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Publication #ENH1207

Alternatives to Invasive Plants Commonly Found in Central 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 2015). 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 20 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 ornamental plant breeding efforts have focused on producing and trialing new sterile, 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 (with assessments of “not a problem species” or “may be used with caution”) by the IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas (, or have not yet been evaluated.


Enloe, S.F. and K.A. Langeland. 2018. “Help protect Florida's natural areas from non-native invasive plants.” Circular1204. Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.

Lieurance, Deah, S. Luke Flory, and Doria R. Gordon. 2016. The UF/IFAS Assessment of Nonnative Plants in Florida's Natural Areas: History, Purpose, and Use. SS-AGR-371. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.


Table 1. 

Invasive ornamentals commonly found in central Florida landscapes and commonly available native and non-native, non-invasive substitutes. Scientific names are those used by the UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas (, the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System (, and the Atlas of Florida Plants by the Institute for Systematic Biology (

Invasive ornamentalz

Native substitute

Non-native, non-invasive substitutez

Scientific name

Common name

Albizia julibrissin

Mimosa, Silk tree

Ardisia escallonioides, Marlberry (cold tender)

Cercis canadensis, Eastern redbud

Chionanthus virginicus, Fringe tree

Hamelia patens, Firebush

Prunus umbellata, Chickasaw plum, flatwoods plum

Vachellia farnesiana, Sweet acacia

Aloysia virgata, Sweet almondshrub

Callistemon citrinus, Red bottlebrush, crimson bottlebrush

Calliandra haematocephala, Powderpuff

Handroanthus heptaphyllus (formerly Tabebuia heptaphylla), Pink trumpet tree

Jatropha integerrima, Peregrina (cold tender)

Lagerstroemia spp., Crapemyrtle

Tabebuia impetiginosa, Purple tabebuia, purple trumpet tree

Ardisia crenata

Coral ardisia

Ilex glabra, Gallberry, inkberry

Ilex vomitoria (dwarf cultivars), Dwarf yaupon holly

Psychotria nervosa, Wild coffee

Ilex cornuta, Chinese holly

Osmanthus heterophyllus, False holly

Casuarina equisetifolia

Australian pine, Horsetail casuarina

Juniperus virginiana, Red cedar

Pinus spp. (native species), Pine

Quercus geminata, Sand live oak

Taxodium distichum var. distichum, Bald-cypress

Taxodium distichum var. imbricarium, Pond-cypress

Juniperus chinensis 'Torulosa', Torulosa juniper, Chinese juniper

Platycladus orientalis, Arborvitae, Oriental arborvitae

Podocarpus macrophyllus, Podocarpus, Japanese yew

Cinnamomum camphora

Camphor tree

Ilex cassine, Dahoon holly, dahoon

Magnolia grandiflora, Southern magnolia

Magnolia virginiana, Sweet bay, swamp bay

Persea borbonia, Red bay

Quercus virginiana, Live oak

Ulmus alata, Winged elm

Ulmus parvifolia, Chinese elm, lacebark elm

Colocasia esculenta

Elephant ear, Wild taro

Canna flaccida, Golden canna

Pontederia cordata, Pickerelweed

Sagittaria spp. (native species), Arrowhead

Alocasia spp., Elephant ear

Alpinia spp., Shell ginger, shell flower

Begonia nelumbiifolia, Lotus-leaf begonia

Caladium × hortulanum, Caladium

Canna × generalis, Canna lily

Hedychium spp., Butterfly ginger

Heliconia spp., Heliconia

Philodendron bipinnatifidum, Selloum philodendron

Strelitzia reginae, Bird-of-paradise

Zingiber zerumbet, Pine cone ginger, pine cone lily

Dioscorea bulbifera


Ipomoea alba, Moonflower

Passiflora spp. (native species), Passionvine

Aristolochia maxima, Florida Dutchman's pipe (See Flowering Vines for Florida ( for additional vines)

Lantana camara

Lantana, Shrub Verbena

Helianthus debilis, Beach sunflower

Lantana depressa, Pineland lantana (short lived), rockland shrubverbena

Lantana involucrata, Wild sage

Salvia coccinea, Tropical sage, red salvia

Stachytarpheta jamaicensis, Blue porterweed, Jamaican snakeweed

Argyranthemum frutescens, Marguerite Daisy

Cuphea ignea, cigar flower

Euryops chrysanthemoides, E. pectinatus and related species (formerly in the genus, Gamolepis), African bush daisy, daisy bush

