If you’re planning your Florida lawn or garden, then you’ve probably already figured out that you’re going to need plants that can tolerate high levels of sustained heat.
Florida summers can have strings of days when the temperature reaches 110 degrees or higher, and it’s not uncommon to have multiple days in a row with a heat index of 145 degrees or more.
In addition to the heat, however, predicting Florida rainfall can be tricky. Sometimes it can seem as if everyday brings a new thunderstorm, while other times it can seem as if your area will go for weeks without a drop of rain.
In Florida gardens, the plants that do the best are adapted to full sun but are also drought-resistant. This makes them tolerant to high amounts of heat while also giving them some protection against the occasional dry spell.
Plants that are drought and heat resistant will require a lot less water and care. If you’re looking for some ideas on what to plant, try these suggestions.
Table of Contents
- Trees and Shrubs
- Grasses and Ground cover
- Final Thought
Trees and Shrubs
Drought and heat resistant trees can be a little difficult to find in Florida. Trees can rarely rely on shade from other plants, meaning that most of them get full sun throughout the day.
Few trees are able to withstand Florida heat without losing their leaves. Look for varieties that send out long taproots that can reach the water table. Once established, these trees can usually withstand months of high temperatures.
1. Beauty Berry (Callicarpa)
This tall shrub is a very distant cousin to the American blueberry and the sparkle berry tree. It has strikingly bright purple berries that grow in large clusters along with delicate lavender flowers.
While the berries don’t taste very good (they tend to taste very sour), some people will use them to mix with other berries to make jams or jellies. This shrub can go for several weeks without direct watering; it tends to send out a long taproot that will draw water from Florida’s high water table.
2. Buttonwood (Conocarpus Erectus)
These trees have silver-green foliage that makes a very pretty addition to many types of gardens. They are usually used as small accent trees or placed close together to form a hedge.
3. Firebush (Hamelia Patens)
This plant is native to the Tampa region and features tube shaped yellow and orange flowers. The shrub is known to attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds, making it an excellent choice for a pollination garden.
Many gardeners will choose to grow it in containers if they live in the northern part of the state, however, since it can be susceptible to freezes. The plant is very easy grow, however, and is often recommended to first-time gardeners.
4. Yellow Pine (Pinus Echinata)
This tree can grown to be over 100 feet tall and has been known to be over 40 feet wide, so make sure you have a lot of space if you decide to grow this.
While it can tolerate some partial shade, it grows very quickly so odds are it won’t be in shade for too long. If you grow it as part of a garden, make sure you consider how large the root system will grow one you plant other things around it.
5. Palm Trees (Arecaceae)
It’s hard to think about Florida without thinking about palm trees. All too often, people assume that these trees are well-suited to Florida climates, and that they must be heat and drought tolerant. The truth is that palm trees are heat resistant, but they are rarely the best choice for a Florida garden.
In fact, these trees are not even native to Florida. They require incredible amounts of water to get started, and continue to need constant irrigation throughout their lives. Furthermore, they are very susceptible to the cold, making them a poor choice for many gardens in the northern part of the state.
Heat resistant flowers are readily available throughout Florida. In particular, you will likely have the most success with Flowers that are native to Florida or other tropical areas. Try to find flowers that have strong root systems and thick stems, these types of plants tend to hold water longer than more delicate flowers.
Considered by many to be a type of cactus, this plant is usually associated with the American Southwest more than Florida. There are actually many different types of agave, including the famous blue agave and lesser-known varieties sun as Caribbean, false, and smooth agave.
It is extremely heat tolerant and does very well in sandy soils.
7. Lavender (Lavandula)
This is one of my favorite plants to grow in Florida. In addition to growing in the northern part of the state naturally, it has a great scent and will grow very quickly.
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8. Blue Salvia (Salvia Azurea)
Native to the southwest region of the country, this plant is becoming increasingly popular in Florida. While blue salvia is the most popular variety of this species, there are several other varieties that produce flowers in a lot of different colors.
This plant is also very easy to grow and resistant to deer and rabbits, making it an easy plant to add to a garden that will help to repel pests.
