Florida’s Top 10 Most Popular Landscape Plants

Close-up of pink azaleas

When you’re looking for a new plant for your garden, take a look around your neighborhood. If a plant is popular, there’s a reason! You can rest assured that common landscape plants grow well and look good in Florida’s climate and conditions. To help in your search, here are 10 of the most popular landscape plants in Florida.

1. American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

American beautyberry is a native Florida plant with floppy branches covered in bright green leaves. From late summer to early fall, clusters of purple berries burst forth for a pop of color. American beautyberry grows naturally all over Florida, and many people include it in their landscapes as a specimen plant or shrub screen.

Plant basics:

  • Growth habit: Shrub
  • Where it grows in Florida: Whole state (hardiness zones 8a-10b)
  • Size at maturity: 3-8 feet tall and 4-8 feet wide
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Foliage: Deciduous in North Florida and evergreen in South Florida
  • Sunlight needs: Full sun or partial shade
  • Soil preferences: Grows best in loam soil high in organic matter but also tolerates nutrient-poor sandy soils 
  • Water needs: Water 1 inch per week when there’s no rain and skip weeks with rainfall
  • Hazards: Non-toxic and no safety hazards

2. Azaleas (Rhododendron spp.)

You know it’s springtime in North and Central Florida because you see azaleas blooming EVERYWHERE. In April or May, these flowering shrubs are absolutely covered with pink or white blossoms, and there are less common varieties available in blue, yellow, red, and other colors. 

Unfortunately, South Floridians don’t get to enjoy these beauties because they don’t do well in extreme heat. 

Plant basics:

  • Growth habit: Shrub
  • Where it grows in Florida: North and Central (hardiness zones 8a-9b)
  • Size at maturity: Up to 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide, depending on the species
  • Duration: Perennial 
  • Foliage: Some species are evergreen and some are deciduous 
  • Sunlight needs: Partial shade
  • Soil preferences: Acidic soil that drains well
  • Water needs: Water only when the top few inches of soil dry out (usually two or three times a month in cooler weather and up to twice a week during summer)
  • Hazards: Toxic to people and pets if ingested 

3. Crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica)

Crape myrtles come in all shapes and sizes because there are many different cultivars, from full-size trees that grow up to 30 feet tall to dwarf varieties that are more like small shrubs. They produce beautiful fluffy-looking flowers that are usually pink but also can be different shades of red, purple, or white. Blooms first appear in July and sometimes stay until the first frost of winter. 

Plant basics:

  • Growth habit: Tree or shrub
  • Where it grows in Florida: Whole state (hardiness zones 8a-10b)
  • Size at maturity: Anywhere from 2-30 feet tall and 2-15 feet wide depending on the variety
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Sunlight needs: Full sun
  • Soil preferences: Tolerates most soil types as long as they have good drainage
  • Water needs: Water deeply once per week, maybe twice per week in summer if you find the soil dries out quickly 
  • Hazards: Non-toxic and no safety hazards

4. Firebush (Hamelia patens)

Firebush is another Florida native shrub. It shoots out flares of vibrant orange-red tubular flowers that keep blooming from spring until frost. The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds, and the plant’s berries attract songbirds.

In North Florida, don’t be alarmed if firebush dies down to the roots in winter. It will grow again in spring when the weather warms up.

Plant basics:

  • Growth habit: Shrub; can be grown as a small tree in South Florida
  • Where it grows in Florida: Whole state (hardiness zones 8a-10b)
  • Size at maturity: 3-8 feet tall in most of the state (up to 15 feet tall in South Florida) and 2-6 feet wide 
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Sunlight needs: Full sun or partial shade
  • Soil preferences: Any soil that drains well
  • Water needs: Water deeply once per week for the first year, then switch to once every two weeks (skip watering when there’s rainfall)
  • Hazards: Non-toxic and no safety hazards

5. Junipers (Juniperus spp.)

Juniper trees and shrubs are extremely low-maintenance, they keep their leaves all year, and they can grow in a variety of conditions. For these reasons, they’re popular landscape plants across the country. 