Evolvulus glomeratus subsp. grandiflorus, Blue daze

Lantana camara ‘UF-1011-2’x, Bloomify™ Rose lantana (sterile)

Lantana camara ‘UF-1013A-2A’x, Bloomify™ Red lantana (sterile)

Lantana camara ‘UF-T3’x, UF-T3 lantana (sterile)

Lantana camara ‘UF-T4’x, UF-T4 lantana (sterile)

Rosa spp., Rose

Salvia greggii, Autumn sage

Ligustrum sinense

Chinese privet

Agarista populifolia, Florida leucothoe

Citharexylum spinosum, Fiddlewood, Florida fiddlewood

Hamelia patens, Firebush

Ilex glabra, Gallberry, inkberry

Illicium floridanum, Florida anise

Illicium parviflorum, Star anise

Itea virginica, Virginia sweetspire

Viburnum obovatum, Walter's viburnum

Aloysia virgata, Sweet almondshrub

Camellia japonica, Japanese camellia

Camellia sasanqua, Sasanqua camellia

Feijoa sellowiana, Feijoa, pineapple guava

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, trumpet honeysuckle

Callerya reticulata, Evergreen wisteria

Jasminum polyanthum, Pink jasmine

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

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

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

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

Ruellia simplex

Mexican petunia

Silphium asteriscus, Starry rosinweed

Sisyrinchium angustifolium, Blue-eyed grass

Stachytarpheta jamaicensis, Blue porterweed, Jamaican snakeweed

Stokesia laevis, Stokes' aster, stokesia

Eranthemum pulchellum, Blue sage

Iris ser. Hexagonae, Louisiana iris (especially those with purple flowers)

Plectranthus spp., Plectranthus

Plumbago auriculata, Plumbago, cape leadwort

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

Ruellia simplex ‘R10-102’y, Mayan Purple Mexican petunia (sterile, non-invasive by seed dispersal)

Ruellia simplex ‘R10-108’y, Mayan White Mexican petunia (sterile, non-invasive by seed dispersal)

Ruellia simplex ‘R12-2-1’y, Mayan Compact Purple Mexican petunia (sterile, non-invasive by seed dispersal)

Ruellia simplex R10-105-Q54y, Mayan Pink Mexican petunia (sterile, non-invasive by seed dispersal)

Salvia × ‘Indigo Spires’, Indigo spires salvia

Salvia farinacea, Mealycup sage

Salvia leucantha, Mexican sage

Stachytarpheta mutabilis, Purple porterweed, snakeweed

Vernonia gigantea, Giant ironweed

Schinus terebinthifolius

Brazilian pepper

Citharexylum spinosum, Fiddlewood

Hamelia patens, Firebush

Hydrangea quercifolia, Oakleaf hydrangea

Ilex cassine, Dahoon holly, dahoon

Ilex vomitoria, Yaupon holly

Viburnum obovatum, Walter's viburnum

Citrus spp., Citrus

Cocculus laurifolius, Laurel-leaf snailseed, cocculus

Ilex cornuta, Chinese holly

Viburnum odoratissimum, Sweet viburnum

Viburnum odoratissimum var. awabuki, Awabuki viburnum

Viburnum suspensum, Sandankwa viburnum

Sphagneticola trilobata


Gaillardia pulchella, Firewheel, Indian blanket-flower

Helianthus debilis, Dune sunflower, beach sunflower

Mimosa strigillosa, Powderpuff

Phyla nodiflora, Turkey tangle, Frogfruit

Arachis glabrata, Rhizoma perennial peanut

Euryops chrysanthemoides, E. pectinatus and related species (formerly in the genus, Gamolepis), African bush daisy, daisy bush

Ipomoea purpurea, morning glory

Ipomoea batatas, Ornamental sweetpotato

Triadica sebifera

Chinese tallow tree, Popcorn tree

Acer rubrum, Red maple

Betula nigra, River birch

Lagerstroemia spp., Crapemyrtle

Vitex agnus-castus, Chastetree, vitex

zAs listed by the University of Florida/IFAS Status Assessment,

yNon-invasive cultivar derived from the invasive species as determined by the University of Florida/IFAS Infraspecific Taxon Protocol (Lieurance, Deah, S. Luke Flory and Doria R. Gordon. 2013, rev. 2016.



This document is ENH1207, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date August 2013. Revised August 2018. Reviewed 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, Gainesville, FL; Zhanao Deng, 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.