Native plants are ideal for households that want a low-maintenance landscape. They have very high survival rates and rarely suffer from pest problems. Native plants are also vital to local ecosystems, offering food and shelter for wildlife. Below are five native plant species we love to use in our South Florida landscape designs.
Coontie - Zamia integrifolia
Coontie is the ideal low-maintenance shrub for Miami and Broward landscape designs. As the only cycad native to North America, this unique looking shrub will add a fine-textured look to any garden.
Planting: Extremely adaptable, Coontie tolerates full sun to full shade. Place 2 feet away from structures and 3 feet away from other plants. Adapts to a variety of well-draining soils.
Care: Fertilize three times a year - spring, summer, and fall. Will not require trimming apart from the occasional dead branch. It is salt and drought-tolerant once established.
Use: Coontie is one of the most versatile plants in our arsenal. We like to place it bordering outdoor structures, such as mailboxes, patios, and driveways. It can also be used in mass plantings along areas needing some fullness. The most common way we use Coontie is surrounding the trunks of trees and palms, as it is one of the only fine-textured plants to thrive in the shade.
Gumbo Limbo - Bursera simaruba
Its beauty and ruggedness make the Gumbo Limbo a South Florida 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
Coral Honeysuckle - Lonicera sempervirens
A native vine that can make any fence or trellis pop, the Coral Honeysuckle is a versatile hummingbird favorite.
Planting: Does best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade. It will handle a variety of soils. Water regularly after planting. Care: Once established Coral Honeysuckle will not require much maintenance. It is drought tolerant and pest-free. Does not require fertilization. If used as a vine you can prune it regularly to help direct it. Use: Coral Honeysuckle is perfect for trellises and fences. It can also be planted as a groundcover.
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. They 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
Black-eyed Susan - Rudbeckia hirta
A hardy Florida native that is a favorite for bees, this small wildflower is a perfect addition to any pollinator garden.
Planting: Prefers full sun. Like other plants in this list, Black-eyed Susan can tolerate partial shade but will produce less flowers. They do well in a variety of well-draining soils, including sandy soils. Water regularly after planting.
Care: Black-eyed Susan is very low maintenance. It does not require any fertilization. Though short lived, Black-eyed Susan drops many seeds during its lifespan, ensuring there will be new plants to replace those that die. It is rarely bothered by pests and diseases.
Use: Black-eyed Susan forms a wonderful mound of foliage topped with its bright flowers, so we like to give it its own space in garden beds. Place next to green shrubs or small flowering plants to create a palette of color.