The juniper plant’s foliage is needle-like at first, but it flattens out as it matures and becomes more of a scale shape. Some species have green foliage, but others are blue, silver, or gold, and some change colors in winter. There are more than 50 types of juniper for you to choose from, some as small as 6 inches tall and some soaring above 100 feet tall, and they have various growth habits for countless different uses in the landscape. 

Plant basics:

  • Growth habit: Tree, shrub, or ground cover, depending on the species 
  • Where it grows in Florida: Varies by species, but there are species that grow in the whole state 
  • Size at maturity: Varies by species, from 6 inches-130 feet tall and 1-25 feet wide
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Sunlight needs: Full sun; some species need afternoon shade for summer
  • Soil preferences: Prefer slightly acidic soil high in organic matter but tolerate pretty much any soil with good drainage
  • Water needs: Drought-tolerant; little to no watering required outside of natural rainfall once established
  • Hazards: Toxic to pets if ingested 

6. Lantanas (Lantana spp.) 

Lantanas are popular ornamental plants in tropical and subtropical climates around the world, including Florida. Their brightly colored orange, red, pink, lavender, blue, or yellow flowers bloom year-round or nearly year-round. They’ll bring pollinators such as hummingbirds and butterflies (along with a blast of fall and winter color) to your garden beds.

Plant basics:

  • Growth habit: Shrub
  • Where it grows in Florida: Whole state (hardiness zones 8a-10b)
  • Size at maturity: 2-6 feet tall and 3-10 feet wide 
  • Duration: Perennial in Florida’s warm climate
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Sunlight needs: Full sun
  • Soil preferences: Well-draining, slightly acidic soil 
  • Water needs: Drought-tolerant; Little to no watering required outside of natural rainfall once established; water once or twice per week during long dry spells
  • Hazards: Toxic to pets and people if ingested  

7. Magnolias (Magnolia spp.)

A true Southern staple, magnolia trees are everywhere in the cooler regions of North and Central Florida. Most varieties don’t like South Florida’s heat, but southern magnolia and sweet bay magnolia can do well with proper care

Magnolia trees are immediately recognizable by their glossy dark green foliage and huge, creamy white blossoms. Different species are available in Florida, some full-sized trees and some smaller varieties that are more like tall shrubs.

Plant basics:

  • Growth habit: Tree or tall shrub, depending on the species and how you prune it
  • Where it grows in Florida: North and Central (hardiness zones 8a-9b) and two species in South Florida
  • Size at maturity: 40-80 feet tall and 30-40 feet wide for the standard Southern magnolia tree; other species can be as small as 8-12 feet tall and wide 
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Foliage: Some species are deciduous and some are evergreen
  • Sunlight needs: Full sun for the most blooms but also grows in partial shade; either way, shade in the afternoon can help prevent scorching of leaves and flowers
  • Soil preferences: Slightly acidic soil that’s rich in organic matter and retains moisture well 
  • Water needs: Water deeply once per week for most of the year; increase to twice per week in extremely hot weather and decrease to once every other week in cool weather 
  • Hazards: Non-toxic and no safety hazards 

8. Palms and cycads

Even though we often call them “palm trees,” palms are in fact not trees but their own type of plant altogether. Some palms, such as Florida’s state tree the sabal palm, grow to tree size. Others, such as saw palmetto, grow in a clumping, shrub-like habit. 

Palms can be big or small, single- or multi-trunked, spreading or upright, with different colors and shapes of fronds. Basically, no matter what your landscape needs, there’s a palm to fit the bill. Just about every landscape in Florida has a palm included somewhere!

Cycads are another group of plants that look very similar to palms and are often mistaken for them. The main difference is that cycads don’t produce flowers, while palms do. Cycads come in all shapes and sizes just like palms. The most popular cycad for landscaping is a small species called sago palm — but beware, this species is extremely toxic, and ingestion can cause serious medical issues.

Plant basics:

  • Growth habit: Different species grow as trees, shrubs, or ground covers
  • Where it grows in Florida: Many species grow throughout the whole state, but some aren’t cold-hardy enough for North Florida 
  • Size at maturity: Size depends on the species
  • Duration: Perennial 
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Sunlight needs: Some species require full sun, while others do best in partial shade 
  • Soil preferences: Sandy, well-draining soils 
  • Water needs: Water one to three times per week, more often in hotter weather and less often in cooler weather
  • Hazards: Several species of palms and cycads are toxic, and some have sharp spines; Do your research on a particular species before adding it to your landscape 

9. Salvias (Salvia spp.)

Salvias are popular flowers for Florida gardens because they’re low-maintenance and bloom year-round in warmer years with no frost. Salvias rarely need you to water them except during long dry spells, and they have few problems with pests or plant diseases. Different species have different color blooms, from white to red to blue to lavender. 

