For those of us around Florida who enjoy a large amount of color in our landscapes but have little time to maintain what we plant, this topic is timely because we have some time before the rainy season starts.
Consider the first principle of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program, which is ‘right plant, right place,’ as it relates to your plant selections and site conditions.
We are defining high color as foliage and flowers for several seasons. Low maintenance means minimal pruning, fertilizing and pest control. Try walking around your landscape at least once a week to check on the condition of your plants and proceed as needed.
Aloysia virgata — sweet almond bush — can reach a height and spread of 6 to 12 feet. This shrub prefers full sun, tolerates drought well, attracts butterflies and produces white, fragrant flowers from summer through fall.
Callicarpa americana — Beautyberry (native) can reach a height and spread of 6-8 feet. Beautyberry prefers shade to partial shade and has a high drought tolerance. This shrub produces purple to light-purple flowers from spring through fall and small purplish fruits that provide food for wildlife in later winter. There is also a white beautyberry (Callicarpa americana Var. lactea).
Lantana depressa — weeping lantana, pineland lantana (native) — can reach a height and spread of 3-6 feet. This small shrub has medium drought and high salt tolerance, prefers full sun and attracts butterflies and birds. It produces small yellow, year-round flowers; however, the berries are poisonous.
Russelia sarmentosa — firecracker plant — can reach a height of 3-4 feet and a spread of 2-4 feet. It is fast-growing, has medium drought tolerance and prefers full sun. Butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to this plant, which produces red summer flowers. Yellow and salmon forms are also available.
Thunbergia alata — black-eyed Susan vine — can reach a height and spread of 5-10 feet. This vine prefers full sun and has low drought tolerance. It is a perennial that produces yellow summer flowers.
Ipomoea spp. — morning glory (natives only) — can reach a height of 10-20 feet and a spread of 10-40 feet. It is fast-growing, prefers full sun and has high drought tolerance. Flower color varies. This vine spreads easily and provides food for wildlife.
Muhlenbergia capillaris — muhly grass (native) — can reach a height of 2-5 feet and a spread of 2-3 feet. This grass has high drought tolerance and performs best in full sun, producing pink fall flowers.
Eragrostis elliottii — Elliott’s lovegrass (native) — can reach a height and spread of 1-3 feet and is fast-growing. This grass has high drought tolerance, prefers full sun ranging to partial shade. It produces tan, year-round flowers, especially in the fall.
Many UF/IFAS Extension offices have teaching/demonstration gardens where you can see these plants and many others in a landscape setting. Hopefully, that will make your plant selection decisions easier. For horticultural assistance, contact the UF/IFAS Extension office in your county.