13 Best Native Plants for Your Orlando Garden

Total
17
Shares
Close-up of bright red and orange blooms from a firebush plant

Orlando might be a paradise for tourists, but native plants can keep it from being hell on Earth for a lot of gardeners. Native plants are hardier, so they’re better able to tolerate the sandy soil and hot and humid summers here in Central Florida.

Advantages of Florida native plants:

  • Drought tolerant: Native plants don’t need frequent watering. 
  • Hurricane resistant: Native plants can withstand strong winds and pounding rain.
  • Low maintenance: Plant them and forget them. Well, almost. Native plants thrive in Central Florida naturally, so they won’t need much help from you to grow.

How to choose native plants for your Orlando yard:

When researching native plants, look for species suitable for Orlando’s 9b USDA hardiness zone, where the lowest temperatures are about 25 to 30 degrees. That’s what we did.

We’ve collected 13 of the best native plants for Orlando to give you a little inspiration, but these are only the tip of the iceberg — or tip of the ice plant (which is slightly better suited for South Florida than Orlando). 

1. American beautyberry (callicarpa americana)

vibrant purple berries in clusters on a beautyberry plant
Tony Alter | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

The American beautyberry shrub is practically a staple of Florida landscaping. It grows naturally throughout the state, and it’s just as used to crazy Florida weather as the locals. American beautyberry is hurricane-resistant, which means when those 100+ mile-per-hour winds blow through (knock on wood), you’ll likely find this shrub still standing and healthy. 

Aside from being durable, the American beautyberry is colorful and beneficial to wildlife thanks to its bright purple fruits. Many species of birds will visit your garden for a taste of the berries, and pollinators like bees and butterflies will love the flowers it produces before bearing fruit. 

  • Plant type: Shrub
  • Hardiness zones: 8a-10b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Loamy, sandy
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 4-8 feet

2. Carolina jessamine (gelsemium sempervirens)

Large bush with yellow flowers of Carolina jessamine
Surely Shirly | Flickr | CC0 1.0

Carolina jessamine is a lovely vine with dark green spear-shaped leaves and brilliant yellow trumpet-shaped flowers. Growing up to 25 feet long with proper care, this climbing vine is perfect for adding a touch of elegance to a trellis, arbor, fence, tree, or other landscape feature. You can grow Carolina jessamine horizontally and use it as ground cover, too, but it won’t produce as many blooms grown this way. 

Aside from providing a splash of color, Carolina jessamine will also bless your garden with a pleasant aroma. It attracts all kinds of beneficial wildlife, including hummingbirds, mockingbirds, cardinals, bees, and butterflies. 

  • Plant type: Vine
  • Hardiness zones: 8a-9b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Water needs: Medium
  • Soil: Loamy, sandy
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: Climbs up to 25 feet

3. Coral honeysuckle (lonicera sempervirens)

cluster of pink coral honeysuckle flowers
Jo Naylor | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Coral honeysuckle is another great option if you’re looking for a colorful vine. This one tends to grow wide instead of just climbing up, so it can have the appearance of a hedge if you let it grow thick on a trellis or fence. When mature, it can sprawl 9 feet wide by 15 feet tall. The coral honeysuckle produces intriguing clusters of bright red tube-shaped flowers that look delicate and tropical. 

A note on maintenance: If you decide to grow the coral honeysuckle along a trellis (which is where it looks and performs its best), you’ll have to trim it back annually. Even if you want lots of growth, you want that growth to be healthy, so it’s a good idea to remove leggy branches and old blooms as necessary. 

  • Plant type: Vine
  • Hardiness zones: 8a-10b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade, full shade
  • Water needs: Medium
  • Soil: Clay, loamy, sandy
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: Climbs 12-15 feet

4. Firebush (hamelia patens)

bright yellow and red blooms of a firebush plant
reader of the pack | Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

As you might have guessed from its common name, this tall shrub has a fiery appearance. The firebush‘s thin red flowers bloom densely on its branches, seeming to spray color in every direction. Because one bush can grow up to 10 feet tall and wide, firebush makes a great privacy hedge, especially if you want something more captivating than the usual wall of green. 

