Native Plants Garden at VISTA

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Dwarf Fakahatchee Grass

Smaller species of Fakahatchee clumping grass makes it a better option for landscaping if you’re short on space. It has noticeably smaller, narrower leaf blades and grows 2 to 3 feet tall and wide.  It has little, sharp teeth along the blade edges. Flowers appear in late spring on spikes, usually yellow in color. It is drought tolerant and useful for stabilizing slopes or banks.

Dwarf Fakahatchee grass is the larval food plant of the Byssus Skipper butterfly and its seeds are consumed by birds.

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Fakahatchee Grass

Native Floridian grass great for landscaping as an accent or border plant to add curb appeal to the property. Easy to grow and propagate and is drought tolerant, even though it is frequently found growing on river banks, hammocks, swamps and other wet sites.


Tall, green, grass-like foliage rising upright to form large clumps that grow from 4 to 6 feet wide and tall.  The leaves have sharp little teeth along the edges. Flowers appear in late spring on spikes that rise above the leaves. The flower colors can be white, pink, yellow or rust.

Fakahatchee grass is the larval food plant of the Byssus Skipper butterfly and its seeds are consumed by birds.

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Ironweed Gigantea

A Florida native, Ironweed is a long-lived perennial that reaches 3 to 10 feet tall. A member of the sunflower family, it is found in the eastern U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Ironweed flourishes in moist areas and can be found growing on prairies, grasslands, fields, roadsides and woodlands and along the banks and exposed sand bars of streams.  From July to October, dark purple flowers appear in in large masses blooming at the top of the plants. Be prepared to look up if the plant is taller than you are!

Maintained in the garden by pruning late winter, so it will not get weedy. Sometimes produce lots of seeds, which you may spread in your garden. Great pollinator plant and nectar source which will attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.


Needle Palm

Native Floridian palm with lustrous, evergreen leaves. Excellent as accent plant.  Adds textural interest beneath new or established trees. Slow-growing, shrubby palm that can spread to 8 feet tall and wide. Its common name comes from the sharp, black needles found along the trunk.  


The Needle Palm is prized by many cold-climate gardeners looking for a tropical look as it can tolerate temperatures below zero degrees. Although it is grown as far north as New York, it is a native coastal plant normally found in the southeast from the Carolinas through to Florida and Mississippi.  It is versatile in both sunny and shady locations but performs best with some shade.

This plant is endangered in the wild so take care to purchase from a reputable dealer in a nursery setting.

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Shiny Coffee

Native shrub, also known as Wild Coffee, with deep green, shiny and evergreen leaves.  Bears clusters of small white flowers that bloom from the branch tips in spring/summer and produce red fruit in summer/fall. The fruit resembles true coffee beans, but they do not contain caffeine. While wild coffee is in the same family as true coffee (Rubiacaea), they are not the same species.

These shrubs reach anywhere from 4 to 10 feet tall and spread 4 to 8 feet wide with a very dense growth habit.  Cultivars of wild coffee, such as the dwarf shrub “Little Psycho” can be found in the plant trade.

Birds and other wildlife are attracted to the wild coffee fruits.  The flowers are one of the nectar sources for the rare Atala butterfly found primarily in southeast Florida.


Swamp Azalea

Swamp azalea, Florida’s only white-flowered and summer-blooming rhododendron, is a long-lived perennial shrub to small tree that can grow from 5 to 15 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Occurs naturally in wet flat woods, seep and bay swamps and along lake margins.


Deciduous leaves are elliptic, pubescent and alternately arranged. Flowers late spring through summer after the leaves emerge with fragrant white blooms often tinged with pink. The long corolla is tubular and covered in sticky, gland-tipped hairs. It opens into five lobes, exposing five conspicuous stamens that extend well beyond the corolla.


Attractive to a variety of pollinators, including hummingbirds.

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Swamp Dogwood

Swamp dogwood is found only in low, moist woodlands and swamps throughout the southeastern U.S. and west to Missouri. It grows 10 to 15 feet tall and wide with stiff, upright branches, reddish-purple stems, and dark green leaves that are 1 to 4 inches long.  In Spring you will find creamy white flowers in clusters up to 3 inches across.  In the fall the fruit turns blue and is about 1/4 inch in diameter.  Typical of most dogwood plants, this shrub is deciduous and drops its leaves in the fall.

Swamp Dogwood is a valuable choice for naturalized or planting in shrub borders in both moist or soggy sites.

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Tropical Sage

Tropical Sage is one of Florida’s native plants that creates a dramatic effect if grown in mass plantings as part of your landscape.  Space them approximately 18 inches apart in a planting bed, in full-sun and well-drained soil.  They also do well as container plants. 


This perennial grows about 2 feet tall and wide in an upright position.  Very small, slightly hairy, serrated leaves are attached opposite one another on the stem. The cheerful red flowers are about 1-inch long, tubular in shape and develop in a whorl pattern at the tip of the stem.

The bright red color plus the nectar are a natural draw for hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators.

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Virginia Sweetspire

Also known as Henry’s Garnet, this compact shrub is commonly found in swamps, stream banks, wet hammocks, and floodplain forests throughout Florida.


A great addition to any garden landscape, it features graceful arching branches that grow 3-4 feet tall and 4-6 feet wide.  Blooms in mid-spring with tiny, fragrant white flowers along drooping flower spikes 3 to 6 inches long. Very showy!


The plant’s stem also adds color to the landscape, starting out purplish-red and changing through shades of red, brown and green as it matures. 


Provides four seasons of beauty!  The bottlebrush shaped flowers are loved by bees and butterflies.