20 Best Perennials for Florida: Top Picks for a Sunshine Garden

When you’re looking to add some lively color and enduring greenery to your Florida garden, perennials are your go-to choice.

These plants, which survive for several years, will have your landscape popping with vibrant flowers and lush foliage without needing to replant each season.

Florida’s unique climate, characterized by its warm temperatures and high humidity, offers a special environment where certain perennials will thrive and turn your garden into a tropical haven.

Perennials for Florida’s Climate

When picking perennials for your Florida garden, consider plants that thrive in the state’s warm temperatures and lengthy growing seasons. Your success hinges on understanding their specific light and soil needs.

Sunshine and Shade Requirements

Florida’s abundant sunshine is a big asset, but not all perennials bask in direct light. Let’s break it down:

  • Full Sun: At least six hours of direct sunlight a day. Plants like black-eyed Susan and beach sunflower soak up the sun.
  • Partial Shade: These areas get less intense sun, ideal for plants such as blue ginger and bougainvillea that prefer a break from the heat.
  • Full Shade: Limited direct sunlight, perfect for blue-eyed grass and butterfly gingers, which can prosper without the intense Florida sun.

Soil Preferences and Improvements

Florida soil often needs a helping hand to support perennial life. Start with these facts:

  • Sandy Soil: It’s draining fast, which is great for drought-tolerant natives like lantana and Carolina jessamine.
  • Amending Soil: Boost nutrient content and water retention by adding organic matter; compost is your friend here.
  • pH Levels: Some plants prefer acidic or alkaline environments. Regular soil testing helps keep them happy.

A well-prepared soil sets a solid foundation for perennials to withstand Florida’s varied climates, from the panhandle’s cooler temperatures to the tropical south’s heat.

Top Perennials to Plant in Florida

When you’re thinking about adding some life to your Florida garden, choosing the right perennials can make all the difference. Whether your garden is sun-soaked or shaded, there are vibrant plants that will flourish.

These perennials offer a range of textures, colors, and forms, ensuring your Florida garden is a year-round retreat.

1. Blue Daze

This star-shaped flower is perfect for adding a pop of color to Florida gardens. Its blue petals and yellow center make it a standout in any landscape.

Blue Daze is a low-maintenance perennial that thrives in full sun, making it ideal for those hot summer days.

It also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, adding even more life to your garden.

2. Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

Anise hyssop is a beautiful perennial native to North America that can thrive in Florida’s warm and humid climate. It grows up to 2-4 feet tall with lavender-blue flower spikes that attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Its leaves have a mild licorice scent when crushed, making it an aromatic addition to any garden.

Anise hyssop is drought tolerant and prefers well-drained soil, making it a low-maintenance plant for Florida gardens.

3. Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)

The blanket flower is another hardy perennial that can survive in Florida’s hot, dry summers. It has bright red and yellow daisy-like flowers that bloom from late spring to early fall, attracting pollinators to your garden.

The blanket flower is also drought tolerant and low maintenance, making it a great choice for Florida gardens. It prefers full sun but can tolerate some shade, making it versatile in various garden settings.

4. Mexican Heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia)

Mexican heather is a popular ornamental plant in Florida, known for its profusion of small purple flowers that cover the plant from spring to fall. It is a compact shrub, growing up to 2-3 feet tall and wide, making it perfect for borders or containers.

Mexican heather is heat and drought tolerant and prefers well-drained soil. It also attracts pollinators such as butterflies and bees to your garden.

5. Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens)

Bulbine is a unique and eye-catching plant that can add a pop of color to any Florida garden. It has long, succulent-like leaves and bright orange or yellow flower spikes that bloom year-round.

Bulbine is drought tolerant and prefers full sun but can also thrive in partial shade. This low-maintenance plant is also deer resistant, making it a popular choice for Florida gardens.

6. Gulf Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

Gulf muhly grass is a native ornamental grass that adds texture and movement to any garden. It has delicate pink or purple flower spikes that appear in the fall, creating a stunning display.

Gulf muhly grass is drought tolerant and can thrive in full sun to partial shade. It also attracts birds and butterflies, making it a great addition to any Florida garden.

7. Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea)

Tropical sage is a showy annual herb that thrives in Florida’s warm climate. It grows up to 2-3 feet tall with spikes of bright red, pink, or white flowers that bloom from early summer to fall.

This plant is drought tolerant and prefers full sun, making it a great addition to any garden or container. It is also known for attracting hummingbirds, making it an essential plant for bird lovers.

8. Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena)

The globe amaranth is a versatile annual that can tolerate both dry and wet conditions, making it perfect for Florida’s unpredictable weather. It has unique globe-shaped flowers that come in various shades of purple, pink, and white.

These flowers bloom from spring to fall and are a favorite among pollinators such as bees and butterflies. The globe amaranth is also low maintenance and can grow up to 1-2 feet tall.

9. Firebush (Hamelia patens)

Firebush is a popular Florida native plant known for its vibrant red-orange tubular flowers that bloom from summer to fall. It can grow up to 8-12 feet tall, making it a great choice for hedges or as a focal point in your garden.

