Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Florida Native Plants Make Beautiful and Practical $ense

Katie O’Hara of Marco Island has lived in an original Deltona home for 22 years and decided it was time to replace her tired looking front landscaping.

Katie did not want a lawn to maintain and to spend money on; she did not like using chemicals and fertilizers and she did not want to pay for an irrigation system and all the maintenance associated with it.

Katie met Eric Jadaszewski of Everglades Native Designs at a Chamber of Commerce event and they got to talking about native and Florida friendly plants. Katie also knew Susan LaGrotta of the Calusa Garden Club from numerous Friends of Tigertail beach clean-ups. They got to talking about plants and Katie was convinced that using native plants made practical and economic sense.

Katie decided to go for it! Eric removed the struggling hibiscus, which are native to China but are not suitable for Marco’s sandy soil; he removed all the grass and brought in better quality dirt. According to Eric, Katie saw the practicality of using native plants that have been here for thousands of years. Nobody ever fertilized them, watered or pruned them and they did just fine on their own.

According to Eric of Everglades Native Designs, many of the plants that are used in landscape today are foreign and look very tropical but there are also lots of beautiful native plants that are better for butterflies, hummingbirds and pollinators.

Katie’s landscape was transformed using native coastal plants such as beach sun flowers or daisies (salt resistant), gold lantana (heat loving) and coontie (with fern-like leaves). Eric also added three beautiful Silver Thatched Palms, which are native to Southwest Florida. They are hardy, slow growing, have a beautiful silver cast in their leaves, and grow well in Marco’s sandy soil.

For ground cover, Eric used pine straws, which added a natural look to the landscaping. Pine straws do not run away in heavy rain and are a native natural renewable resource, as they come from the pine forest in northern Florida. For contrast, Katie added shell groundcover and a native limestone rock as an accent piece.

Eric is a native Floridian, born in Lake Worth, and grew up surrounded by native plants. In the ‘80s he pioneered the movement to use native plants. Eric went to school in ornamental horticulture and is a certified arborist. He considers himself a native Floridian, planting native plants.

By not planting native, Eric “preached” that you are missing out on a lot of important things. Planting native plants is like rolling out a red carpet for wildlife and pollinators. Pollinator plants are anything with big showy flowers that attract bees such as native firebush; native coreopsis that re-seed themselves; native sabal palms; native Royal Palms; jatropha; porter weeds and native pipevines, just to name a few.

Eric was very easy to work with added Katie O’Hara, and “now I really need to finish the rest of it!”

If interested in native plants, please visit Eric’s website at

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