University of FloridaSolutions for Your Life

Download PDF
Publication #ENH1206

Alternatives to Invasive Plants Commonly Found in North Florida Landscapes1

Gary W. Knox, Sandra B. Wilson, Zhanao Deng, and Rosanna Freyre2

Invasive plants are non-native plants that form expanding populations in natural areas and other plant communities with which they were not previously associated (Langeland 2012). Invasive plants can cause ecological impacts, such as displacing native plants and associated wildlife or altering natural water flow and fire patterns.

Some ornamentals listed as invasive by the University of Florida IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas or by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council are still in commercial production and widely found in Florida landscapes. Homeowners might replace invasive plants if non-invasive alternatives are researched, publicized and made readily available. By shifting production and use from invasive ornamentals to native or non-invasive cultivars, the nursery and landscape industry could benefit from potential revenue while fostering greater collaboration with state agencies and environmental groups.

University of Florida research and Extension efforts over the last 10 years have focused on identifying non-invasive alternatives by assessing the invasive traits of popular non-native ornamentals, related genera, and their cultivars. In more recent years, University of Florida breeding efforts have focused on producing and trialing new non-invasive cultivars. Table 1 lists native and non-invasive, non-native ornamentals as alternatives to invasive plants commonly used in Florida landscapes. Only plants considered to be generally available in the nursery trade are listed. Alternative plants are similar to respective invasive plants as much as possible in terms of size, habit, texture, and flower color. Non-native, non-invasive plants in Table 1 were determined to be non-invasive by the IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas (IFAS Invasive Plant Working Group 2008) or have not yet been evaluated.


Fox, A. M., D. R. Gordon, J. A. Dusky, L. Tyson, and R. K. Stocker. 2009. IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas: Status Assessment. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Fox, A. M., D. R. Gordon, C. Gantz, G. W. Knox, and S. B. Wilson. 2007. IFAS Assessment: Infraspecific Taxon Protocol. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

IFAS Invasive Plant Working Group. 2008. IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Langeland, K. A. 2012. Help Protect Florida's Natural Areas from Non-Native Invasive Plants. Circular 1204. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.


Table 1. 

Invasive ornamentals commonly found in north Florida landscapes and commonly available native and non-native, non-invasive substitutes

Invasive ornamentalz

Native substitute

Non-native, non-invasive substitute

Scientific name

Common name

Albizia julibrissin


Acacia farnesiana, Sweet acacia

Cercis canadensis, Eastern redbud

Chionanthus virginicus, Fringe tree

Prunus umbellata, Chickasaw plum

Aloysia virgata, Sweet almondshrub

Callistemon citrinus, Red bottlebrush

Lagerstroemia spp., Crapemyrtle

Ardisia crenata

Coral ardisia

Ilex glabra, Gallberry

Ilex vomitoria (dwarf cultivars), Dwarf yaupon holly

Ilex cornuta, Chinese holly

Osmanthus heterophyllus, False holly

Cinnamomum camphora

Camphor tree

Ilex cassine, Dahoon holly

Magnolia grandiflora, Southern magnolia

Magnolia virginiana, Sweet bay

Persea borbonia, Red bay

Quercus geminata, Sand live oak

Quercus virginiana, Live oak

Ulmus alata, Winged elm

Ulmus parvifolia, Lacebark elm

Colocasia esculenta

Elephant ear

Canna flaccida, Golden canna

Pontederia cordata, Pickerelweed

Sagittaria spp. (native species), Arrowhead

Alocasia spp., Elephant ear

Begonia nelumbiifolia, Lotus-leaf begonia

Caladium × hortulanum, Caladium

Canna spp., Canna

Hedychium spp., Butterfly ginger

Philodendron bipinnatifidum, Selloum philodendron

Zingiber zerumbet, Pinecone ginger

Dioscorea bulbifera


Ipomoea alba, Moonflower

Passiflora spp. (native species), Passionvine

Clytostoma callistegioides, Painted trumpet vine

(See Flowering Vines for Florida ( for additional vines)