9. Blanket flower (Gaillardia)
This plant features bright red and golden flowers that will attract butterflies. Although it’s technically an annual, the flower will reseed itself, making it very easy to grow and maintain over several years. Blanket flower is also salt resistant.
10. Beach sunflower (Helianthus Debilis)
These appear to be smaller versions of the sunflowers that are native to the Midwest, but they are actually a different species. Beach sunflowers have orange and yellow petals that surround a brown center. Besides being heat and drought resistant, they are also salt resistant and tend to thrive in sandy or acidic soils.
11. African daisies (Osteospermum)
These flowers are drought resistant once they’ve been established, but not when they are first planted. Give them at least a few months to develop a deep enough root system to survive a dry spell.
Don’t worry if you mess up, though. While the top part of the plant will wither, their root system will stay dormant until the plant is watered again.
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12. Beardtongues (Penstemon)
These beardtongues plants or penstemon, seem to do better when they don’t get watered. In actuality, the moisture from the air combined with a small amount of natural rainfall makes this plant thrive.
13. Cactus (Cactaceae)
This may seem like an obvious choice, but cactus does surprisingly well in Florida, particularly in South Florida. There are thousands of varieties to choose from, but many gardeners have found that flowering species do the best in their gardens.
While Cacti are certainly drought and heat resistant, be aware that they are susceptible to over-watering. In fact, a typical Florida thunderstorm can provide enough water to a cactus for a month. For this reason, many people choose to grow cacti in containers that they can bring inside when it rains.
Grasses and Ground cover
Every Florida lawns to have some sort of grass or ground cover. Picking a variety that is heat tolerant is crucial to making sure your lawn survives the summer. In many cases these grasses and plants will need to be watered regularly in order to get established, but it will need a lot less water once its root system is fully grown.
14. Bahiagrass (Paspalum Notatum)
If you’re looking for a good drought-resistant ground cover that will do well in both full sun and partial shade, Bahia grassor paspalum notatum, might be the right choice for you. While you may need to water it to get it established, especially if you decide to start it from seed, Bahia grass needs relatively little water once it has a root system established. In fact, many homeowners rely solely on rain to keep their Bahia grass lawn watered.
15. St. Augustine Grass (Stenotaphrum Secundatum)
This grasses native to the northern parts of Florida, and is known not only for its heat and drought resistance but also its tolerance for high amount of salt. This makes St. Augustine grass a good choice for anyone who lives near a beach or one of our many brackish rivers.
16. Aloe (Aloe Vera)
This plant is prized by many Florida gardeners because it spreads quickly and has medicinal uses. Aloe or aloe vera, is usually started from a cutting taken from another plant; simply place the cutting directly into soil. The plant usually needs very little water once it gets established, with most Florida gardeners simply leaving it outside to catch water naturally.
It is very difficult to over or underwater aloe, and it can spread very rapidly throughout a garden or a container. Many Floridians like to keep this plant in their garden or in a container on their patios because the leaves can be cut off, sliced open, and the gel inside used to treat minor burns and skin irritations. The gel can also be mixed into a drink and used to treat an upset stomach.
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In conclusion, the world of drought-tolerant full sun plants in Florida is a captivating one. It offers a diverse selection of resilient and beautiful options that can withstand the intense heat and occasional drought of the Sunshine State. From the vibrant blooms of the Blanket Flower to the architectural grandeur of the Yucca, these plants not only bring life and color to your garden but also serve as a testament to nature’s adaptability.
By incorporating these drought-tolerant plants into your Florida landscape, you can create a garden that thrives even under challenging conditions. Their ability to conserve water and endure the scorching sun allows you to enjoy a vibrant outdoor space without constantly worrying about watering and maintenance.
Remember, successful gardening in Florida’s climate requires proper planning, including preparing the soil, implementing water-saving techniques, and grouping plants with similar water needs together. Additionally, adding mulch and practicing smart watering strategies such as drip irrigation can further enhance the resilience of your garden.
So, whether you’re looking to transform your backyard into a tropical paradise or add a touch of desert elegance, the world of drought-tolerant full sun plants in Florida has something for everyone. Embrace the beauty and resilience of these plants, and let them bring life and vibrancy to your outdoor space, creating a garden that can weather the hottest of days and flourish with grace. Happy gardening!