Native Florida Flowers for Native Pollinators

Native Florida Flowers for Native Pollinators

Florida’s diverse ecosystem is home to a variety of native plants that provide resources for local pollinators. Native flowers are not only a beautiful addition to any garden but also play a crucial role in maintaining the health of our environment. Planting native species supports the delicate balance of local ecosystems and promotes the survival of native pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Here are some native Florida flowers that are perfect for attracting and sustaining native pollinators.

Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.)

October 2008 IFAS Extension Calendar Photo. Corey Yellow Coreopsis, flower. UF/IFAS Photo: Thomas Wright.

Coreopsis, also known as tickseed, is Florida’s state wildflower. These bright, yellow flowers are a favorite among native bees and butterflies. Coreopsis blooms from spring through fall, providing a long-lasting nectar source. They thrive in full sun and well-drained soil, making them an excellent choice for gardens and landscapes across the state.

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Rudbeckia hirta Photo Credit: Danielle Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Gadsden County

Black-eyed Susans are easily recognizable by their bright yellow petals and dark brown centers. These hardy perennials attract a variety of pollinators, including bees and butterflies. They are drought-tolerant and prefer full sun, making them a resilient addition to any garden.

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia pulchella)

Photo Credit: Beth Bolles, UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County

Blanket Flower, also known as Firewheel, can be found throughout Florida in dry, sandy soils and sunny conditions. It is also a hardy perennial and is known for its long blooming period from spring to fall. The red and yellow blooms are a perfect pollinator attractant, particularly bees and butterflies.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Flowers and insects at the student gardens on the University of Florida campus. Pollinating bee. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Purple coneflowers are not only striking with their large, purple petals and spiky centers but are also magnets for bees and butterflies. The nectar of this flower will attract a variation of bees, butterflies, and some hummingbirds, but the seeds that the coneflower produces can be eaten by wildlife. The purple coneflower is considered an endangered native Florida wildflower and can only be found naturally in Gadsden County.

American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

While this is not a “traditional” wildflower, the beautyberry is an important native pollinator plant and food source for wildlife. The flowers are small in size and vary from light pink to lavender in color. The blooms open in late spring/early summer and produce a purple berry that can be an additional food source for birds and other animals.

By choosing to plant native wildflowers, you can create a vibrant and thriving garden or landscape bed that supports Florida’s native pollinators. For more information on Florida’s native wildflowers please visit:

Diversification of Dooryard Fruit

Diversification of Dooryard Fruit

Here in North Florida, it is not uncommon to see a few citrus trees in a residential landscape. With Florida being the second highest producing state of citrus, it is not out of the normal to see them when you are out and about. They are a great option to keep a lush green aesthetic in your yard. But, what other options are there for the homeowner that wants to add some edible diversity to their landscape? In this article we will be discussing a few of the many edible landscape choices that can add both diversity and a sweet treat to your yard.

A popular edible landscape option is the rabbiteye cultivar of blueberry. The rabbiteye blueberry plant is considered easier to grow for the first time blueberry grower in comparison to the southern high bush cultivar. This cultivar thrives in acidic soils and requires a soil pH of 4.0 to 5.5. When planting, the use of pine bark mulch is a great organic method to satisfy the soil pH requirement. Mixing composted pine bark mulch in the soil and adding additional mulch after the bush is planted will add to the soil’s organic matter over time. Mulching also aids the establishment of young plants and moderates soil temperatures and weed control. For variety selection, mid-to-late season rabbiteye cultivars are best for Northwest Florida, as they are more cold tolerant and less susceptible to lose their flowers and young set fruit in late winter/early spring frosts. Common mid-to-late season rabbiteye’s are ‘Vernon’, ‘Brightwell’, ‘Powderblue’, ‘Tifblue’, and ‘Georgia Giant’. Because blueberry plants are not “self-unfruitful”, they will require more than one variety to cross-pollinate with in order to produce fruit. Two is great, but three plants will also encourage larger fruit set for you and your family to enjoy!

Blueberry Set Fruit, Jackson County Master Gardener Demo Garden

Another option that has steadily grown interest in the Florida Panhandle is the apple tree. There are two known cultivars of apple that are acclimated to the North Florida region due to their low chill hour requirement cold tolerance. This is the ‘Anna’ Apple and the ‘Dorsett Golden’ Apple. Apple trees will perform best in full sun locations of the yard and prefer a well-drained soil. The chilling hour requirement for these cultivars of apple are between 400-600 hours. You will begin to see the fruit ripen in the months of May to June. The ‘Anna” Apple has been compared to the well known ‘Red Delicious” that is best known in northern region of the United States. Planting should occur in early spring and planting holes should be big enough that the root system does not become over crowded from limited expansion space. There is no UF/IFAS fertilizer recommendation for the apple tree because it is not commercially produced in Florida, but generally a fertilizer such as 10-10-10 can be used.

