Native trees are ideal for households that want low-maintenance plants. They have very high survival rates and rarely suffer from pest problems. Native trees are also vital to local ecosystems, offering food and shelter for wildlife. Below are six native tree species we love to use in our Coral Gables landscape designs.
Geiger Tree - Cordia sebestena
A small and hardy flowering tree that attracts hummingbirds.
Planting: Geiger tree grows in full sun to partial shade. It does best in a well-draining or dry area.
Care: Geiger tree is highly drought and salt tolerant and will only need occasional watering in the dry season. It should be fertilized once or twice a year. The Geiger beetle is occasionally a nuisance to the tree, but the trees generally grow out of it and recover.
Use: Its bright orange flowers make it ideal as a stand-alone tree or as a background for a butterfly garden. If paired with other flowing plants, one can create a dazzling display of colors with Geiger tree as the centerpiece.
Final Height x Spread: 25 feet x 15 ft
Gumbo Limbo - Bursera simaruba
Its beauty and ruggedness make the Gumbo Limbo a Coral Gables landscape design classic. Known as the “tourist tree” because its red and peeling bark resembles the skin of a burnt tourist.
Planting: Does best when planted in sun or light shade. It needs a spot with good drainage but also considerable watering when first installed. Place 15 to 20 feet away from the house.
Care: Practically no care is needed for this ideal native. They are drought, salt, and hurricane resistant.
Use: With long, thick branches, a mature Gumbo Limbo is an ideal shade tree. It can become the centerpiece of any large South Florida garden. A gumbo-limbo will eventually provide summer fruit to mockingbirds, vireos, and parrots.
Final Height x Spread: 30 – 40 feet x 20 feet
Live Oak – Quercus virginiana
An imposing yet graceful tree that gifts generous shade. When fully grown, its magnificence is unrivaled. A common sight in many Coral Gables landscape designs.
Planting: A live oak needs full sun and room in a well draining location. Should be placed farther than 15 feet from the house and other big trees. Produces leaf litter than can overwhelm nearby pools. Can be planted at any time of the year.
Care: When young, live oaks require regular watering and fertilization in the spring, summer, and autumn. Once established, they require minimal attention.
Use: A single tree will become the centerpiece of any landscape design in Coral Gables. A wildlife-favorite, expect squirrels and birds to frequent your live oak. Can act as a windbreaker during hurricanes if properly established.
Final Height x Spread: 50 feet x 80 feet
Mahogany - Swietenia mahagoni
Casting a light shade, Mahogany is perfect for those who want grass or other plants underneath.
Planting: Needs plenty of sunlight and room to spread. Place 20 feet away from buildings and 5 to 6 feet from sidewalks and curbs. Must be watered every day for the first few weeks. Apply fertilizer within the first six weeks of planting.
Care: For the first two years following planting, fertilize once in March and once in June. Afterwards Mahogany will require minimal attention. They are highly salt, drought, and wind tolerant.
Use: Mahogany is a fantastic tree to combine with other greenery as its light shade allows other plants to grow underneath. Can plant with grass to make it a stand-alone tree, or can pair with tropical plants such as bamboo and oleander to create a vibrant garden forest.
Final Height x Spread: 45 feet x 40 feet
Pigeon Plum – Coccoloba diversifolia
The Swiss army knife of native trees: versatile, hardy, and elegant. Its spring flowers attract an abundance of wildlife.
Planting: Can be planted in sun or shade alongside other trees. Does best on moist, well-drained soils. Water thoroughly during planting. Should be placed 6 feet from any sidewalk and 10 feet from any building. Take note that fallen fruit may create a litter problem, so place away from areas you intend to keep spotless.
Care: Fertilize and water consistently for first two years following planting. Afterwards, zero maintenance is needed. Pest, wind, and drought resistant.
Use: Can be used as a stand-alone tree along a sidewalk or fence, though we prefer to plant it with other foliage. Blends in very well with coastal plants. Beauty of pigeon plum is most evident when there is accent lighting underneath, as its dense leaves and elegant bark make it stand out come nighttime. Expect many birds when the fruit ripens.
Final Height x Spread: 20 – 40 feet x 15 – 20 feet
Sea Grape - Coccoloba uvifera
An exotic looking native that is sure to make your garden stand out. Naturally occurs as a shrub, but can be shaped into a tree.
Planting: Place in full sun or partial shade and well-draining soil. Must be watered every day for first few weeks following planting. Apply fertilizer four to six weeks after planting.
Care: Fertilize once in March and once in June for the first two years. Will not need watering or fertilizing once established. Manual pruning of Sea Grape branches will be necessary if one wants it to maintain a straight trunk and even branching. No pruning is necessary for a natural look.
Use: Excellent at providing privacy, Sea Grape is an ideal hedge or windbreak. When utilized as a small tree it makes a good backdrop for smaller plants. It can also be a central piece for a wildlife garden. Birds and squirrels love Sea Grapes, and its fruit can also be used to make a delicious jelly.
Final Height x Spread: 25 feet x 20 feet