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January 14 • 2022

Landscaping with Florida Native Plants

There are several factors that come into play when deciding on the appropriate landscaping for your yard. Functionality, durability, aesthetics, as well as cost, are all considered when choosing plants for your landscape. Aesthetics seem to take up most of the focus because properly done landscaping can create an everlasting impression. Florida-friendly ornamental plant species offer the typical aesthetics found for landscaping around Southwest Florida due to our unique Subtropical to tropical climate. However, ornamental plants require much more care and attention to keep them thriving. The average homeowner doesn’t have the time to work in their yard weekly (especially in our summer heat) to maintain a well-manicured and impressionable yard. A beautiful landscape can quickly turn into a nightmare in a matter of weeks with little maintenance and attention.

Use Natives for Easy Maintenance!

 So how does a customer bring aesthetics to their yard without being held hostage by it? The answer is native plant species.  Native plant species are species that existed in our area without direct or indirect human introduction. Native plants thrive in the soils, weather, and seasonal moisture here in Southwest Florida. Native plants require much less water and fertilizer than ornamental plants and have little known pest issues. Aside from benefiting humans aesthetically, native plants improve the air quality and offer food and shelter for the native wildlife.

Learning about Natives in the Landscape!

The issue is not that native plants aren’t aesthetically pleasing, rather many individuals have little exposure or education in the many different plant species that offer both form and function here in Southwest Florida. The Native Firebush (Hamelia patens), a shrub reaching between 6 to 12 feet in height and spread of about 5 to 8 feet, offers bright red tubular flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your front yard, including the Zebra longwing and Gulf fritillary butterflies. Another shrub with a similar growth is the native Bahama Cassia (Cassia bahamensis) offers stunning pops of tiny yellow flowers which are extremely noticeable next to the dark green leaves. Bahama cassia can be used as a border hedge or as a specimen piece depending on the design. The Bahama cassia attracts several pollinators to it, most notably the Sulfur butterfly. Simpson Stoppers (Myrcianthes fragrans) have become more popular in recent years for shrub material. The shrub can get to 20ft tall; however, most homeowners keep them between 5 and 10 feet depending on the use in their landscape. They offer springtime white flowers that attract pollinators as well as colorful edible berries later in the summer. Simpson Stoppers are closely related to Eucalyptus and contains a similar fragrance to Eucalyptus.  The Fiddlewood (Citharexylum fruticosum) can grow to be a specimen piece or even a nice patio tree. Its dark glossy leaves give a nice contrast from the white cascade of fragrant flowers. Many customers that come in looking for gardenias will happily leave with a fiddlewood due to similar fragrances the fiddlewood flowers emit. The fiddlewood grows in full sun to partial shade, making it an ideal substitute for any customer looking to purchase jasmine, gardenia, or any other fragrant ornamental plant.

Natives in a Nutshell!

There are hundreds of species of native material we carry here at Good Roots allowing the customer to get very creative when designing their landscape. As stated previously, aesthetics will drive most of the interest in plants, but it is important to not decide purely on aesthetics. Planting native material will give you much more success in the long run, both aesthetically and regarding maintenance and upkeep. Happy gardening!

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