Bushes are a great way to add character and curb appeal to a yard. Not only that, but they also take up space, ensuring you have less to mow. (Which if you live in Florida, you already do enough of.)
The best shrubs for a Florida yard are viburnum, sweet almond, and texas sage. These plants are easy to plant and require very little maintenance. Other good Florida shrubs include Mulberry, Sea Grape, Hibiscus, and Gardenia.
There are a lot more great shrubs, though. Let’s talk about them
(By the way, I may make reference to certain parts of certain plants being edible throughout the article. This is based on the best of my knowledge, but please talk to an expert at your local extension office before eating anything to make sure the individual plant you’re growing is an edible variety and that I’m not mistaken.)
Texas sage is an excellent little shrub that gets up to 6’x6′ and has silvery-green leaves. It produces a lot of pink flowers spring through fall after heavy rains.
I grow this in my yard, and it’s one of the easiest to grow plants I have. I don’t water it or give it any attention, and it’s still happy as a clam.
Simpson’s stopper is a shrub that has dark green leaves and clusters of small, white flowers. This plant is a member of the Eucalyptus family and grows well in moist, sunny areas. Simpson’s stopper is a native of the southeastern United States and can be grown througout Florida.
Wild coffee is a south Florida native plant that has large, glossy leaves and produces red coffee-like fruit. While it’s not actually a coffee plant, the fruit can be roasted and brewed for a naturally caffeine-free drink.
Cocoplum is a Florida native shrub that can grow up to 15 feet tall. It has green leaves that start out red and produces small white flowers in the spring. The (edible) fruit is a plum-like drupe that turns from green to pink to red as it ripens. Cocoplum is a popular ornamental plant and is used in landscaping around homes and businesses. It can also be used in hedges or as a screen.
Podocarpus is a genus of conifers in the family Podocarpaceae. There are about 156 species, most of which are endemic to the Asia Pacific islands around Australia and New Zealand.
Podocarpus is one of the most popular shrubs in Florida, and if you’ve been to any store with hedges, you’ve probably seen them. It is a slow growing evergreen that can reach a height of 15 to 20 feet. It has dark green, needle-like leaves that are 2 to 4 inches long. The flowers aren’t much to look at, and the fruit is typically a small, blue berry in the ones grown here in Florida.
Mulberry is (depending on the species) a bush or a tree, all of which grow tasty, edible fruit.
Mulberry bushes are a great addition to any garden. They are easy to grow and provide beautiful white flowers in the spring. The berries are delicious and can be eaten fresh or used in jams and pies. Mulberry bushes are also a source of food for wildlife.
Princess Flower is a small shrub that typically blooms with fragrant, purple flowers in the late spring into early winter. It is a popular choice for gardeners because it is easy to grow and does not require much care. (And because of its unique flowers.) Princess Flower is also deer resistant, making it a good choice for gardens in areas where deer are common.
Split-leaf philodendrons are a tough foliage plant with uniquely shaped leaves. You can get both the regular and dwarf varieties, which will get in excess of 5-6′ or stay below 3′, respectively.
In my experience growing the dwarf variety in my garden, it’s easy to care for and pretty frost resistant for central florida winters. I don’t water or fertilize it, and it grows with no issues. It doesn’t like full sun, though, so you’ll want to put it somewhere that gets afternoon shade.
Rose of Sharon
Rose of Sharon is a shrub that is native to Asia. It can grow up to 10 feet tall and has white, pink, or red flowers (and the white and pink varieties have a different colored center). The flowers are edible and can be used in salads or as a garnish.
Schefflera Arboricola is a versatile plant that can be either a tree or a shrub, depending on how it’s pruned. If it’s allowed to grow tall, it will become a tree, but if it’s kept trimmed, it will stay as a shrub.
Schefflera Arboricola is also a popular houseplant because it’s easy to care for and doesn’t require a lot of sunlight. It’s also known for its beautiful leaves, which come in a variety of colors including green and yellow.