Like the American beautyberry shrub, firebush is hurricane wind-resistant from years and years of adapting to life in Florida. Keep in mind though, firebush tends to die if it freezes. If the weather forecast shows temperatures dropping below 32 degrees for a few days or nights, you’ll want to cover your firebush to protect it from frost. Central and South Florida homeowners don’t have to worry about that happening too often. 

  • Plant type: Shrub
  • Hardiness zones: 9a-11b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Water needs: Medium
  • Soil: Loamy, sandy
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: Up to 10 feet

5. Hairy leafcup (smallanthus uvedalius)

yellow hairy leafcup flowers
Fritz Flohr Reynolds | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Its common name doesn’t sound too attractive, but the hairy leafcup is actually a beautiful, dainty, bright yellow flower in the sunflower family. It typically grows 3 to 6 feet tall but can sometimes reach up to 9 feet under the right conditions. You should be able to grow hairy leafcup just about anywhere in Orlando since it thrives in sandy soils and adapts to almost any soil pH. 

So, what makes the hairy leafcup special? It blooms in late summer or early fall. When most of your other flowering landscape plants have gone to rest from the intense heat of summer, hairy leafcups will raise their golden heads to keep your garden colorful until temperatures start to drop. 

  • Plant type: Flower
  • Hardiness zones: 8a-9b
  • Sun: Partial shade
  • Water needs: Medium
  • Soil: Loamy, sandy
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 3-6 feet

6. Joe-Pye weed (eutrochium fistulosum)

close-up of pink blooms from joe-pye weed
liz west | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

This lovely lavender flower is another late bloomer, usually showing its colors in late summer. Grow several Joe-Pye weeds in a cluster, and they’ll adorn your garden with a beautiful blanket of pinkish-purple year after year. These flowers typically stand 4 to 6 feet off the ground, so they make a great background plant for flower gardens. Since they have a bit of a wild appearance, Joe-Pye weeds are best for informal or “bedhead” style gardens. 

Even though these flowers won’t need frequent watering, they do best in naturally moist areas. If you live near a body of water like a stream or pond, your garden is probably the perfect place for Joe-Pye weeds. The plants are also somewhat salt-tolerant, but that trait shouldn’t come into play too often. In Orlando, Joe-Pye weeds usually only encounter large quantities of saltwater on rare occasions, such as during a major storm. 

  • Plant type: Flower
  • Hardiness zones: 8a-10a
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Loamy, rocky, sandy
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 4-6 feet

7. Prairie iris (iris savannarum)

Anyone familiar with irises will recognize the delicate, somewhat complicated construction of the prairie iris‘s white, purple, and lavender flowers. They’re beautiful but small, growing only about 3 to 4 feet tall and a foot wide at most. Prairie irises make pretty additions to pollinator gardens since they attract bumblebees.

Despite what its name suggests, the prairie iris’s natural habitat is marshes, swamps, and other wet areas. So these flowers need lots of water. If you already have moist soil or live near a body of water, that’s a great start. Even so, keep an eye on prairie irises and be sure to water them if there’s no rain for a while.

  • Plant type: Flower
  • Hardiness zones: 8a-9b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Water needs: High
  • Soil: Loamy, sandy
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 3-4 feet

8. Rusty lyonia (lyonia ferruginea)

green leaves and translucent brown flowers of Rusty lyonia
Homer Edward Price | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Depending on your needs, you could grow the rusty lyonia as a tall shrub or small tree. The main draws of the rusty lyonia are its interesting shape and foliage, so you’ll want to plant it in a spot that will display its unique beauty for all to see.

This tree gets its name from the rust-orange color of new leaves, which grow on the tips of branches and stand out brilliantly against a backdrop of light green older leaves.

For all its exotic visuals, the rusty lyonia is reportedly easy to take care of. It needs sandy soil to thrive, which makes it perfect for Central Florida. Rusty lyonia does well in a wide range of moisture conditions, from moderately moist to extremely dry environments. 

  • Plant type: Tree
  • Hardiness zones: 8a-10b
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Water needs: Medium 
  • Soil: Sandy
  • Duration: Evergreen perennial
  • Mature height: 10-15 feet

9. Sabal palm (sabal palmetto)

close up of palm fronds form a sabal palm
Calmuziclover | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

We can’t talk about native trees in Florida without mentioning the official state tree, the sabal palm (sometimes called the cabbage palm). The sabal palm, like most palms, is drought-tolerant, low-maintenance, and hardy through cold and other harsh conditions.

