Alternatives to Invasive Plants Commonly Found in North Florida Landscapes1

Gary W. Knox, Sandra B. Wilson, Zhanao Deng, and Rosanna Freyre 2

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. August 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 north 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 substitute

Scientific name

Common name

Albizia julibrissin


Cercis canadensis, Eastern redbud

Chionanthus virginicus, Fringe tree

Prunus umbellata, Chickasaw plum

Vachellia farnesiana, Sweet acacia

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, Chinese 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 × generalis, Canna lily

Hedychium spp., Butterfly ginger

Philodendron bipinnatifidum, Selloum philodendron

Zingiber zerumbet, Pine cone ginger, pine cone lily

Dioscorea bulbifera


Ipomoea alba, Moonflower

Passiflora spp. (native species), Passionvine

Bignonia callistegioides, Painted trumpet vine

(See Flowering Vines for Florida ( for additional vines)

Lantana camara

Lantana, shrub verbena

Helianthus debilis, Beach sunflower

Salvia coccinea, Tropical sage, red salvia

Euryops chrysanthemoides (formerly Gamolepis chrysanthemoides), African bush daisy, daisy bush

Evolvulus glomeratus subsp. grandiflorus, Blue daze

Lantana camara 'UF-T3'x, UF-T3 lantana (sterile)

Lantana camara 'UF-T4'x, UF-T4 lantana (sterile)

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

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

Rosa spp., Rose

Salvia greggii, Autumn sage

Salvia splendens, Scarlet sage, scarlet salvia

Ligustrum sinense

Chinese privet

Agarista populifolia, Florida leucothoe

Ilex glabra, Gallberry, inkberry

Illicium floridanum, Florida anise

Illicium parviflorum, Star anise

Itea virginica, Virginia sweetspire

Viburnum obovatum, Walter's viburnum

Camellia japonica, Japanese camellia

Camellia sasanqua, Sasanqua camellia

Feijoa sellowiana, Feijoa or 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

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 '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, Jamaican snakeweed

Stokesia laevis, Stokes' aster

Eranthemum pulchellum, Blue sage

Plectranthus spp., Plectranthus

Plumbago auriculata, Plumbago

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

Ruellia simplex R10-105-Q54y, Mayan Pink 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)

Salvia farinacea, Mealycup sage

Salvia greggii, Autumn sage

Salvia leucantha, Mexican sage

Vernonia gigantea, Giant ironweed

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, Black-gum, tupelo gum

Lagerstroemia spp., Crapemyrtle

Vitex agnus-castus, Chaste-tree

Wisteria sinensis

Chinese wisteria

Wisteria frutescens, American wisteria

Callerya reticulata, Evergreen wisteria

(See Flowering Vines for Florida ( for additional vines)

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.


1. This document is ENH1206, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date August 2013. Revised August 2018. Visit the EDIS website at
2. 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.