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Landscape trees and shrubs
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Trees and shrubs common in Florida landscape
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Geiger Tree
(Cordia sebestena)

Family - Boraginaceae
Coastal Strand & Hammocks
The Geiger tree is widely considered to be a Florida native tree although this status is subject to some debate.

Slow growing to a height of 25 feet with an equal spread, the Geiger tree has large cordate to ovate, alternately arranged & rough textured dark green leaves, leaf margins are entire & undulate.

Attractive orange flowers are produced in clusters the year round and are profuse in the spring & summer. Fruit is green, oval, to 3 inches long shaped like a small pear.

Geiger Tree's orange flowers Geiger Tree

Use for - Small accent or specimen tree, street tree Propagation is by seed. The Geiger tree is very salt and soil tolerant making it suitable for seaside landscape use. It is resistant to drought, although it tends to drop its leaves in response to very dry conditions.

Soil may be acidic to alkaline as long as it's well drained. Geiger trees will grow in full sun to partially shaded locations in zones 10, 11. Requires pruning to develop a dense canopy.

Japanese Privet
(Ligustrum japonicum)

Family - Oleaceae
This shrub or small tree is often confused with and sometimes shares common names with Ligustrum lucidum which has thin, 4 to 8 inch long leaves with narrow, pointed tips and distinct reddish-yellow margins.

Ligustrum japonicum has thick leaves 2-4 inches long with a more rounded, blunt tips.

This is a versatile landscape plant, it responds well to clipping and can be grown as a shrub or as a small tree up to about 15 feet..

When grown as a tree the crown is symmetrical and usually gets a spread equal to or greater than the overall height of the tree. Leaves are dark green and oblong to ovate. Leaf margins are entire and undulate (wavy). Zones 7 thru 10, full sun to partial shade.

Japanese privet leaf Japanese privet flower

Landscape uses - Hedges, tall screens, groups with under-plantings, Bonsai, topiaries and containers. Drought tolerant once established, not salt tolerant, should be protected from salt spray.

Japanese Privet is relatively pest free, can be subject to scale and sooty mold if planted in shady, moist locations & doesn't like "wet feet". If the roots stay wet root rot will probably result. Some find the smell of the flowers to be offensive, a few people may even experience allergy symptoms from them. L. lucidum and L. sinense are invasive and should not be planted in Florida, these two are extremely difficult to eradicate, sprouting back from small pieces of root left in the soil and seeds spread by birds into lawns and forest where they readily sprout, quickly outgrowing native plants.

Guava
(Psidium guajava)

Family - Myrtaceae
A.K.A. Apple Guava, this plant can grow as a large shrub or as a small tree up to 30 feet tall.

The common Guava has been so widely distributed by man and beast that its geographic origins are uncertain, but it is believed to be from southern Mexico and/or Central America.

Guava is grown commercially for its fruit in Florida, as well as being used for a home landscape and fruit tree, there are several varieties available developed specifically for Florida.

Guava treeGuava fruitCommon Guava leaves

Zones 9-11. Guava is not particular about soil composition, ideal soil pH is from 4.5 to 7 & will grow well in places that are too wet for most fruit trees. Full sun is needed for best fruit production. Guava begins producing fruit at 3-4 years of age, flowers and fruits year round in Florida with peaks in summer and again in the spring.

Fruit is 1 to 4 inches long & can be round, pear or egg shaped. Depending on the variety, the fruits skin can be thick or thin, with many or few seeds and can be sweet or acidic, the flesh of the fruit varies in color from white to pink.

Guava is subject to a number of insect pests and diseases including the Caribbean fruit fly.

This plant is considered an invasive species and thus a threat to Florida natural eco-systems

Lantana
(Lantana camara)

Family - Verbenaceae
Also known as Shrub Verbena, it has been so widely hybridized that it can be difficult to distinguish one species amongst the many. Heights are up to 6 feet or more.

Florida also has it own native Lantana species, Lantana canescens, Lantana involucrata and Lantana depressa, the last of which includes 3 varieties, again these are difficult to separate taxonomically and are classified differently by various experts, now non-native lantanas have spread to the wilds and are believed to be hybridizing with native species.