Spirea, also known as Meadowsweets, is a genus of about 80-100 species of shrubs, native to Europe, Asia and North America. The most common species is Spirea japonica, which is widely cultivated throughout the temperate world.
The spirea japonica blooms from early spring to early summer, depending on cultivar. It has clusters of small, white or pink flowers. The leaves are green and oval-shaped. The spirea japonica is a deciduous shrub that grows up to 6 feet tall.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort is a 1-3′ shrub that can be grown throughout most of Florida. It is a perennial that blooms from May to September. The flowers are yellow and the leaves are green and rather plain. The plant can be used for tea, which is said to have antidepressant properties.
Sea grape is a type of evergreen tree or shrub that is found in coastal areas. It has large, leathery leaves and produces grape-like fruit. The fruit can be eaten fresh or used to make juice, wine, or jam. The tree is also used for landscaping, and can be grown in containers.
It will get tall, so you have to keep it pruned to train it into a shrub.
The viburnum bush is one of the toughest bushes on this list. It can withstand harsh summers as well as the occasional winter frost and is very resilient. This bush is also very versatile and can be used in a variety of landscaping applications, including a privacy screen.
Sweet almond is a large shrub that gets up to 10′ tall. It flowers throughout most of the year, and the blooms smell absolutely amazing. As a bonus, it’s very easy to grow in florida. (Nearly impossible to kill, actually.)
I basically just plant them and ignore them. Once, I even ran one of my newly planted sweet almond bushes over with a lawnmower, and it’s still kicking.
Barberry (North Florida)
Barberry and dwarf barberry are both shrubs that are used for ornamental purposes. They have sharp thorns on their branches, which makes them a deterrent for wildlife. Barberry has red berries, though some varieties have black berries.
Australian brush cherry
The Australian brush cherry is a small, evergreen tree that grows up to 20 feet tall. It has dark green leaves and produces small, white flowers in the spring. The fruit of the Australian brush cherry is a small, dark red berry that (I believe) is edible and has a sweet, tart flavor.
There are a number of different types of bamboo that will work anywhere you need a shrub. While they aren’t shrubs technically, they are quite tough, have a pleasant, shaggy look, and they can be used as a privacy hedge if you so desire.
Ladyfinger bamboo is what I have, and it will get up to 12′ tall and has thin reeds.
Mahonia is a group of evergreen shrubs that are native to North America, Asia, and other places depending on the species. The plants have spiny leaves and produce clusters of yellow flowers in the spring. Some species have berries that are edible, but are quite sour and have a compound in them that may be harmful to some people. Mahonia is often used in landscaping, as it is tolerant of a wide range of conditions.
Firebush is a bush that is known for its long, thin orange flowers. These flowers are known to attract hummingbirds (the first hummingbird I ever saw was on my firebush), making it a popular choice for gardeners. Firebush can be grown throughout most of florida, though hard frosts will kill it back to the ground. (It will regrow once it warms up, though.) It can be used as a hedge or border plant, and its bright flowers will add color to any garden.
Indian Hawthorn is a small bush that has small, dark green leaves and white flowers. The flowers are fragrant and bloom in the spring. Indian Hawthorn is a good choice for a garden because it is drought tolerant once established. It’s said that the berries can be made into jam, but I’ve never tried it myself.
Turk’s Cap Mallow
Turk’s cap mallow (Malvaviscus Arboreus var. Drummondii) is a small, perennial shrub that typically grows 2-5 feet tall. It produces showy, vaguely trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of pink, red, or white from late summer through fall. The flowers are edible and are often used in salads or as a garnish. Turk’s cap mallow is native to the southeastern United States and is drought tolerant.
Red Buckeye is a Florida native plant that blooms in the spring with beautiful red flowers. It is a tall shrub that can grow 10-20 feet tall and is drought tolerant. Red Buckeye is a great plant for wildlife and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
Rosemary is a woody herb that can grow into a small shrub that gets up to 5′ tall. Once established, it’s relatively drought tolerant. One of the benefits of rosemary is that you can grab some any time you need to cook food and have fresh herbs for your cooking.