Plant basics:

  • Growth habit: Flower
  • Where it grows in Florida: Whole state (hardiness zones 8a-10b)
  • Size at maturity: 1-6 feet tall and wide (size varies by species)
  • Duration: Some species are perennial and some are annual
  • Foliage: Some species are evergreen and some are deciduous 
  • Sunlight needs: Many species require full sun, but some can grow in partial shade
  • Soil preferences: Tolerates various soil types as long as there’s good drainage 
  • Water needs: Drought-tolerant; little to no watering required outside of natural rainfall 
  • Hazards: Non-toxic and no safety hazards 

10. Tickseed (Coreopsis spp.)

The brilliant yellow tickseed is a Florida native and, fittingly, the official state wildflower of the Sunshine State. There are 12 species of tickseed that grow throughout Florida, and any one of them makes a bright and sunny, low-maintenance addition to a garden bed. Most tickseed species are yellow, but you can find some with orange, pink, or red flowers. 

Plant basics:

  • Growth habit: Flower
  • Where it grows in Florida: Different species throughout the whole state (hardiness zones 8a-10b) 
  • Size at maturity: 1-4 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide (size varies by species)
  • Duration: Some species are perennial and some are annual
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Sunlight needs: Performs best in full sun but can grow in partial shade 
  • Soil preferences: Can grow in just about any soil that drains well
  • Water needs: Drought-tolerant; only needs watering outside of natural rainfall during long dry periods
  • Hazards: Non-toxic and no safety hazards 

Characteristics of a Florida-friendly landscape plant 

If you think living in Florida’s heat and humidity is hard for a human, try being a plant! Along with the extreme high temperatures in summer, Florida presents other challenges for plants, including nutrient-poor sandy soils, salty air, and torrential rain followed by long periods with no rain at all.

All this to say: Not just any plant can survive in your Florida landscape. Plants with the following characteristics will perform best.


First and foremost, you have to choose plants appropriate for Florida’s hot climate. Look for plants suited to your area’s hardiness zone, a scale of measurement developed by the USDA and based on an area’s lowest annual temperature. The scale ranges from 1 to 13, with 1 representing the coldest climates and 13 the warmest. 

Florida’s hardiness zones are as follows:

  • North Florida: Zones 8a-9a 
  • Central Florida: Zones 9a-9b
  • South Florida: Zones 9b-10b 

When you’re thinking about adding a plant to your landscape, check which hardiness zones the plant thrives in and make sure your zone is included. 

In addition to planting for your zone, you should avoid any plants with flowers or foliage that fade or burn under intense sunlight. 

Likes sandy soils

There are six main soil types: clay, sand, silt, loam, chalk, and peat. Sandy soil is the most common type in Florida, and it has some serious disadvantages. Because sand is so loose, it drains quickly and doesn’t retain moisture or plant nutrients. 

For most of Florida, the best garden plants are those that tolerate nutrient-poor soil and that need good drainage. These will thrive in sandy soils. 

However, living in Florida doesn’t automatically mean you have sandy soil in your yard. Soil types can vary even from one area of your yard to another. Test your soil to find out what type you have before choosing new plants. 


In beachside communities, the soil has a higher than average salt content. Too much salt makes it difficult for plants’ roots to absorb water, which can kill the plant. 

Salt spray coming in on the wind from the ocean (or the Gulf, depending on which side of Florida you live on) also can damage plants. It burns newly developing leaves and flower buds and dries out the plant. 

Salt causes big problems for many gardeners in Florida, especially along the coasts. You’ll have an easier time keeping your plants alive if you choose salt-tolerant varieties. 


It’s no news to Floridians that hurricanes tend to tear down tall trees with severe winds. This is bad for your landscape and the tree’s health, but more importantly, it poses a safety risk because trees could fall on your home. 

