Let’s be honest: Most of us get a lot less enthusiastic about tending our landscapes once temperatures rise above 90 degrees. Fortunately, if we select tough-as-nails Florida-friendly plants from the start, our landscapes do not have to wither when we retreat inside.
The following four ironclad perennials will reward you with color, texture and overall excellent performance all summer—asking little in return.
Black-Eyed Susan Goldsturm (Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivanti Goldsturm)
There are few landscape plants more reliable than plain old black-eyed Susan. This beauty delivers yellow-gold flowers starting in May.
While not precisely native, the 1937 selection Goldsturm is easily the most popular variety of black-eyed Susan, with good reason.
Goldsturm improves upon the native variety in almost every way. It is a more compact plant, forming a spreading mass of flowers about 2 feet in height; sports larger, showier flowers than other types; and flaunts lustrous dark-green foliage.
If low-maintenance, raw flower power is what you are after, black-eyed Susan Goldsturm may be right for you.
Dwarf Fakahatchee Grass (Tripsacum floridanum)
However, popular ornamental grass species such as miscanthus, Muhlenbergia, Pennisetums and others may grow too large for most gardens and must be replaced a few years later.
Dwarf Fakahatchee fits this niche perfectly. This native grows 2 to 3 feet high and forms a lovely emerald-green fountain of grass. It is more adaptable than most ornamental grass species. It will thrive in sun or partial shade, and is tolerant of both wet and dry sites. It even enjoys a rejuvenation burn every couple of years.
Carolina Petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis)
Carolina petunia is a compact, hardy plant around 24 inches in height whose prolific purple flowers make it a great addition to virtually any garden border. It is not picky regarding soil and—while flowering is best in full sun—grows just fine in the dappled shade of pines or other taller perennials and shrubs.
Like scarlet sage, Carolina petunia will reseed around the landscape but is easily managed. Please don’t confuse Carolina petunia with Mexican petunia (Ruellia simplex), which is not a Florida native plant and may be invasive.
Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea)
If the landscape calls for a plant with flowers hotter than the July sun, scarlet sage is hard to beat. This tough, prolific perennial boasts fire-engine red, tube-shaped blooms throughout the warm season in Florida and is one of the best attractors of a host of pollinators, including butterflies and hummingbirds.
Growing this native couldn’t be easier. It’s not picky about soil, so long as it doesn’t stay waterlogged. It requires little to no supplemental fertilizer or water, and thrives in both full sun and partial shade.
However, be aware that the plant will self-sow prolifically, potentially appearing in unwanted places and becoming a nuisance. With a plant this undemanding and pretty, I doubt you will mind if it decides to ramble through the landscape.