Lantana camara

Zones - 7, 11. Grows and blooms year round in frost free locations, may be treated as an annual in colder parts of the state. The most popular varieties of Lantana used in Florida landscaping today are the low growing, mounding types that are usually used for ground covers, borders, containers and mixed beds. Other, larger varieties can be used as shrub hedges or screens.

Many colors are available, including reds, yellow/gold, orange, lavender and blues. Yellow (or gold if you prefer) varieties are often sold as being plants that are "native" to Florida, a claim that is highly unlikely to be true. Lantana is fast growing with regular watering, otherwise it is drought tolerant when established, as well as resistant to salt air, making it a good choice for seaside landscapes.

All parts of Lantana are poisonous if ingested. Sensitive individuals may get a rash or skin irritation from handling plants.

Classified as an invasive exotic in the state of Florida, Lantana camara escapes into the wild, displacing native plants and animals. Landscapers & property owners can avoid contributing to this problem by planting only sterile hybrids.

Gumbo-limbo
(Bursera simaruba)

Family - Burseraceae
Gumbo limbo is a briefly deciduous tree to 40 feet tall with an equal spread, occasionally larger and is endemic to Florida within the continental U.S..

Easily identified by its unusual thin, glossy copper colored bark that peels from the tree in pieces, hence the nicknames of the sunburn tree or tourist tree! Leaves are alternate, pinnately compound with the leaflets having entire margins, elliptic to ovate in shape, new leaves are copper colored, otherwise deep green, 2-4+ inches long.

Mature Gumbo-limbo treeGumbo-limbo has red, peeling bark, earning it the nickname the Sunburn tree or tourist treeGumbo-limbo tree leaves

Inconspicuous green flowers are produced in spring, the red fleshy fruits that follow take a year to mature. Use as - Specimen tree, shade tree. Zones - 10, 11. Full sun to partial shade, propagation is by cuttings of any size. Tolerant of alkaline to acid soils, needs good drainage.

Gumbo-limbo is a fast growing tree, with best growth obtained in soils with a high organic content. Salt & drought resistant.

Laurel Oak
(Quercus laurifolia )

Family - Fagaceae
Also known as the Diamond Leaf Oak, this native tree can grow to 60 plus feet tall with an equal spread, a symmetrical oval to rounded crown and may have a trunk up to 4 feet in diameter.

Zones 6b - 10. This fast growing tree is widely used in both commercial & residential landscapes as a shade tree or street tree. This tree should not be planted closer than eight feet away from structures as the roots will eventually damage things like sidewalks, roads and so on.

Culture - Full sun to partial shade, slightly acid to slightly alkaline soil pH, low salt tolerance. Laurel Oak prefers moist, well drained sandy soils. Moderately drought resistant, not tolerant of salt.

Trunk and bark of Laural oakLaural oakLaural oak leaf

This is a relatively short-lived tree with a life span of 50 - 70 years, prune when young to develop an evenly spaced branch structure and strong central leader, removing larger branches later makes the tree more susceptible to decay.

Older Laurel Oaks usually develop hollow trunks leading to the decline and eventual death of the tree, this damage may not be evident from the outward appearance of the tree.

Indian Hawthorn
(Rhaphiolepis indica)

Family - Rosaceae
Indian Hawthorn is a very popular, low growing landscape shrub. Available in several varieties with flower colors ranging from white to a rich pink and mature heights from 1 to 7 feet.

Indian Hawthorn is a compact, slow growing & medium textured plant having 2-4 inch leaves with serrate margins, new growth tends to be bronze colored.

Fragrant flowers are produced in spring and again to a lesser extent in the fall, flowering times are also dependant on the variety and location. The small, purple/black berries that follow the flowers attract birds. Used for borders, mass plantings for ground cover

Culture - Full sun to partial shade, slightly acid to slightly alkaline soil pH, ntainer plants.

Indian Hawthorn landscape shrubIndian Hawthorn - White flowerIndian Hawthorn - Pink flower

Zones 8-11. Full sun is best for flowering and dense growth. Preferring well drained soils, Indian Hawthorn has moderate drought tolerance and good salt tolerance. May develop leaf spot in shade or partial shade. Root nematodes and scale can sometimes be a problem.