‘Anna’ Apple, Photo Credit: UF/IFAS NFREC

The blackberry is a great choice as well for an edible landscape. There are several blackberry species that are native to Florida. Most blackberries produce thorns on their shoots, but many new cultivars have been developed as thornless. When selecting your planting location, low-lying areas should be avoided to deter from over-flooding of your plants. Blackberries thrive best in well-drained soils and high air flow and should be planted between December to February. Pollination of the plant is very important to ensure the quality and quantity of the fruit produced; blackberries range from self-fruitful to self-unfruitful depending on the cultivar. ‘Apache’, ‘Flordagrand’, and ‘Choctaw’ are a few examples of many blackberry cultivars available. The first year after the blackberry has been established, it will only produce new shoots with no berries. These shoots are called primocanes. The second year, berries will produce on these shoots and then be called floricanes. It is important to cut the tip off the primocanes after they have reached about 3 ft in height to encourage the shoot to create lateral branches. Floricanes will die off after they have produced fruit. Trellises can be used as well to encourage the plant to grow upright and off the ground.

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Creating a Pollinator Paradise: Attracting Bees, Butterflies, and Birds to Your Garden

Creating a Pollinator Paradise: Attracting Bees, Butterflies, and Birds to Your Garden

In the ever growing urbanization of our world today, green spaces are hard to come by but are so essential to biodiversity conservation. Pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and birds, play a crucial role in our ecosystem by facilitating plant reproduction. Unfortunately, pollinator populations are declining due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. However, by making simple changes to your garden, you can create an environment that supports and protects your pollinators. In this article, we will discuss ways to turn your garden into a pollinator paradise.

Gulf Fritillary butterfly on flower. Photo taken 09-26-22. UF/IFAS Photo by Cat Wofford.

Choosing Native Plants

Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions, making them ideal for supporting native pollinators. Research native species that thrive in your region and incorporate them into your landscape. Aim for a diverse selection of flowers that bloom at different times throughout the year to provide a continuous food source for pollinators.

Flowers and insects at the student gardens on the University of Florida campus. Pollinating bee. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Providing Shelter and Nesting Sites

Pollinators need more than just nectar-rich flowers; they also require sheltered spaces for nesting or overwintering. By incorporating features such as brush piles, dead trees, and nesting boxes you are creating habitat diversity for the pollinators. Leaving some areas of bare soil for ground-nesting bees and providing water sources like shallow dishes or birdbaths can further enhance your garden’s appeal to pollinators as well.

Avoid Chemical Pesticides

Chemical pesticides not only can harm pollinators, but they can also directly disrupt ecosystems. Instead of reaching for a spray on the shelf to deter pests, consider using a natural pest control method such as companion planting, handpicking pests, and encouraging natural predators like ladybugs and birds. Certain organic gardening practices not only protect pollinators, but can also promote your garden’s overall health.

Embrace Imperfection

A manicured garden may look appealing, but it can be sometimes inhospitable to our pollinator friends. Create a more naturalistic approach by allowing certain areas of your garden to grow wild. Letting plants go to seed, leaving some leaf litter, and allowing flowers to fade and form seed heads provide valuable resources for pollinators throughout their life cycle.

A butterfly garden at a Florida-Friendly Landscape. UF/IFAS Photo taken by Cat Wofford 9-29-23

Educate and Inspire Others

Because pollinator numbers have rapidly declined in recent years, awareness and education of their importance to our ecosystem is crucial. Spreading the word of their importance and how you can contribute to conservation efforts truly helps the cause. UF/IFAS Extension has made great efforts in hosting workshops, giving presentations, and sharing information through newsletters and social media about the importance of creating pollinator habitats. We encourage you, your neighbors, friends, and community members to join in the movement of creating pollinator-friendly gardens and landscapes.

By transforming your garden into a pollinator paradise, you not only enhance its beauty, but also play a vital role in conserving biodiversity. Every flower you plant and every habitat you create contributes to the well-being of bees, butterflies, birds, and other pollinators. Together, we can make a difference and ensure a thriving ecosystem for generations to come.

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Starting Seeds: Essential Tools & Tips

Starting Seeds: Essential Tools & Tips

As we eagerly anticipate the arrival of spring, it’s the perfect time to begin thinking about planning your garden. A key thing to do to help prep yourself is starting your seeds. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just beginning, having the right tools and supplies is crucial for garden success.

Photo Credit: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS

Seed Trays and Containers

If you are intending to start seeds to plant between February and March, you will need to obtain seed trays or containers to germinate your seeds. Seed trays can come in different shapes and sizes, allowing you to accommodate for different types of seeds. When you have selected what seeds you are planting for this year, you will need to follow the seeding rates and spacing measurements on the back of the seed packet. You want to opt for a tray that has proper drainage to prevent any type of waterlogging, but still keeps some moisture to support seed germination. You will need a quality seed starting mix to create a strong foundation for your seeds to germinate in. Using a light weight media that will allow airflow is also important. When planting your seeds in the tray, smaller seeds can be broadcasted over the surface of your soil media and larger seeds will need to be covered.