Firebush is drought tolerant and prefers full sun but can also thrive in partial shade. It also attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators, making it a must-have for any wildlife garden.

10. Buttercup III (Cuphea hyssopifolia)

Buttercup III, also known as false heather, is a small evergreen shrub that produces masses of tiny purple or white flowers from spring to fall. It prefers full sun and can grow up to 1-2 feet tall.

This plant is low maintenance and attracts pollinators such as butterflies and bees. Buttercup III is also drought tolerant and can withstand heat and humidity, making it a great choice for Florida gardens.

11. Lantana (Lantana camara)

Lantana is a colorful and hardy perennial that can be found in almost every Florida landscape. It produces clusters of vibrant flowers in shades of red, orange, yellow, and purple from spring to fall.

Lantana is heat and drought tolerant and can thrive in full sun to partial shade. It is also a favorite among pollinators, including butterflies and bees.

12. Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)

The blanket flower is a stunning perennial with daisy-like flowers that come in shades of red, orange, yellow, and bi-colors. They bloom from late spring to fall and are drought tolerant, making them a great choice for Florida’s hot and dry climate.

Blanket flowers also attract pollinators such as butterflies and bees and can grow up to 2-3 feet tall.

13. Milkweed (Asclepias)

Milkweed is an essential plant for any butterfly or wildlife garden. It is the only host plant for monarch butterflies, and its flowers also attract other pollinators.

Milkweed can be found in multiple varieties, such as the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) or butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). They prefer full sun to partial shade and are drought tolerant once established.

14. Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea is a popular choice for Florida landscapes due to its stunning and vibrant blooms. It comes in a variety of colors such as pink, red, purple, and orange and can grow up to 30 feet tall.

Bougainvillea is drought tolerant and prefers full sun but can also thrive in partial shade. The flowers are actually small and white, with colorful papery bracts surrounding them, making for a unique and eye-catching display.

15. Butterfly Bush (Buddleja)

As the name suggests, butterfly bushes are a favorite among butterflies due to their nectar-rich flowers. They come in a variety of colors such as pink, purple, blue, and white and can grow up to 6-12 feet tall depending on the variety.

Butterfly bushes are drought tolerant and prefer full sun to partial shade.

16. Gerbera Daisies (Gerbera jamesonii)

Gerbera daisies are a popular choice for adding pops of color to any garden or landscape. They come in a variety of bright and bold colors such as red, orange, yellow, pink, and purple.

Gerbera daisies prefer full sun to partial shade and are drought tolerant once established. They also attract pollinators such as butterflies and bees with their large and showy flowers.

17. Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Black-eyed Susans are a hardy and versatile flower that can thrive in different climates and soil types. They have vibrant yellow petals with a dark brown center, resembling the sun.

Black-eyed Susans bloom from mid-summer to fall and prefer full sun to partial shade. They are drought tolerant once established and attract pollinators such as butterflies and bees.

18. Tall Ironweed (Vernonia gigantea)

Tall ironweed is a native wildflower that adds a unique touch to any garden or landscape with its tall, spiky purple flowers. It can grow up to 9 feet tall and prefers full sun to partial shade with moist soil.

Tall ironweed is drought tolerant once established and attracts pollinators such as butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.

19. Firespike (Odontonema strictum)

Firespike is a tropical flower that adds a vibrant burst of red to any garden or landscape. It blooms from late summer through fall and can grow up to 4-6 feet tall.

Firespike prefers partial shade and moist, well-drained soil. It attracts pollinators such as hummingbirds with its tubular flowers.

20. Egyptian Star Flowers (Pentas lanceolata)

Egyptian star flowers are a colorful and low-maintenance choice for any garden or landscape. They come in a variety of shades including pink, red, white, and lavender.

Egyptian star flowers prefer full sun to partial shade and are drought tolerant once established. They also attract pollinators such as butterflies and bees.

Caring for Your Perennials

Growing perennials in Florida means embracing the sun and rain patterns of the subtropics. That’s cool, though, because once you nail the watering and feeding rhythm, your garden’s pretty much set.

Irrigation and Watering Tips

Hey, you’re in Florida, so you know the weather here can be a bit of a diva. Your perennials are gonna need consistent water, but not too much. Here’s the lowdown:

  • Water deeply, but infrequently, to encourage deep root growth.
  • Aim for about 1 inch of water per week; whether that’s from rain or your hose, it’s all the same to your plants.
  • Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation to be water-wise and target the roots directly.
  • Stick a finger in the soil; if it’s dry a couple of inches down, it’s time to water.

Fertilizing and Mulching for Healthier Plants

You’ve got to feed your green friends and tuck them in. Here’s how you do it without overcomplicating things:

  • Fertilizer: Go for a balanced, slow-release type that feeds your plants over time. Check the N-P-K ratio on the bag—something like 10-10-10 is usually a good bet for a wide range of perennials.
  • Mulch: Spread a layer about 2 inches thick around your plants. It’ll keep the soil moist and cool, suppress weeds, and break down to enrich the soil. Plus, it makes everything look neat.

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