Arborvitae is (usually) a big, evergreen tree, but it can be trained into a shrub depending on the variety you get. It has a bit of a “softer” look compared to other shrubs, despite its scaled leaves. It does have some disease issues in my experience, though.
Bottlebrush gets its name from its red, bottle-brush-shaped flowers that attract hummingbirds. By default it’s a tree, but I’ve seen them trained into rather pleasant looking shrubs as well. They’re drought tolerant once established and will bloom spring through summer.
Hibiscus is a small shrub that produces blooms in red, white, pink, and yellow and is a popular landscaping plant throughout Florida. It is a bit frost-sensitive, so it does work better in south Florida than it does in central and north Florida.
It’s flowers are edible (and for cranberry hibiscus the leaves are as well), and cranberry hibiscus will self-seed, so it will grow year after year, even if winter kills it off.
Florida anise is an evergreen shrub that can reach heights of up to 10 feet. The plant has dark green leaves and produces star-shaped flowers in the spring. The flowers are fragrant and attract bees and other pollinators. The fruit of the Florida anise is NOT edible but has a sweet, licorice-like scent. The plant is drought tolerant and can be used as a hedge or screen.
Gardenia is a bush that produces large, fragrant white flowers either in summer or spring through fall depending on the variety. (They smell amazing.) The flowers are very attractive to bees and other pollinators. Gardenias grow well in partial shade and moist, well-drained soil.
Wax myrtle is a large shrub that’s native to Florida. It grows up to 12 feet tall and produces fragrant white flowers most of the year. The leaves are dark green and glossy, and the bark is smooth and gray. Wax myrtle is a versatile plant that can be used for hedges, screens, or privacy fences. It also makes a nice addition to a landscape garden.
Redbay (Persea borbonia) is a tree in the laurel family. It is found in coastal areas of the southeastern United States. The leaves are used as bay leaves in cooking or to make a tea that is said to be a cure for intestinal parasites, but who knows if there is anything to that.
Inkberry is a shrub that, as its name suggests, produces small, ink-like black berries. Inkberry is a popular ornamental plant, and it is often used in landscaping. The shrub grows in a variety of climates, and it does well in both wet and dry environments.
Azalea is a popular shrub that thrives in acidic soil and produces beautiful pink, red, or white flowers. I’ve seen bumblebees hanging out in azalea flowers quite often throughout my childhood when we grew them.
Overall, they’re a nice plant if you already have acidic soil but not worth the extra effort to try to fight your soil’s PH otherwise.
Bougainvillea is a thorny, vining shrub that produces tons of beautiful pink or purple flowers throughout most of the year if they’re well taken care of or January through May otherwise.
Place it somewhere you don’t go often, though, because the thorns are brutal. I recommend a pair of goat-skin “rose gardening” gloves that go up to your elbows for pruning. I have them, and whenever I go out and prune without them I end up regretting it.
Florida privet is a large shrub that can be trained into a small tree if you prune it enough. It is a fast-growing plant that can reach a height of 10 feet or more. The leaves are dark green and oval-shaped. The flowers are white and fragrant. The fruit is a small black berry that is toxic to humans. Florida privet is native to the southeastern United States. It is a popular ornamental plant because of its fast growth rate and attractive foliage.
Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) is a small tree or large shrub that is native to North America. This plant produces fragrant red berries in the fall, and the leaves have a pleasant aroma. Fragrant sumac is a popular ornamental plant, and it can be used in landscape designs or as a hedge.
Red chokeberry is a small, deciduous shrub that typically grows 6-12′ tall. It is native to moist woods, thickets, and streambanks in the eastern United States. Red chokeberry has ovate to lanceolate leaves (2-5″ long) with a serrated margin. The leaves are dark green above and paler below. Small, white flowers appear in late spring to early summer.
The Harlequin Glorybower is a deciduous shrub that typically grows 6-10′ tall. It is noted for its attractive, deeply lobed leaves and large, showy clusters of white flowers which appear in summer into fall.