Example of a seed tray. Photo Credit: Terri Keith, UF/IFAS Extension Jackson County

Temperature & Humidity

Correct temperatures and humidity are both very important for successful germination of your seeds. Some trays come with a clear plastic cover or “dome” to help regulate the temperature and the humidity in the soil media. This creates a “greenhouse” effect for your seeds. If you are having trouble controlling the humidity, you may consider poking holes in the cover if there is too much moisture in the soil media. Once the humidity is controlled, cover the holes with clear tape.

Your seeds will need warmer temperatures to aid the process of germination. A tool you might consider investing in is a heat mat. The heat mat lays underneath the seed tray and helps provide warm temperatures consistently during the day and night, keeping the soil media warm enough to allow the seeds to germinate properly. Most heat mats are electrical and will need to be plugged in, so starting your seeds indoors may be a better option during January and February. After the seeds have germinated and have grown to about 2 inches high, they will need to be thinned out and transplanted to a bigger container until the time is right to transplant them to your garden.


When planning any type of project, it is always important to stay organized. If you are planting different kinds of seeds in one tray, using labels to know which seeds were planted will help you after the transplants have grown to their desired height. Once you have planted all the seeds that will be used, storing them correctly for the next season is vital. Storing them in a temperature controlled environment that is free from excess moisture is crucial so that they stay viable for the next season. It is also important to keep stored seeds labeled with the packet they came from to know spacing and number of days to harvest for the coming year.

Arming yourself with the necessary tools and knowledge is essential to nurture your seeds into thriving plants. Whether you’re cultivating a windowsill garden or preparing for an outdoor oasis, knowing the key steps to starting your seeds will lay the groundwork for a great harvest.

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Cover Crops in the Garden

Cover Crops in the Garden

If you ever drive in the country during the cooler months, you may notice wheat and oats planted out in the fields. They seem to be “covering” the farmland. Well, that is exactly what they are; they are a cover crop! But, did you know, that cover crops can also be implemented in your garden? You may be asking yourself, “What is a cover crop?” “How can I use that in my garden?” and “How does it benefit me?.” Today we are going to answer these questions.

What is a cover crop? A cover crop is a commodity that is planted when fall or summer gardening has ended to “cover” the area that was previously planted. It is planted in between planting seasons, so you would plant a cover crop in the winter between fall and spring crops. Cover crops are a mechanism to help improve the soil quality of your gardening area over time when it is not being used. The technique of implementing cover crops has been around for over 2,500 years. It is suggested that the Greeks and Romans used cover crop methods. So, if the wheel isn’t broke, don’t fix it!

If you decide to use cover crops in your off season, there are things to consider: your growing season, what will improve the nitrogen fixation for your next season, the contribution the cover crop will give to your organic matter building in the soil, and how it will improve your soil health to increase future yields.

Clover Cover Crop , Photo Credit: D. Leonard, UF/IFAS Calhoun Extension

Cover crops can help prevent soil from eroding during the off season. The roots of your cover crop will allow the soil to remain in place and add back organic matter over time. These crops are one of the best options to help improve your soil health of your garden, food plot, raised bed, etc. Like anything else, there are benefits and challenges. Benefits include weed control, soil erosion prevention, improving soil health/recycling of soil nutrients, and potential pollinator habitats. Challenges that cover crops can create are that they can become excessively woody and tall so they become hard to manage and if not timed correctly, your next season’s planting schedule can also be obscured. An example of a taller woody maturing crop would be sunn hemp. Shorter nonwoody options include clovers, vetch, and several types of grasses.

There are many different types of cover crops. Some examples include: winter wheat, red clover, annual rye grass, vetch, English peas, and sunn hemp. These all have characteristics in common: they are weed suppressors, they prevent erosion, a few are strong sources of nitrogen, they build soil matter, and a few even attract pollinators.

Sunn Hemp field at Bettstown Farm in Bainbridge, GA, UF/IFAS Extension A. Payne

When planting your cover crop, be sure that there are no remaining plants from your previous plantings still in your growing area. Clear the area of weeds and any flowers, fruit, or vegetables. The soil will need to be level and as you plant your seed for the cover, broadcast the seed in a back-and-forth motion to ensure even planting. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of topsoil.

The next question you may have, “When do I remove my cover crop to plant my next season?” Cover crops should be terminated when they reach their flowering stage or when they appear to begin producing seed heads. When a cover crop flowers, then it has a reached the point that it has contributed the most it can of the biomass and nutrients to your soil. If they are not terminated before the seed formation stage, then they could become a weed or what is deemed to be a plant out of place in your next crop season. We terminate by mowing or crimping down the crops to where it is flush with soil. The cover crop remains can be left on the soil surface to decompose as mulch. Leaving the cover crop on the top of the soil is considered a no till method. A rule of thumb is to time your cover crop seeding so that you can terminate the crop 3 months prior to planting your next crop.

Cover Crop Termination Example, Photo Credit: D. Leonard, UF/IFAS Calhoun Extension

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