Florida Native Shrubs
We've put together a list of several
native Florida shrubs. These are really tough, hardy and yet attractive
plants that will do very well, once established. While they're all
'drought-tolerant', all plants do better with a reliable water source.
Most of them like the sun, a couple prefer
more shade, and they all do well in most of our area's 'soil-types'.
While there is more than one variety of Buttonwood, the Silver
Buttonwood is the most showiest and therefore the most popular!
Native to coastal areas from northern Florida to western Africa (it’s
fruit clusters float) Silver Buttonwood is salt tolerant, plus it
thrives in soils that are acidic to alkaline, clayey to sandy, and dry
to wet. This is one tough plant, except, it doesn't like frost!
Usually grown as a low branching shrub with several trunks, the Silver
Buttonwood, with a little ‘persuasion’, can become a handsome
vase-shaped tree that can be maintained from 8 to 12 feet tall - or even
Moderate to fast growing and preferring full to part sun, you’ll find
them planted throughout central and southern Florida in and around
parking lots and along streets. They’re great as an informal hedge, a
clipped hedge, or as a specimen tree. Silver buttonwood also makes an
outstanding beachfront tree where it will become contorted and twisted
as it adapts to the constant wind and spray.
its big rounded leathery leaves, which grow 8 to 10 inches in
diameter, on upright branches the Sea Grape is an interesting and
handsome shrub. The have red veining and the new growth has a
In late summer female shrubs produce clusters of fruit that resemble
grapes (hence the plant's name) that start out green and ripen to
purple. When ripe, the fruit is very sweet, providing tasty treats
for people, birds and squirrels. You can make a delicious jelly or
wine from them as well.
Salt and drought-tolerant, once established, Sea Grapes prefer full
to partial sun. Being very wind tolerant the Sea Grape can be used
as a windbreak, plus they provide habitat for wildlife. Plus, they
can grow really big with wide ‘outstretched-branches’ however they
grow at a moderate rate so you can control their size. A mature
shrub can be kept to about 6 to 8 feet tall and wide. Or it can be
pruned to tree-form - multi-trunk or, with some effort, single trunk
- and left to grow to 20 or 25 feet.
Once it's mature, you can water it just during dry spells, if you
prefer, but regular watering will keep the plant looking its best.
Cold hardy and fast growing, Wax Myrtle can take some really tough
conditions. It’s salt-tolerant therefore perfect along the beaches.
Also Wax Myrtle can take ‘wet-feet’ so it can also be used along
ponds or in ‘wet’ low-lying areas. And it prefers full to partial
sun. However, since it is a fast growing plant the stems tend to be
more brittle and you might want to avoid planting them in a windy
area. Though this plant can put up with a bit of dry weather,
they'll do best with regular irrigation.
The dense, fine-textured foliage can be nicely manicured to create a
more formal look, or let the plant grow into its natural upright,
bushy form. While Wax Myrtle can be kept trimmed to 5 or 6 feet tall
and wide, it can also be left
to grow much larger - 20 feet or more.
Birds are attracted to the small fruit produced by the female plant.
Small spring flowers are followed by clusters of tiny fruit that
matures in fall and often lasts on the plant throughout the winter.
smaller rounded, shiny green leaves and red-tipped new growth the
Cocoplum makes a terrific hedge or privacy screen. While the
Cocoplum can grow to about 15 feet, if you let them, most of the
time they're kept trimmed to around 4 feet.
The plant produces small white flowers, followed by fruit that's
often made into jelly...or as an attraction in a wildlife garden.
Moderately salt tolerant, the Cocoplum also prefers full to part
Once established, Cocoplum will tolerate a moderate amount of
drought with watering only during dry spells, though it does better
with regular irrigation.
A very fast-growing evergreen the Firebush Shrub produces showy clusters
of bright reddish-orange or scarlet tubular flowers that are about 0.75
in long thru out the year. Even the flower stems are red.
Once established this sun – to partial sun – loving plant is drought
tolerant. However, as with other ‘drought-tolerant’ plants it does best
with regular watering.
Used as a hedge or as a stand-alone shrub Firebush can easily be kept at
around 6 feet tall, however under the right conditions it could
top-out at 15 feet.
The clusters of fruit are also showy. Each fruit is a juicy berry with
many small seeds, ripening from green to yellow to red and finally to
black and is a valuable addition to butterfly and hummingbird gardens.
Firebush is salt tolerant and will grow in any kind of soil as long as
it is well drained.
Finally, our native Firebush has a dwarf cousin. The Dwarf Firebush is
shorter, produces lighter colored flowers and has smoother leaves. This
variety is not a native.
of the best wildlife plants for our area, Simpson Stopper will grow
in the sun or shade and is cold hardy, salt tolerant, plus
drought-tolerant - once established, and grows slowly so maintenance
is at a minimum.
In a sunny location the leaves grow dense and the plant takes on a
In more shade the foliage is less dense, showing off the attractive
smooth bark on the trunk.
Although drought-tolerant once established, Simpson's Stopper does
better with regular watering.
You can keep this shrub sheared to 6 to 8 feet as a hedge or let it
grow larger (as much as 20 feet) as a multi-branched small tree.
Small white fragrant blossoms appear on and off all year, which
attracts butterflies. And, after that comes the fruit...bright red
berries that are a favorite of the mockingbird, blue jay, and
Wild coffee, one of the lesser known native Florida plants, is a
great shrub with glossy deep green leaves marked with deep grooves,
giving the foliage a unique texture, plus it produces berries
similar to coffee beans. Though the "beans" contain no caffeine,
they can be roasted and consumed as a coffee-like beverage.
The berries appear in summer after small white spring flowers and
ripen to red.
The flowers attract butterflies and the berries attract birds,
making the plant a great addition to a wildlife garden.
Wild Coffee is a fast-growing evergreen shrub that can be kept 5 to
8 feet tall and while it can grow in sun or shade they seem to do
best in partial to full shade. It tends to stay smaller in sun,
larger in shade with a richer deep green color and a bit more open
Moderately salt-tolerant Wild Coffee is more cold-sensitive than
some other natives and may need a sheltered location.
American Beautyberry is deciduous shrub that grows 6-8’ and prefers
well-drained soil in a semi-shady area such as under tall pines.
Their natural habitat is ‘relatively-open’ woodlands and dry
hammocks. You can find them in the upland area of Sawgrass Lake Park
as well as the Boyd Hill Preserve.
Incredibly drought tolerant Beautyberry requires well drained soil
and actually does better without a lot of fertilizer. This shrub
often ‘volunteers’ new plants to the landscape, sometimes with such
‘vigor’ that it’s considered a weed!
In the spring, tiny lilac-colored flowers appear which are held in
clusters where the leaf joins the stem. Then the flowers turn into
small ¼” berries in an incredible shade of “metallic-purple” by late
summer / early fall. These berries are packed tightly together in
clusters that encircle the stem.
The colorful berries last long into winter and are eaten by a
variety of birds. However, they don't seem to be the most delicious
food source around though, they tend not to be eaten until late
winter when they are all shriveled into beautyberry raisins.