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Best Native Plants to Tampa, FL


Tampa natives love the area. The wicked and unpredictable weather, the seaside smells and views, and the beautiful Tampa landscaping all make them happy to call this west-coast Florida city home.

True natives know how to handle the landscaping challenges of living in Tampa, which means relying heavily on Tampa native plants—the plants that naturally survive the crazy storms and winds, monsoon-like rains, droughts, salty air, scorching heat—and still thrive, look pretty, and give back to the area.

It’s wise to concentrate on Tampa-area native plants when you re-do your landscaping, or you may suffer the consequences of having a weedy-looking property that’s been taken over by aggressive vegetation. Frankly, given the work and money involved in landscaping in Tampa—or anywhere—it’s wise to go directly to an expert and hire a reputable Tampa landscaping company to help you determine which available plants want to live there and give as much as they take. We’re talking about native plants.

Native plants “have formed symbiotic relationships with native wildlife over thousands of years, and therefore offer the most sustainable habitat,” states the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Sure, non-native plants can also thrive in the area, unfortunately, often to the point of being “everywhere,” spreading at a fierce rate beyond where you originally placed them. These plants end up on the “invasive species” list for good reason.

Invasive plants have a well-earned reputation for taking over the area, sucking out the nutrients needed by other plants, choking the native plants out and destroying the natural ecosystem, while offering nothing in return. (We’re talking plants here—not your new neighbors.) The Hillsborough County webpage lists the most worrisome invasive plants in the Tampa area as:

  • Air potato and Air yam
  • Australian-pine and Suckering Australian-pine
  • Brazilian pepper
  • Carrotwood tree
  • Chinaberry tree
  • Chinese tallow tree, Popcorn tree
  • Cogon grass
  • Guinea grass
  • Japanese climbing fern and Old World climbing fern
  • Kudzu vine
  • Lead tree, Jumbie bean
  • Melaleuca, Punk tree
  • Mexican petunia
  • Mexican bluebell, Britton’s wild petunia
  • Rosary Pea, Crab’s eyes
  • Skunk vine
  • Torpedo grass, Bullet grass
  • Tropical soda apple


Be careful if you decide to do your landscaping redesign without professional landscaper help. Some non-nursery Florida stores and less-reputable garden stores still sell invasive plants, especially the “pretty” ones. It’s not (yet) illegal, and the plants do tend to thrive. But, at what cost?

If you have any of these plants on your Tampa property, get rid of them. That’s not always easy to do, as you need to make sure you don’t leave seeds or roots behind. Herbicide will work, of course, but you risk it leaching over and taking with it plants you want to keep.

If you have trouble removing an invasive plant from your property, you can contact the county’s Invasive Species Task Force, part of the county parks and recreation department, for advice. Better yet, bite the bullet and hire a professional landscaper to rid your property of the invasive plants and choose beautiful native plants that will thrive and play nicely with other plants and wildlife.

It’s amazing how many plants are native to Tampa—over 4,700 says the Atlas of Florida Plants. The National Wildlife Federation has a fun program where you put in your zip code and then get links to find native plants—and more.  Go to: https://www.nwf.org/NativePlantFinder/Plants

Posted on September 9, 2022

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