Why Plant Native Plants in your Indoor And Outdoor Garden?

Why Plant Native Plants?

There are many reasons to plant native plants, some selfish and some altruistic. The selfish ones include the simplicity of care. Once a native plant is established it doesn’t need us to water or fertilize it or care for it in any way if we choose not to.

So it will save us time and effort and money. If you plant those plants which are used by birds, butterflies, and other wildlife you will have the pleasure of watching these creatures in your own backyard. Native plants have developed a resistance to the insects and diseases common to the area and so will maintain health without our intervention.

The altruistic reasons include the fact that we will be replacing lost food and habitat for native wildlife of all kinds by planting those plants they depend on in the wild. We will be working to replace those “corridors” that they use when moving around our area. You will be helping to bring a bit of ecological balance back to the small piece of the planet you care for.

“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where the oxlips and the nodding violet grows, Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, With sweet musk roses and with eglantine.” Shakespeare bird and elderberries

Why Are Native Plants Important?

What is a true Florida native plant? 

The definition of a Florida native plant is a plant species whose natural range included Florida at the time of European contact; about 1500 A.D. Florida has 2,800 recognized native plants, which includes 170 endemic species (plants that occur naturally only in Florida).

These plants were created by GOD to thrive in our climate and soils. No part of Florida is farther than 70 miles from warm marine waters. Our mild climate allows year-round plant growth. We have no season without some of our native plants in flower. Florida truly does live up to its name “Land of Flowers”.

What is the difference between a Florida native plant and a Florida wildflower?

None, a Florida wildflower is a Florida native plant. Our 2,800 native plants are separated into the following classifications: trees, shrubs, wildflowers (herbaceous perennials and annuals), vines, ferns, and grasses. All of them combined make up a total of 2,800 true native species.

What about the 1,300 recognized naturalized species?

Many consider them as part of our native total. These hardy species have escaped into the wild and have continued to grow and reproduce without any human assistance. They are not a part of the 2,800 native plants originally documented in 1500 A.D. But they do increase the easily sustainable plant choices to 4,100.

Why are native plants important?

Because our Florida ecosystems are dependent upon them. The true beauty of Florida is showcased by its native plants. The 22 different terrestrial communities all produce different native plants and the birds, butterflies and other wildlife are dependent on these plants for food and cover, and their very survival. ( pine flat woods, cabbage palm flat woods, scrubby flat woods, dry prairies, sand hills-longleaf pines, and turkey oaks, clay hills-upland forests, scrubs, temperate hardwood forests, upland hardwood forests, coastal uplands, beach dunes, coastal strands, coastal scrubs, temperate coastal hammocks, shell mounds, rock land pinelands, rocky hardwood hammocks, and ruderal sites)

Why we should plant and save native plants…

The most important reason is to ensure the survival of our native plants. Florida is losing green space at an alarming rate due to rapid population expansion. Many native plant species are becoming endangered due to urbanization. To ensure that we maintain the biodiversity necessary for the survival of our birds, butterflies, vital pollinators, and other wildlife we need to preserve and use our native plant species.

It just makes good sense to incorporate native plants into our personal and civic landscapes because when planted in the right places they are more drought-tolerant and insect and disease resistant. They require little or no fertilizer and pesticides, which means less contamination of our valuable aquifer.

Once native plants become established they require very little supplemental irrigation. Now that many areas are restricting water usage for maintaining lawns and landscape plants, the use of more easily sustainable native plants is a viable solution that has multiple ecological benefits.

Properly grouping native plants together in their natural associations can provide you with a pleasing look of subtle beauty while conserving our soil and water. Native plants can be left untrimmed or they can be manicured if you desire a more formal look. Florida’s Best Native Landscape Plants by Gil Nelson lists 200 readily available native species now being commercially grown for sale. Each plant featured in his book has a list of naturally occurring companion plants which makes it much easier for you to choose the right plants to create sustainable naturalistic landscape groupings.

Hopefully, this will inspire you to add some of these valuable plants to your own landscapes. If we can preserve native plants for our wildlife we can also maintain the essential bond between people and nature that fosters a sense of stewardship for the land of Florida and its living creatures.

What is the difference between a wildflower and a native plant?

Florida’s flora includes more than 4,100 kinds of spontaneous occurring plants. There are 2,800 true Florida native plants included in that number. A true Florida native plant is a plant species whose natural range included Florida prior to European contact  according to the best available scientific and historical documentation ( about 1500AD.) Florida’s 2,800 native plant list includes trees, shrubs, vines, ferns, grasses, and flowering herbaceous species.

Generally when people refer to wildflowers they include not only true Florida native herbaceous species but many other naturalized flowering species and other non-native garden species that have escaped into the wild and are occurring spontaneously. But a true Florida wildflower is the class of flowering herbaceous plant species included in the total of 2,800 Florida native plants.

Conservation of soil and water is the main goal of native plant landscaping.  Properly grouping native plants in their natural associations can provide you with a pleasing look of subtle natural beauty. Native plants can be left untrimmed or manicured if you desire a more formal look. After the initial establishment, these natives will thrive with a minimum of care. As a bonus, your naturalistic landscape will furnish food and shelter for birds, bees, butterflies, and local wildlife.

Florida’s Best Native Landscape Plants by Gil Nelson lists 200 readily available species being commercially grown for sale. Each plant featured in his book has a list of naturally occurring companion plants which makes it much easier for you to choose the right plants to create sustainable naturalistic landscape groupings.

Some great plants for most north Florida landscapes that are easily obtainable are:

Yellow: Dye Flower Coreopsis basalis, Leavenworth’s Coreopsis Coreopsis leavenworthii, Lance Leaf Coreopsis Coreopsis lanceolata, Dune /Beach Sunflower Helianthus debilis,  Narrowleaf Sunflower Helianthus angustifolia, Black-Eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta , Carolina Jasmine Gelsemium sempervirens and the Goldenrod species.

Yellow Canna Canna flaccida, St John’s Wort Hypericum.

Orange: Blanket Flower Gaillardia pulchella, Butterfly Weed/ Milkweeds Asclpepias tuberosa, Firebush Hamelia patens, Cross Vine Bignonia capreolata, Florida Azalea, Rhododendron austrinum

Reds/Pinks: Tropical Sage Salvia coccinea, Scarlet Hibiscus Hibiscus coccinea, Coral honeysuckle lonicera sempervirens, Cardinal Flower Lobelia cardinalis,  Anise, Illicium floridanum,Pinxter Azalea Rhododendron canescens, Climbing Aster Symphyotrichum carolinianum

Purples: Passion Vine,Pasiflora incarnata, Blue-Eyed Grass Sisyrinchium species, Native Wild Petunia Ruellia caroliniensis( NOT Brittoniana),Stoke’s Aster Stokesia laevis, Liatris species, Ironweed Vernonia gigantea, Joe-Pye Weed Eupatorium fistulosum, Twin Flower Dychoriste oblogifolia, Native Iris Iris virginica and Iris hexagona, Mist Flower Conoclinium coelestinum, Dotted Horsemint monarda punctata, Beautyberry Callicarpia americana, Beach Rosemary Conradina canescens

Whites: Bushy Asters Symphyotrichum dumosum , Sparkleberry Vaccinium aboreum, Summersweet Clethra alnifolia, String Lily Crinum americanum Titi Cyrilla racemiflora, Oakleaf Hydrangea Hydrangea quercifloia, Native Viburnams Viburnam obovatum.