Brevard to Dade Counties NATIVE LANDSCAPING:Introduction
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
BEGIN A PARTNERSHIP WITH NATURE
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.
RIGHT PLANT, RIGHT PLACE
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 soil’s 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.
SOUTHEAST FLORIDA INVASIVE PLANTS
Commonly-available invasive plants that should be removed from landscapes include:
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.)
WHERE TO GET NATIVE PLANTS
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