Southern Live Oak
(Quercus virginiana)

Family - Fagaceae
In the wild Live oak is found in coastal & inland hammocks & floodplains on moist sandy soils.

This Florida native has large, low hanging horizontal spreading branches that may actually come to rest on the ground. Live oak may grow to 50 to 60 feet in height by 100 feet or more in spread. Trunk is stout and deeply buttressed on older trees.

Southern Live Oak - Quercus virginianaSouthern Live Oak leaf and bark

Bark is reddish-brown to black and deeply furrowed, leaves are alternate, variably oblong to elliptical, dark green on top, light grey geen undersides & leathery with entire margins that are generally slightly "rolled under" on the margins. The leaves of "sucker" shoots and saplings may be shallowly lobed or toothed.

Flowers in spring are on catkins, as is typical of the oaks. Acorns mature the same season, these are an important wildlife food source and the tree is host to a number of epiphytic species such as our native orchids, Spanish moss, ferns and "air plants" like Ball moss and Stiff leafed wild pine.

Zones 7 - 11 Live oak excels as a shade tree for large scale landscapes, the acorns attract wildlife although they may be produced sporadically from year to year. Full sun to partial shade, prefers rich, moist, sandy, well drained slightly acidic soil, but tolerates alkaline pH. Very salt tolerant with a high wind resistance.

Live Oak is a long lived tree, with its age measured in centuries. Should be pruned when young to develop a single trunk and to eliminate branches which form a deep "V" angle in relation to the trunk. Young Live oak trees are fast growing under good conditions, adding up to 3 feet of height in a single year.

Ixora
(Ixora coccinea)

Family - Rubiaceae
Ixora is a beautiful, profusely flowering shrub native to southern Asia. Several cultivars, including dwarf species with smaller leaves and smaller stature have been developed, with clusters of showy red, yellow, pink or orange flowers produced year round in southern Florida.

These long time Florida favorites are acid loving plants that can suffer from chlorosis, with yellowing of the leaves and overall decline if planted in alkaline soils. This is due to iron and manganese deficiencies brought on by the plants inability to absorb these nutrients in high pH soils, for best results avoid planting Ixora too close to concrete structures.

Mixing composted manure and/or organic matter into the soil and use of an acid based fertilizer with supplemental chelated iron & manganese will go a long ways toward sucess with these plants.

Ixora shrub in bloomClusters of red flowers belonging to the Ixora shrub.

Zones 9 - 11. Ixora needs well drained soil & grows best in full sun but will take some partial shade. Plant 2-3 feet apart for borders or hedges

Aphids, scales and the sooty mold resulting from these insect pests can be treated with oil sprays but it may take a month or more of treatments to see any noticeable results. Light frost or freeze will kill Ixora to the ground, it will usually re-sprout from the roots. Propagation is by tip and semi hard cuttings. This shrub now grows as an introduced species in Florida wilds.

Loblolly Bay
(Gordonia lasianthus)

Family - Theaceae
Swamps, Bogs, Wet Flatwoods - Evergreen tree to 60 feet in height with a narrow conical shape. Loblolly is native to the southeastern region of the U.S. as far north as the Carolina's.

Loblolly Bay has fragrant white or creamy white cup shaped flowers from 2-3 inches in diameter, with 5 petals surrounding numerous golden-yellow stamens. Flowering begins in spring and continues throughout the summer, attracting many insects.

Loblolly bay Loblolly bay  flower

Leaves are dark green above & light green on the bottom surface, alternate, oblong, lightly serrate to crenate, 2 1/2 to 6 inches long.

Use in wet areas as an ornamental or specimen tree especially where a narrow crown tree is needed due to limited space. Smaller shrubs can be grown in containers.

Zones 7-10. Loblolly Bay is a swamp dweller with a shallow root system & should be grown in acidic, wet to seasonally flooded soils that are rich in organic content.

Loblolly Bay has a low drought tolerance & is not tolerant of salt or alkaline soil. Propagation is by seed or cuttings.