With time and care, a sabal palm can grow upward of 100 feet tall. The flexible, spiky trunk withstands hurricanes extraordinarily well, which is perhaps the reason this tree has come to symbolize the (perhaps misnamed) Sunshine State.  

Interestingly, once the fronds die and begin to hang down toward the ground in a yellowish-brown cluster, they become a roosting habitat for yellow bats. You might be excited at the possibility of housing these little critters in your yard, or you might want to remove dead fronds ASAP to keep the bats at bay. You can also expect to find birds, bees, and butterflies flitting around a sabal palm tree.

Pro Tip: If you want the classic palm tree look but don’t have room for a huge sabal in your landscape, there are many small palm varieties you could try instead. You might consider the coontie palm or saw palmetto.  

  • Plant type: Palm
  • Hardiness zones: 8a-11b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade, full shade
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Loamy, sandy
  • Duration: Evergreen perennial
  • Mature height: Up to 100 feet

10. Southern wood fern (dryopteris ludoviciana)

long green stems of southern wood fern
Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 2.5

Looking for plants to grow in a shade garden or around the base of a shade tree? The southern wood fern is perfect for these conditions. It thrives in shady, moist environments.

Under the right conditions, the southern wood fern can grow into a large patch without much encouragement from a gardener. This plant has the soft, bright green, feathered fronds typical of a fern. It makes a good ground cover or backdrop for showier plants. 

You’ll find that the southern wood fern is evergreen in Orlando most of the time. It may lose its leaves if winter temperatures drop below freezing, but anyone would know that isn’t a common worry around here.

  • Plant type: Fern
  • Hardiness zones: 8a-9b
  • Sun: Partial shade, full shade
  • Water needs: Medium
  • Soil: Sandy
  • Duration: Evergreen perennial
  • Mature height: 2-4 feet

11. White fringe tree (chionanthus virginicus)

white fringe tree flowers in bright white
bobistraveling | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

When in bloom in late spring, the white fringe tree is a sight to behold with tufts of small white flowers that make the tree look almost frosted. This small to medium tree would be perfect as a standout specimen showcased in the front yard.

White fringe trees are somewhat drought-tolerant, which makes them easy to care for.

Downsides: Unfortunately, the tree is deciduous, so it sheds its flowers and leaves in fall and loses a lot of its intrigue. Also, white fringe trees are often a frequent target of pests. For example, boring insects, or “borers,” often attack these trees.

  • Plant type: Tree
  • Hardiness zones: 8a-9b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Water needs: High
  • Soil: Loamy, sandy
  • Duration: Deciduous perennial
  • Mature height: 10-20 feet

12. Yellow star anise (illicium parviflorum)

large green leaves of a yellow star anise plant
Homer Edward Price | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Yellow star anise shrubs typically grow 15 to 20 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide, so they work well as hedges and privacy screens. Their bright green leaves create a wall to block views and provide a backdrop for the tiny yellow flowers that resemble buttercups.

If you’re only looking for a single plant and not a whole hedge, these shrubs can look great as specimen plantings, too. 

The yellow star anise is a special treat for Orlando gardeners because it’s endemic to a small portion of Central Florida. Basically, that means here is the only place in North America where the shrub grows naturally. This bush is closely related to the non-native species that produces the star-anise spice, and it releases a similar aroma, which can be a nice touch for your yard. 

  • Plant type: Shrub
  • Hardiness zones: 8a-10a
  • Sun: Full shade
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Loamy, sandy
  • Duration: Evergreen perennial
  • Mature height: 15-20 feet

13. Zephyr lily (zephyranthes atamasca)

single white Zephyr lily
Doug McGrady | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

These little lilies love rain, so much so that their other name is “rainlily.” You’ll often see them blooming after showers or in very wet environments such as river floodplains. Most years, they unfold their pure white petals in late winter or early spring. 

When they aren’t in bloom, Zephyr lilies have rather plain foliage. You can make good use of them in a wildflower garden or mixed in with another ground cover plant. They grow to only about a foot tall and a few inches wide per flower, but most of the time, several will grow together in clusters. If you plant Zephyr lilies in clusters, you can expect them to live longer. 