Ligustrum sinense

Chinese privet

Agarista populifolia, Florida leucothoe

Ilex glabra, Gallberry

Illicium floridanum, Florida anise

Illicium parviflorum, Star anise

Itea virginica, Virginia sweetspire

Viburnum obovatum, Walter's viburnum

Acca sellowiana, Feijoa or pineapple guava

Camellia spp., Camellia

Gardenia jasminoides, Gardenia

Ilex × 'Nellie R. Stevens', Nellie R. Stevens holly

Ilex cornuta, Chinese holly

Leucophyllum frutescens, Texas sage

Viburnum odoratissimum, Sweet viburnum

Viburnum odoratissimum var. awabuki, Awabuki viburnum

Viburnum suspensum, Sandankwa viburnum

Lonicera japonica

Japanese honeysuckle

Gelsemium sempervirens, Carolina jessamine

Lonicera sempervirens, Coral honeysuckle

Millettia reticulata, Evergreen wisteria

Trachelospermum jasminoides, Confederate jasmine

(See Flowering Vines for Florida ( for additional vines)

Nandina domestica (species type or wild type)

Nandina, Heavenly bamboo

Agarista populifolia, Florida leucothoe

Itea virginica, Virginia sweetspire

Mahonia bealei, Leatherleaf mahonia

Mahonia fortunei, Fortune's mahonia

Nandina domestica 'Firepower'y, 'Firepower' nandina (non-fruiting)

Nandina domestica 'Gulfstream'y, 'Gulfstream' nandina (non-invasive)

Nandina domestica Harbor Belle™y, Harbor Belle™ nandina (non-invasive)

Nandina domestica 'Harbour Dwarf'y, 'Harbour Dwarf' nandina (non-invasive)

Ruellia simplex (R. brittoniana)

Mexican petunia

Silphium asteriscus, Starry rosinweed

Sisyrinchium angustifolium, Blue-eyed grass

Stachytarpheta jamaicensis, Blue porterweed

Stokesia laevis, Stokes' aster

Ruellia simplex (formerly brittoniana), 'Purple Showers'y, 'Purple Showers' Mexican petunia (sterile, non-invasive)

Eranthemum pulchellum, Blue sage

Plectranthus spp., Plectranthus

Plumbago auriculata, Plumbago

Ruellia simplex R10-102y, Mayan Purple Mexican petunia (sterile)

Ruellia simplex R10-108y, Mayan White Mexican petunia (sterile)

Salvia farinacea, Mealycup sage

Salvia greggii, Autumn sage

Salvia leucantha, Mexican sage

Triadica sebifera (syn. Sapium sebiferum)

Chinese tallow tree, Popcorn tree

Acer rubrum, Red maple

Acer saccharum subsp. floridanum, Florida maple

Betula nigra, River birch

Cercis canadensis, Eastern redbud

Cornus florida, Flowering dogwood

Nyssa sylvatica, Blackgum or Tupelo gum

Lagerstroemia spp., Crapemyrtle

Vitex agnus-castus, Chaste-tree

Wisteria sinensis

Chinese wisteria

Wisteria frutescens, American wisteria

Millettia reticulata, Evergreen wisteria

(See Flowering Vines for Florida ( for additional vines)

zAs listed by the University of Florida/IFAS Status Assessment. The initial component of the IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas (IFAS Invasive Plant Working Group 2008) is the Status Assessment (Fox, Gordon, Dusky, Tyson, and Stocker 2009), in which evidence is reviewed concerning ecological impacts, potential for expansion, difficulty of management, and economic value of non-native species.

yNon-invasive cultivar derived from the invasive species as determined by the University of Florida/IFAS Infraspecific Taxon Protocol (Fox, Gordon, Gantz, Knox, and Wilson 2007). The Status Assessment is generally applied at the species level. It is only applied independently to infraspecific taxa (e.g., cultivars, varieties, or subspecies) if these taxa can be clearly distinguished in the field and are not likely to revert. Other infraspecific taxa (those indicated by this footnote) may be assessed using the Infraspecific Taxon Protocol (Fox, Gordon, Gantz, Knox, and Wilson 2007).



This document is ENH1206, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date August 2013. Visit the EDIS website at


Gary W. Knox, Extension specialist and professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, North Florida Research and Education Center, Quincy, FL; Sandra B. Wilson, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, Indian River Research and Education Center, Fort Pierce, FL; Zhanao Deng, associate professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, Wimauma, FL; and Rosanna Freyre, research scientist, Environmental Horticulture Department, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Gainesville, FL, 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.