Real Plants Florida
Growing, planting and promoting
Florida native plants for sustainable landscapes.
Gardeners & Homeowners

Tips on Selecting Florida Native Plants

When selecting native plants, there are a few important factors that can “make or break” a project’s success.


More native plants are available than ever before, but many are still limited in availability, and considerable time is often required to coordinate availability among multiple native growers. For some species, it may be necessary to contract grow the plants. Many native plants cannot be produced on the same schedule or with the same methods as non-natives. Use this website to identify general availability, but always consult directly with FANN growers by phone before submitting plant lists to installers or clients. If your project has the luxury of planning time, consider contract growing as a solution to obtaining exactly what you want.

Reasonable Sizes to Specify

All too often, we see requirements for plants which cannot be grown to the sizes specified in a practical time period. Unfortunately, existing Florida Grades and Standards were not developed with a comprehensive, in-depth view of what constitutes healthy native plant growth. Use of these “one size/one form fits all” industry standards sometimes results in unreasonable expectations and a loss of natural, healthy diversity of species and forms.

Diversity and Genetic Adaptation of Species

Scientists are just beginning to understand that the variety of plant species found in native plant communities is part of what makes these communities able to adapt and regenerate in response to change. Some of this adaptability is genetically encoded in the plants, resulting in what we call “local ecotypes,” species specifically adapted to local conditions. Sustainable landscape designs should strive to mimic the complexity and diversity found in native plant communities whenever possible. Don’t feel compelled to plant repetitive masses of a small number of species. And always ask where plants come from and how their origin is expected to affect their performance. Source plants locally, from locally grown seed or cuttings, whenever possible.

Adaptability, including any specific plant needs or limits

Not surprisingly, our most popular and widely used native plants are generally highly adaptable to a range of conditions. But some native plants do have specific or narrow tolerances with regard to soil fertility, pH, drainage or other conditions. Some of this information is provided in reference books but it’s always best to check with FANN growers, who have seen the plants perform in a wide variety of sites over long periods of time.

Landscape Performance, including Seasonality

Don’t rely solely on reference books to determine whether plants “look good” at different times of the year. Check with local FANN growers. There can be great variation in general appearance within a species and in its seasonal behavior, depending upon location. Wildflowers are becoming more popular and available, but many have periods of time during which they are less attractive or visible. It’s important to know these details during selection.

Best Methods for Establishment and Maintenance

Ask growers about schedules and methods for irrigation, fertilization and pruning/shearing, and document this information for use in maintenance plans. Don’t assume that the maintenance techniques you’ve been using in traditional non-native landscapes will work well in native landscapes. Some native plants will not respond well to heavy watering, others will. The same is true for fertilization and pruning/shearing. Growers should also be consulted about choices of mulch and other site materials that can affect plant performance.

Thinking Native

Learning to design in native plant communities and select native plants is a little like learning a new language. FANN can help you acquire the grammar and vocabulary and have you “thinking native” in no time. With advance communication and planning, you can design and install a native landscape that rivals the beauty and sustainability you see in nature. FANN is here to help – your success is ours as well.