  • Plant type: Flower
  • Hardiness zones: 8a-10b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade, full shade
  • Water needs: Medium
  • Soil: Loamy, sandy
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: About 1 foot

How native plants make gardening easier

Native trees, vines, and flowers! Oh, my! Orlando’s collection of low-maintenance native plants has everything you could want for a unique or traditional Florida landscape. 

And low maintenance landscaping with native plants won’t mean trips out in the sweltering summer heat to water or weed these beauties. Instead, you could be inside in your AC planning your next landscaping project — or scouting more native plants for your yard.

If only a few of our 13 best native plants fit your vision for your Orlando garden, you can find a more comprehensive list of Florida’s native plants on the University of Florida’s Gardening Solutions page and the Florida Native Plant Society website. 

If you’d prefer to leave the landscaping to the professionals, find an Orlando lawn care pro who can care for your gardens and lawn from start to finish.

Main Photo Credit: Mokkie | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

98 comments
  1. I was suggested this website by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post
    is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my trouble.
    You are wonderful! Thanks!

  2. Have you ever thought about including a little bit more than just your articles?
    I mean, what you say is fundamental and everything. Nevertheless think of if you added
    some great photos or videos to give your posts more, “pop”!

    Your content is excellent but with images and video clips,
    this site could certainly be one of the greatest in its field.
    Wonderful blog!

  3. I simply couldn’t go away your website prior to suggesting that I actually enjoyed the standard information an individual provide in your visitors? Is going to be again steadily in order to inspect new posts.

  4. Thanks for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do some research on this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more from this post. I’m very glad to see such great info being shared freely out there.

  5. Thanks , I have recently been searching for info about this topic for ages and yours is the best I’ve found out till now. But, what concerning the bottom line? Are you sure about the source?

  6. Excellent blog here! Also your site loads up very fast! What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  7. It is in point of fact a nice and useful piece of info. I am happy that you just shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  8. whoah this weblog is excellent i like reading your posts. Keep up the great paintings! You know, a lot of people are looking around for this information, you can aid them greatly.

  9. Great weblog right here! Additionally your web site a lot up fast! What host are you the usage of? Can I get your associate link in your host? I desire my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  10. Thanks for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do some research on this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more from this post. I’m very glad to see such great info being shared freely out there.

  11. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly return.

  12. I’m still learning from you, but I’m trying to reach my goals. I absolutely enjoy reading all that is posted on your blog.Keep the stories coming. I liked it!

  13. Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all folks you really understand what you’re speaking about! Bookmarked. Please also talk over with my web site =). We may have a link change arrangement between us!

  14. This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your great post. Also, I’ve shared your site in my social networks!

  15. Thanks for another informative blog. The place else could I get that kind of information written in such a perfect means? I’ve a project that I’m simply now working on, and I’ve been on the glance out for such info.

  16. I like what you guys are up also. Such clever work and reporting! Keep up the superb works guys I¡¦ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it’ll improve the value of my web site 🙂

  17. I as well as my guys were actually digesting the good ideas from your web site then at once I had a terrible feeling I never expressed respect to you for those secrets. The men ended up for that reason warmed to read them and have really been enjoying them. Appreciation for actually being quite kind as well as for making a decision on certain amazing subject matter most people are really wanting to be informed on. My sincere regret for not expressing gratitude to you earlier.

  18. Great weblog right here! Additionally your web site a lot up fast! What host are you the usage of? Can I get your associate link in your host? I desire my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  19. It¡¦s really a great and helpful piece of information. I¡¦m satisfied that you shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  20. Great weblog right here! Additionally your web site a lot up fast! What host are you the usage of? Can I get your associate link in your host? I desire my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  21. I loved as much as you’ll receive carried out right here. The sketch is tasteful, your authored material stylish. nonetheless, you command get bought an impatience over that you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come more formerly again since exactly the same nearly very often inside case you shield this increase.

  22. I keep listening to the news update speak about getting free online grant applications so I have been looking around for the best site to get one. Could you advise me please, where could i acquire some?

  23. Thanks , I have recently been searching for info about this topic for ages and yours is the best I’ve found out till now. But, what concerning the bottom line? Are you sure about the source?