Asparagus fern is a small, fern-like plant that can be trained into a small shrub if given proper pruning. It likes part to full shade, so it’s great for an area that’s moist and doesn’t get a lot of light. It doesn’t like cold weather, so it may be killed off during colder winters in northern parts of the state.
Bostern fern isn’t a shrub itself, but it is a pretty large fern that branches out, and will grow into a dense cover that can be used in place of a small hedge row in shady areas. It’s been quite hardy, in my experience.
Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) is a deciduous shrub that can grow up to 12 feet tall. It is native to China, but it has been naturalized in the United States. The flowers are purple, pink, or white, and they are pollinated by butterflies. Butterfly bush grows in zones 5-9 and is an option if you live in North or Central Florida.
The hummingbird bush is a Texas native plant that resembles firebush. It is a small, evergreen shrub that grows up to 3 feet tall. The leaves are elliptical, and the flowers are tubular and red or orange. The hummingbird bush, as its name suggests, attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
Fountain grass is a sedge that grows in clumps. It has narrow, green or purple leaves and produces white or pink plumes in late summer and fall. Fountain grass is a drought-tolerant plant that is often used in xeriscaping.
Ixora is a small bush that produces clusters of brightly colored flowers. The flowers come in shades of red, orange, yellow, and white, and they are very fragrant. Ixora is a popular ornamental plant, and it is often used in gardens and landscaping.
Lantana is a plant that produces red and yellow or pink and purple flowers. It is a perennial that grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11. Lantana needs full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil.
Depending on which variety you get, it will either stay small and low to the ground or it will become a large shrub. Pay attention to mature size of the plant you’re buying and prune as necessary to turn it into a gorgeous flowering bush.
Oleander is a shrub that produces beautiful flowers in a variety of colors but is poisonous. All parts of the plant are poisonous, but the leaves are the most poisonous. Oleander can be fatal if eaten. They’re a popular landscaping plant, but you should avoid them if you have kids or pets.
Pittosporum is a genus of flowering bushes that are native to the warm climates of the Oceania, Africa, Asia, and Australia. These evergreen shrubs are prized for their showy flowers and glossy leaves. Pittosporum species range in size from small groundcovers to large shrubs, and some can even be grown as small trees.
Plumbago is a flowering shrub that typically blooms from late spring to early fall. The plant has clusters of small, white or purple flowers that are often fragrant. Plumbago can be grown as a perennial in warmer climates or as an annual in cooler climates.
Red Bird of Paradise
The Red Bird of Paradise is a tropical plant that is native to the west indes and Mexico. The plant grows 6-10 feet tall and has large, compound leaves. The flowers are very showy and are a bright red or orange color.
The yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) is a popular evergreen shrub in Florida. It is a native plant that grows well in the state’s warm, humid climate. The yaupon holly has dark green leaves and produces small, white flowers in the spring. The shrub also produces red berries that are very attractive and feed birds.
Beautyberry is a “shrub” that typically has very sparse leaf cover but produces beautiful clusters of purple berries in the late summer and fall. The berries are edible and make a delicious addition to jams, jellies, and pies.
Camellia japonica is a bush that produces large, colorful flowers. The flowers come in shades of white, pink, and red, and can be up to six inches across. Camellia japonica is a hardy bush that can tolerate cold weather, making it a popular choice for landscaping throughout Florida.
Coralberry is a shrub that – as its name suggests – produces nice looking pink berries. The shrub itself is quite attractive, with dark green leaves and pink stems. Coralberry grows best in moist, well-drained soil and can be used as a hedge or border plant.
Deutzia is a bush that produces large amounts of small, white or pink flowers in late spring. The flowers are very fragrant and are a favorite of bees. Deutzia is a good choice for a border or hedge.
The copperleaf plant is a perennial that typically grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11. The main attraction of the plant is its beautiful red leaves. The flowers are not very noticable (being a similar color to the leaves), and the smell isn’t pleasant. The copperleaf plant can be grown in a container and used as a houseplant or in a garden bed or border.