There are many drought-tolerant plants that will thrive in our central Florida landscapes.  As with all plants, those native and non-native, water is often required to get any plant established.  Here are a few drought-tolerant plants, from medium trees to perennials, you can try in your landscape:

The American Hop Hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) is a medium tree that can reach up to 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide.  They have attractive papery blooms and provide nutlets that attract birds. 

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana).  We are at the southern end of the USDA Hardiness Zone of 9A for this tree that can get to 25 feet tall and wide.  The joy of this magnolia is that it blooms pink saucers before the leaves open.  It tolerates medium to well-drained soil after established.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) pictured,  is a favorite large shrub that prefers part shade.  This is a Florida native plant that blooms with small pink blooms circling the stem where the vibrant purple berries develop and are enjoyed by birds. 

Japanese Aralia (Fatsia japonica) is a good choice if you need a course texture in your shade garden.  If you plant this in sun, it will kill this plant.   It has large evergreen leaves and white wintery flowers.  It is hardy from zones 8-11 so will do well in your shade garden and only gets to about 8 feet tall and up to 10 feet wide.

Ground covers including Shore Juniper, Creeping Juniper, and Lilyturf, are all drought tolerant.  All prefer sun and are not native plants.  The junipers can spread as far as 10 feet so plan ahead on placement so they do not “eat” your sidewalks and require constant pruning.  Do not cut them into dead wood as they will not break bud and grow more.  Only trim within green growing areas.  The green lilyturf can be a spreading ground cover (Liriope spicata) or mounding (Liriope muscari).  If you choose a white variegated liriope, it prefers shade.

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) is a sun-loving Florida native perennial.  Placing this in a shady spot means it will not survive.   This is not an obnoxious spreader and does not sow seed.  It does not like to be over-watered or put in poorly-drained soil, and it does not like extended wet weather.  Birds and butterflies are attracted to this lovely plant.

Stokes Aster (Stokesia laevis) is a great Florida native perennial If you like blue.  It prefers full sun and is also drought tolerant. It only grows up to 2 feet tall and wide and attracts butterflies.  By its second year, it can be loaded with blooms which are purple “head” flowers.

To learn more about these drought tolerant plants, and others,  check out this Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM PDF of the Guide to Plant Selection and Landscape Design at: