Great Wildflowers for Shady Landscapes

Landscaping with Florida’s native wildflowers and plants provides refuge for birds, bees and butterflies while creating “habitat highways” through urban settings.

In nature, Florida’s wildflowers are found in all light conditions. Many beautiful species can adapt to varying light situations in our landscapes, as well. 

Heavily treed landscapes mimic conditions found under pine and hardwood canopies, creating a mix of sunny and shady spots. This provides opportunities to try a variety of wildflowers to create habitat for grateful birds and insects. Wildflowers prefer sun for best blooming potential, but filtered light will still promote flower formation, attracting butterflies and pollinator insects to your yard. 

Eastern tiger swallowtails on Frostweed (Verbesina virginica) by Mary Keim

Think diversity

Diversity is key when planning a habitat. Using the plant guide below, start a list of species to consider. Select plants appropriate for your region. Include sunny-location wildflowers that can adapt to lower light levels, as well as those that spread by roots, making excellent groundcovers. Medium-size perennial and annual wildflowers can be interplanted in the same bed to create more diversity. Larger flowering shrubs make an excellent background or accent planting. 

Because most vines use trees or shrubs for support, they are common in shady locations. Trellised vines can be an attractive addition to a shady landscape, but keep in mind the potential for vines to spread by underground roots.

Woodland poppymallow (Callirhoe papaver) by Eleanor Dietrich
Woodland poppymallow (Callirhoe papaver) by Eleanor Dietrich

Planting and maintance

Wildflowers can be planted any time of year. Be prepared to keep them watered for two to three weeks as roots establish and to water as needed during dry periods. Make sure tree roots allow plants to be installed at a depth of 6 to 12 inches so roots can develop.

There’s no need to apply fertilizer or add mulch. Most shaded areas will have a natural mulch of leaves or pine needles. Adding mulch may impede drainage, causing your plants to decline.

After a season of growth and flowering, the upright stems of perennial wildflowers can be trimmed to the base. However, try to leave dried stems and leaves and delay garden cleanup until early spring to provide valuable overwintering habitat for beneficial insects.  

Leave flowerheads to dry naturally and release seeds for future seedlings. Birds will also enjoy them.

Plan for success

  • Evaluate the number of hours of shade or sunlight in the area you intend to plant. Is it partly shaded, receiving two to four hours of sunlight, or fully shaded, receiving less than two hours of sun daily?
  • Determine tree root interference. Wildflowers need a soil depth of 6 to 12 inches for root development.
  • Remove competitive weeds, vines and grasses from the planting area.
  • Check soil moisture. Does the area drain well after rain, or does it hold moisture for 12 hours or more? 
  • Diversity is the key for a healthy sustainable native wildflower garden. What species will you include? Do you want native grasses as well?
Mistflower blooms
Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) by Stacey Matrazzo

Great wildflowers for shady landscapes

Fringed bluestar, Amsonia ciliata

Fringed bluestar

Fringed bluestar (Amsonia ciliata) blooms spring through fall, attracting many pollinators, especially butterflies. It occurs naturally in pine flatwoods, sandhills and scrub throughout west Central Florida and North Florida.
Read more… Fringed bluestar

Wild columbine

Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is one of Florida’s most striking and unique native wildflowers. It occurs naturally in only three counties in the Panhandle and is a state-listed endangered species.
Read more… Wild columbine
Wiregrass, Aristida stricta


Wiregrass (Aristida stricta) is a perennial bunchgrass found in scrub, pinelands and coastal uplands throughout much of Florida. It is is a primary food source for gopher tortoises.
Read more… Wiregrass

Swamp milkweed

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias perennis) blooms in late spring through early fall and attracts many pollinators. It is a larval host plant for Monarch, Queen and Soldier butterflies.
Read more… Swamp milkweed
Hummingbird clearwing (Hemaris thysbe) on Swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata

Swamp milkweed

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) has showy pink flowers that typically bloom in summer and attracts many pollinators. It is a larval host for Monarch, Queen and Soldier butterflies.
Read more… Swamp milkweed
Soft greeneyes, Berlandiera pumila

Soft greeneyes

Soft greeneyes (Berlandiera pumila) is found in sandhills and pinelands throughout the Panhandle and north Florida. It blooms spring through summer, attracting a variety of butterflies, bees and wasps.
Read more… Soft greeneyes
Hairy chaffhead, Carphephorus paniculatus

Hairy chaffhead

Hairy chaffhead (Carphephorus paniculatus) is a stunning perennial wildflower found in moist flatwoods and savannas. It typically blooms from late August through December, with peak flowering in October.
Read more… Hairy chaffhead

Florida paintbrush

Florida paintbrush (Carphephorus corymbosus) blooms from mid-summer into fall, attracting butterflies and other pollinators. It occurs naturally in sandhills, pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, mesic flatwoods and ruderal areas.
Read more… Florida paintbrush


Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is a wetland shrub with pincushion-like blooms that attract bees, butterflies and moths. Ducks and other birds eat the seeds and the foliage is browsed by deer.
Read more… Buttonbush
Mistflower blooms


Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) gives the appearance of a blue fog when blooming en masse. Its flowers are very attractive to pollinators, especially butterflies, moths and long-tongued bees.
Read more… Mistflower
Lanceleaf tickseed flower

Lanceleaf tickseed

Lanceleaf tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata) has conspicuously sunny flowers that typically bloom in spring. It attracts butterflies and other pollinators, and its seeds are eaten by birds and small wildlife.
Read more… Lanceleaf tickseed


Coralbean (Erythrina herbacea ) is a deciduous to evergreen woody shrub. It produces red tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
Read more… Coralbean

Dimpled troutlily

For only a few months of very early spring, Dimpled troutlilies can be found blanketing the ground of sloped deciduous forests throughout the southeastern US. Listed as state-endangered, Florida’s populations…
Read more… Dimpled troutlily


Firebush (Hamelia patens var. patens) is a hardy, fast-growing and showy evergreen shrub to small tree. It produces clusters of bright orange to red tubular flowers that are filled with…
Read more… Firebush

Lakeside sunflower

Lakeside sunflower (Helianthus carnosus) is a perennial wildflower endemic to northeast Florida that inhabits open sunny edges of lakes and marshes. The beautiful bright yellow flowers attract a variety of…
Read more… Lakeside sunflower
Scorpionstail, Heliotropium angiospernum


Scorpionstail (Heliotropium angiospermum) is a shrub-like plant with unique white flowers that bloom year-round. Its nectar attracts a variety of butterflies including the Miami blue and Schaus’ swallowtail.
Read more… Scorpionstail
Scarlet hibiscus bloom

Scarlet hibiscus

Scarlet hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) has large, crimson blooms that attract hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators. They remain open for only one day, but the plant produces many flowers throughout the…
Read more… Scarlet hibiscus
Prairie iris, Iris hexagona

Prairie iris

Prairie iris (Iris savannarum) is an emergent aquatic with showy flowers that bloom in spring. It has one of America’s largest native iris flowers.
Read more… Prairie iris
Inkwood flowers with white petals and orange centers


Inkwood (Exothea paniculata) occurs naturally in coastal hammocks, rocklands and shell mounds in coastal Central and South Florida. It is an excellent ornamental option for residential and commercial landscapes. Its…
Read more… Inkwood
Palamedes swallowtail on Dense gayfeather, Liatris spicata

Dense gayfeather

Dense gayfeather (Liatris spicata) has striking spikes of purple flowers that bloom late summer through fall and are excellent attractors of butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects.
Read more… Dense gayfeather
Coral honeysuckle flowers

Coral honeysuckle

Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) flowers are attractive to many butterflies, and hummingbirds find them irresistible. Birds such as Northern cardinals enjoy the bright red berries.
Read more… Coral honeysuckle

Snow squarestem

Also known as Cat’s tongue, Salt and pepper and Nonpareil, Snow squarestem (Melanthera nivea) typically blooms summer through early winter, but can bloom year-round, attracting bees, butterflies and other pollinators…
Read more… Snow squarestem
Two fuzzy white Partridgeberry flowers


Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) is a dainty mat-forming vine with fuzzy white flowers that a variety of insects, especially bumble bees. Its fruits are enjoyed by birds, small mammals and humans!…
Read more… Partridgeberry

Spotted beebalm

Also known as Dotted horsemint, Spotted beebalm (Monarda punctata) is a robust, aromatic wildflower known to attract a huge variety of pollinating insects, including bees, wasps and butterflies. It blooms…
Read more… Spotted beebalm
Butterweed flowers and buds


Butterweed (Packera glabella) is one of the first wildflowers to bloom in early spring. It grows in dense stands that illuminate moist roadsides and river edges.
Read more… Butterweed
Purple passionflower bloom


Purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) has extraordinarily intricate purple-and-white-fringed flowers. The plant is the larval host plant of several butterflies including the Gulf fritillary and Zebra longwing.
Read more… Passionflower

Wild blue phlox

Wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricate) is a delicate perennial wildflower. Its beautiful blooms appear from spring into early summer in slope forests, bluffs and calcareous hammocks.
Read more… Wild blue phlox

Wild coffee

Wild coffee (Psychotria nervosa) flowers typically bloom in spring and summer, but may bloom year-round. They are attractive to a variety of pollinators, especially Atala and Schaus’ swallowtail butterflies.
Read more… Wild coffee
Wild petunia

Wild petunia

Wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis) typically blooms late spring through late summer/early fall, attracting a variety of pollinators. It is the host plant for the White peacock and Common buckeye butterflies.
Read more… Wild petunia
Azure blue sage, Salvia azurea

Azure blue sage

Azure blue sage (Salvia azurea) occurs naturally in flatwoods and sandhills. Its striking cerulean flowers bloom August through November, attracting a variety of bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds.
Read more… Azure blue sage
Tropical sage flowers

Tropical sage

Tropical sage (Salvia coccinea) is a versatile perennial wildflower that no pollinator can resist, but it is particularly attractive to bees, large butterflies and hummingbirds.
Read more… Tropical sage

Lyreleaf sage

Lyreleaf sage (Salvia lyrata) is an attractive perennial with leafless spikes of tubular, lavender to bluish flowers. Bees are its predominant pollinator, but it also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
Read more… Lyreleaf sage
Starry rosinweed flower

Starry rosinweed

Starry rosinweed (Silphium asteriscus) is a robust perennial with showy yellow blooms. It is typically found in pine flatwoods, sandhills, open woodlands, mixed upland forests and disturbed or ruderal areas.
Read more… Starry rosinweed
Bee on purple aster flower

Georgia aster

Georgia aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum) is a magnet for bees and butterflies. Its flowers are distinguishable from other Symphyotrichum species by their relatively large size and deep violet-colored ray petals.
Read more… Georgia aster
close-up of a Wood sage inflorescence in bloom

Wood sage

Also known as Canadian germander, Wood sage (Teucrium canadense) flowers attract a variety of native long-tongued insects that will use the flower’s lower lip as a landing pad. Birds find…
Read more… Wood sage
Rue anemone flowers

Rue anemone

Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) is a state-listed endangered species. Its dainty white flowers bloom in early spring and are gone by mid-summer.
Read more… Rue anemone


Wakerobins (Trillium spp.) typically blooms in late winter before the tree canopy leafs out, but can bloom as late as early spring.
Read more… Wakerobin
Frostweed flowers


Frostweed (Verbesina virginica) typically flowers late summer through fall along moist forest and hammock edges throughout the state. It is attractive to many bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Read more… Frostweed
Great Southern white on Tall ironweed, Vernonia gigantea

Giant ironweed

Giant ironweed (Vernonia gigantea) is a robust perennial wildflower that blooms in summer and fall, with peak blooming in July. It attracts many pollinators, particularly butterflies.
Read more… Giant ironweed