When most people picture rock gardens, they picture alpine plants such as sedums and flowering succulents, but with a few exceptions, most of those plants will not thrive in Florida. To create a Florida rock garden, you need to use plants that are not only drought resistant, but heat tolerant.
Look to native grasses such as muhly grass, which produces a striking pink cloud of flowers in the fall, or if you want something taller, try the wispy cordgrass or for a real statement in a large rock garden, consider bold Fakahatchee grass. Weeping bamboo is also a beautiful and graceful possibility.
Trees with lacy foliage and tiny flowers are good as a focal point for your rock garden. Sweet acacias with its feathery leaves, dwarf weeping bottlebrush with its striking red flowers, and dwarf poinciana with its graceful fronds and striking floral display all lend a tropical look.
Small to medium palms, such as Ponytail palms with their large bulbous base and drooping leaves, are always a conversation starter. Pygmy date palms are a bit messy, but are a popular choice and easy to grow. In larger rock gardens, native blue saw palmettos are a standout choice.
Succulents and Cacti
Succulents and cacti are the plants most associated with dry Florida rock gardens. One choice are members of the agave family, which come in green or variegated varieties. These slow-growing plants do put out a lot of offshoots, so give them plenty of room so you can remove them. The Euphorbia family has a wide variety of species, ranging from tall, cactus-like plants to dwarf, trailing specimens. One of the best loved members of this family is the crown of thorns, which blooms continually in shades of white, yellow, peach and red on very spiky branches. The Thai crown of thorns have thicker branches and larger flowers in a wider range of colors. Pachypodium is a cactus-like succulent that grows into a tree form, and comes with either green, variegated or deep burgundy leaves.
A number of herbs are suitable for Florida rock gardens. Rosemary thrives with little to no care and grows into a medium size shrub, or can be pruned as a border plant. Sages come in a large variety of sizes and shapes with many, such as pineapple sage, having striking spikes of flowers. Artemesia's lacy, silver foliage makes it a standout plant in any garden, while lamb's ears' soft furry leaves make you want to bend down and touch it. Avoid planting mints, lemon balm or lemon grass in your rock garden, as they can become invasive and hard to control.
Rock gardens are an excellent choice for low-maintenance landscaping in Florida. A local landscaper, like one from Charles Bopst Trucking, can help you choose the right stones and plants for your area.