Gardeners in hurricane-prone Florida can think ahead by landscaping with wind-resistant trees. Wind-resistant trees are less likely to fall, snap, or lose branches in high winds. 

Tolerates torrential rain and periods of drought 

Florida’s weather can be moody sometimes. We’ll have non-stop rain for a week, then none at all for a month. This on-again/off-again relationship with rain can leave your plants water-logged and drowning one second and dying of thirst the next. 

Look for plants that can survive both standing water and drought if you don’t want to spend a good chunk of the year nursing your garden back to health.  

Plant basics vocabulary 

New to gardening? There may be some words and phrases in this article you don’t recognize, or at least don’t know exactly what they mean. Here’s a quick plant vocabulary lesson to help you understand what we’re saying about these Florida landscaping plants.

  • Duration: Duration means how long a plant lasts before dying. 
  • Perennial: Perennial plants don’t die in winter. They may go dormant, which means they stop growing and flowering, but they’ll come back and bloom again in spring. Some perennials last for a few years, while others can last for decades. 
  • Biennial: Biennial plants last for two growing seasons before dying.
  • Annual: Annual plants last for only one growing season, then die in winter. You have to replace annuals every year. 
  • Foliage: Foliage is a technical term for leaves. 
  • Evergreen: Evergreen plants keep their green leaves all year, even in winter. 
  • Deciduous: Deciduous plants lose their leaves in cold weather. Any plant with leaves that change color and drop off the branches in fall is deciduous. 
  • Full sun: A plant that needs full sun should get at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Partial sun/partial shade: A plant that needs partial shade or partial sun (they mean the same thing) should get three to six hours of direct sunlight per day. 
  • Full shade: A plant that needs full shade should get three or fewer hours of direct sunlight per day. Full shade does not mean no sun at all, as all plants need some sunlight to survive.
  • Acidic soil: Acidic soil has a soil pH of 6.5 or lower. Find out your soil’s pH with a simple soil pH test from your local hardware store or garden center. 
  • Alkaline soil: Alkaline soil is the opposite of acidic soil. It has a pH of 7.4 or higher.

FAQ about Florida landscape plants

1. How do I choose a landscaping plant for my yard?

It’s not enough to find plants suited for Florida’s climate in general. You also have to think about the specific conditions in your own yard. Choose plants that are suited for:

Your soil type
How much sun your yard gets 
How much space you have for new plants in your landscape 
The level of maintenance you’re willing to put in (watering, pruning, cleaning up fallen flowers and leaves, etc.)

Plus, you have to think about safety. If you have pets or small children living in your home, you should avoid toxic plants and plants with thorns or sharp spines. 

2. What flowers bloom year-round in Florida?

Because of Florida’s mild winters, there are several plants that keep on blooming all year long (especially in South and Central Florida). 

Some popular flowers that bloom year-round in Florida are:

3. What plants should you avoid in Florida?

High temperatures and humidity make Florida uninhabitable for many delicate plants. Avoid any plants that can’t stand the heat or the wet air.   

Plants that need very moist soil also may struggle in Florida (especially when planted in full sun). Florida’s loose, sandy soils don’t retain moisture well in the first place, and the sun evaporates much of the little water they manage to hold onto. 

When in doubt, go native

Finding plants that thrive in Florida’s challenging conditions can be a struggle. But it doesn’t have to be. Each area of Florida has a wide variety of native plants that have adapted to live with the local climate, soil type, rainfall, and pests. 

Native plants are also easier to maintain than non-natives because you don’t have to fertilize them, water them often, or use as many pesticides.

Some of the popular landscape plants on this list are Florida natives, and some aren’t. If you want plants you can be sure will stand the test of time (and temperature), natives are always your best bet. Check out our more extensive list of Florida natives to help you find the right plant for your garden. 

While you take care of your Florida garden, let Lawn Love’s local pros take care of the lawn — because the last thing you want to do when it’s 95 degrees out is push around a heavy lawn mower. 

Main Photo Credit: MarkBuckawicki | Wikimedia Commons | CC0

Jordan Ardoin

Jordan Ardoin is a writer and editor with a passion for sustainable, earth-friendly gardening and lawn care practices. When she isn't sharing her knowledge about lawn care and landscaping, you can find her curled up with a good book and a cat in her lap.