Why are native plants important?
Over the millenia, plants, insects, birds, and soil enhabitants have learned to not only tolerate each other, but also to depend upon each other. In a natural, native ecosystem, everything works together. Humans have drastically altered the landscapes with non-native plants and various poisons, which has upset these natural balances. But, research by Doug Tallamy and many others has shown that even small landscapes filled with native plants can make a significant difference in restoring the local working ecosystem.
As the saying goes, "Real butterfly gardeners cheer when something is eating their plants."
Native Plant Selection
Florida has quite a number of different natural ecosystems including dry uplands, wetlands, mangrove forests, saltmarshes and more. When you are considering Florida natives for your yard or for your community, it's helpful to learn about the natural habitats that might have been in place before your neighborhood was developed. The Florida Native Plant Communities webpage on the FNPS site is an eye-opener.
When selecting a plant, even a native plant, choose the “Right Plant for the Right Place”, that is, match the plant’s needs with the existing yard conditions for success. Some examples to consider are their preferences for sun/shade, moist/dry, and sandy/rich soil. You'll also want to know its mature size.
Also, Florida is a large state, so just because a plant is native to Florida, that doesn't mean that it's native to all of Florida.
The plant profiles of recommended native plants on the FNPS website's Native Plants for Your Area will provide the information you need to make good choices.
In addition, here are some local plant recommendations:
- A list of favorite natives compiled by Jake Ingram, landscape architect and Ixia member. These plants (68 in total with 24 “favorites” marked with *) are all inhabitants of upland sites in Florida and, with three or four exceptions, are native to NE Florida counties, USDA Zones 8B & 9A. Reliable, Durable and Dependable Native Plants for Northeast Florida
- Suggested Florida native plant replacements for exotic and invasive plants: AlterNatives for Northeast Florida (This was a brochure that the Ixia Chapter designed as a handout to help educate people how to replace known, non-native invasive plants with sustainable natives.)
Native landscaping videos
FNPS and Karina Veaudry, a landscape architect who has been incorporating Florida natives in her designs and installations, have made this series of videos available to everyone. So if you don't know where to start, these videos will provide the background you need to get started and for the long run.
Native Florida Landscape Design Series Introduction
Native Florida Landscape Design Part 1 - Why Go Native?
Native Florida Landscape Design Part 2 - Design Techniques
Native Florida Landscape Design Part 3 - Commercially-Available Natives
Books for working with native plants in your yard and in your community:
(Using these links to purchase the books from Amazon
will generate a small payment to FNPS.)
“Florida’s Best Native Landscape Plants: 200 Readily Available Species for Homeowners and Professionals”. Gil Nelson.
“The Art of Maintaining a Florida Native Landscape”. Ginny Stibolt.
"A Step-gy-Step Guide to a Florida Native Yard" Ginny Stibolt, Marjorie Shropshire
For other recommended books on Florida's native plants and native ecosystems go to The FNPS Book page
Native Plant Identification
Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants covers all the plants more than 4,700 species of native or naturalized plants in Florida. Each plant profile includes a range map and usually several photos/ This website is the authority as to whether a plant is native or not.
Floraquest.com FloraQuest is an Interactive dichotomous key by the University of North Carolina Herbarium.
Alan Weakley's Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States
"Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida". Richard P. Wunderlin, Bruce F. Hansen.
For other recommended books on identifying Florida's native plants go to The FNPS Book page
Where To Buy Florida Native Plants
Reflections of Nature is located in Fernandina Beach, Fl
Native and Uncommon Plants us located in Jacksonville, FL
For other native plant nuseries or to find specific plants see Plant Real Florida: https://www.plantrealflorida.org/
To purchase seeds: Florida Wildflowers Growers Cooperative
Where To See Florida Native Plants
Native Park 3312 Park Street, Jacksonville, FL
But to see real Florida native ecosystems it's best to sign up for some of our our guided field trips or get out on your own into natural areas, preserves, or state parks.