  24. Wow, marvelous weblog layout! How lengthy have you been blogging for? you made blogging glance easy. The overall look of your website is fantastic, as well as the content!

  25. magnificent submit, very informative. I wonder why the opposite specialists of this sector do not understand this. You must proceed your writing. I’m confident, you have a great readers’ base already!

  26. Thanks , I have recently been searching for info about this topic for ages and yours is the best I’ve found out till now. But, what concerning the bottom line? Are you sure about the source?

  27. I¡¦m not positive where you are getting your information, however good topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or working out more. Thanks for excellent info I used to be searching for this information for my mission.

  28. Hey, you used to write fantastic, but the last several posts have been kinda boring¡K I miss your tremendous writings. Past several posts are just a little out of track! come on!

  29. I get pleasure from, result in I found just what I used to be taking a look for. You have ended my four day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

  30. hey there and thank you for your info – I have definitely picked up anything new from right here. I did however expertise a few technical issues using this website, as I experienced to reload the web site lots of times previous to I could get it to load correctly. I had been wondering if your web host is OK? Not that I am complaining, but slow loading instances times will very frequently affect your placement in google and could damage your high quality score if ads and marketing with Adwords. Anyway I’m adding this RSS to my email and could look out for a lot more of your respective interesting content. Ensure that you update this again soon..

  31. I truly wanted to post a brief comment to be able to thank you for some of the lovely pointers you are sharing at this site. My incredibly long internet search has at the end of the day been honored with excellent facts and techniques to share with my good friends. I ‘d express that most of us site visitors are really lucky to exist in a wonderful site with so many special people with insightful tips and hints. I feel rather blessed to have come across your site and look forward to so many more entertaining moments reading here. Thanks a lot once more for all the details.

  32. you are actually a good webmaster. The website loading velocity is amazing. It seems that you are doing any distinctive trick. In addition, The contents are masterpiece. you’ve done a excellent process on this subject!

  33. Thank you for all your work on this site. Gloria enjoys carrying out investigation and it’s really easy to understand why. All of us hear all about the lively mode you convey vital things through this website and cause response from others about this point then our own child is without a doubt learning a lot. Enjoy the remaining portion of the new year. You’re the one carrying out a powerful job.

  34. My husband and i felt now lucky that Raymond could round up his research out of the ideas he came across using your web site. It’s not at all simplistic just to choose to be giving freely strategies people today may have been making money from. And we also figure out we’ve got you to be grateful to for that. All of the explanations you made, the easy web site menu, the relationships you help instill – it’s most sensational, and it’s really letting our son in addition to us believe that that situation is pleasurable, and that’s extremely important. Thanks for everything!

  35. Excellent read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch since I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

  36. Thank you so much for giving everyone an extraordinarily special opportunity to read critical reviews from this site. It’s always very enjoyable and jam-packed with amusement for me and my office colleagues to search your web site a minimum of thrice in a week to see the newest tips you have. And definitely, we are at all times amazed with all the wonderful tactics you give. Selected 1 areas in this post are particularly the finest we have all had.

  37. I simply wanted to say thanks again. I’m not certain the things I would’ve carried out in the absence of these points provided by you regarding such field. It was before a real daunting difficulty in my view, nevertheless considering the very skilled style you treated the issue took me to jump with fulfillment. Extremely grateful for the advice and then expect you comprehend what a great job that you’re putting in training the rest all through your site. Most likely you’ve never met all of us.

  38. This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your great post. Also, I’ve shared your site in my social networks!

  39. My husband and i felt now lucky that Raymond could round up his research out of the ideas he came across using your web site. It’s not at all simplistic just to choose to be giving freely strategies people today may have been making money from. And we also figure out we’ve got you to be grateful to for that. All of the explanations you made, the easy web site menu, the relationships you help instill – it’s most sensational, and it’s really letting our son in addition to us believe that that situation is pleasurable, and that’s extremely important. Thanks for everything!

  40. I just could not go away your site before suggesting that I actually enjoyed the standard info a person supply in your guests? Is going to be back continuously to investigate cross-check new posts

  41. Wow! This can be one particular of the most beneficial blogs We have ever arrive across on this subject. Actually Great. I’m also an expert in this topic so I can understand your hard work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Become a Lawn Love Insider

Get notified of the latest posts - right in your inbox.

You May Also Like