I have been in the Nursery and Landscaping Industry since I was 16 years old. I have always know about the importance of planting native plants. They are more suited to the environment, usually attract more wildlife including pollinators and birds, they require less maintenance once established and the need for pesticides and herbicides is zero. Having owned my own nursery on Cape Cod Massachusetts for 23 years, I sold many native plants- Beach Plum, Bearberry, Bayberry, Blueberry and many more. I have never, however, increased my knowledge to the degree that I should have on the subject.
Now that I have relocated in Florida, I have realized that it is vital for me to increase my knowledge on this subject. The landscape of Florida is nothing like the Cape. Huge areas are stripped of all vegetation and replaced with strip malls and homes with minimal landscaping- mostly a little grass and some tropicals. These plants aren’t maintained properly and lots of herbicides and pesticides are used to control insects and disease. This has created a destruction of the natural environmentNow we enter the subject of native plants and my first reaction when I moved here was, “What Native Plants?” Nothing I saw around my environment looked indigenous to the area- it was all Crotons and Ti Plants and Bird of Paridise!
So I traveled to the Florida Botanical Gardens and learned about many Natives that were beautiful. It was a real education. I have since been using many natives in my designs but I plan to use many more.
I want to give you a short list of some of the Native Plants that I use that are very suited to the landscape- they are very attractive, mix with other landscape plants nicely and are good for our environment.
I also wanted to share a link with you in regards to “why” you should plant native plants. I found this to be remarkable!!!!! Please read it!! Click here
Here are a few of the native plants I have had great success with:
Zamia pumila- Coontie Palm is a very slow-growing, low maintenance Cycad plant. This plant is often referred to as a palm but it is not. It actually looks more to me like a fern. This small shrub grows to be about 3’ tall and wide. It is drought resistant and will grow in in both full sun and full shade. It works great lining walkways, in the front of larger foundation beds and as a low evergreen hedge. This is the perfect low maintenance plant.
Chrysobalanus icao ‘Red Tip’- Red-tipped Cocoplum is a beautiful plant that produces an edible plum loved by people and animals alike. This shrub has shiny, rounded leaves that are red-tipped at the new growth. The plant produces small white flowers followed by a fruit with starts pink and matures to purple. This shrub grows 4-6’ tall and wide. It prefers full sun to part shade and will tolerate exposure to salt.
Conocarpus erectus- Sea Grapes is a very uniques looking plant. Please, please, please give it enough room to grow because it looks terrible as manicured hedge. This plant will grow upwards of 15 ‘ if unpruned. The leaves are round and grow to 8-10”. The new growth has a bronzy-red color. The female produces a fruit in the late summer that looks like grapes (hence the name) and once ripe are edible to birds, squirrels and people!!
This is a very hardy plant that is salt-tolerant, will take full sun, acts as a wind block. If you have the space to let it grow, this is a wonderful native plant.
Stachytarpheta jamaicensis- Blue Porterweed is a wonderful native plant that makes a great addition to a butterfly garden. It is a “cottage-garden” type of plant, meaning it grows quickly and sprawls around other flowers and does not have a formal look. It grows in sun to partial shade and can be kept to 2.5-3’. Without pruning it can grow to 5-6’. The flowers are a beautiful blue and bloom most of the year, more so in the warmer months.