Beach Sunflower

Attracting wildlife including pollinators is one of the nine principles of the Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM program. It is important that we choose landscape plants which provide fruits or berries, attracting birds and other pollinators. Wildlife can add beauty and interest in your yard, are educational and provide photo and writing opportunities.

Pollinators are important because an estimated one-third of the food we eat comes from plants pollinated by animals. They help increase fruit (berry) set, quality and size, which also translates to economic impacts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2014 estimated bee pollinated commodities accounted for $20 billion in annual U.S. agricultural production.

There are several ways to attract pollinators. You can use feeders and houses, water, consider decreasing the amount of your turfgrass, use vertical layering, native plants, decrease pesticides, manage your pets and increase the size of your habitat (space). Eliminating exotic invasive plants is also a plus. Identify what you think may be a pest because it may be helpful versus harmful. Spot treat for the identified pest, don’t broadcast, because that will kill the good along with the bad.

My favorite flowering native plants that attract pollinators include:

Firebush, Hamelia patens – can reach a height of 5-20 ft. and spread of 5-8 ft.; prefers partial sun, but does well in full or partial sun/shade, is fast growing and attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and birds and produces orange/red year-round flowers. It’s interesting that the foliage is generally more attractive in the shade, but flowers best in the sun. So, try one on each location.

Wild coffee – Psychotria nervosa – can reach a height and spread of 4-10 ft. prefers partial sun/shade, but does well in full shade, has dark green, shiny foliage, small white flowers from spring through summer, attracts butterflies and birds and produces red fruit (berries) that provide food for wildlife. It is very easy to propagate from cuttings.

Beach sunflower – Helianthus debilis – is a great groundcover that can reach a height of 1-4 ft. and spread of 2-4 ft., is fast growing, prefers full sun, is a perennial that produces yellow/purple flowers year-round and attracts butterfly and birds.

Salvia, Sage – Salvia – There are native and non-native varieties, so be sure to check. This fast growing perennial can reach a height of 1-8 ft. and spread of 1-10 ft. It prefers full sun, flower colors vary and it attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

Native plants are available at native plant and other nurseries. You can join the Suncoast Native Plant Society,, to learn even more. Monthly meetings are held at our office. Check out upcoming Extension workshops at our calendar of events, To find more ideas for pollinator attracting plants, you can order your own copy of The Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM Guide to Plant Selection and Landscape Design from Southwest Florida Water Management District,, under Resources, Free Publications, Florida- Friendly Landscaping, click apply.

The Guide will be mailed to you. For horticultural assistance, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County, 744-5519, or visit us at 5339 CR 579 in Seffner.

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