The Hamelia Mess.” Florida Association of Native Nurseries. “Firebush.” Florida Wildflower Foundation.