Why am I “wild” about Florida native plants…….because they are the original settlers who came from all over the world and found a home in Florida. They decided that Florida was the perfect place to call home. Native plants are a good choice for the Florida gardener who wants to work less in the garden, have garden interest all year long, and enhance the entire Florida landscape, that’s me.. Why, again, because they are “native to Florida”.
One I want to tell you about is Firebush. Firebush is a garden shrub with clusters of flashy, bright orange flowers. It attracts both birds and butterflies. This perennial is practically invincible once it has established itself. Gardeners will be able to enjoy flowers from late spring until the first frost. In other words, almost all year long here in Florida. It is heat and drought tolerant. This perennial is perfect for hedges, mixed borders, or as a stand-alone shrub.
I have a 10 year old Firebush in my yard that I cut back in late winter (attempting to do it after the last frost) . It grows back quickly. Mine is about 9 feet tall now (July) and almost that same amount wide. This is the only attention I give it all year long. It doesn’t require fertilizer to grow into a large shrub. It only needs water when we have not had enough rainfall, that’s it. Butterflies and bees are all over it in no time.
They do best in full-sun. Well-drained soil works best and it will do well if watered regularly until it is fully established. Firebush can grow as large as 15 feet tall, but can be easily kept at 5 or 8 feet if pruned correctly, but over pruning can reduce blooming! There are no serious insect or disease problems associated with this plant. Mine has never had any insect or disease problems in the 10 years I’ve had it.
There are dozens of Florida Native Plants that are just as easy to care for, why because they are “native to Florida”. Some others to mention are Beautyberry, Carolina Jessamine, Coontie Palm, etc. You can find a detailed list at https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/native-plants.html.
Written by Mary Mattiace, UF/IFAS Extension Clay County Master Gardener Volunteer