Too many homes use the same material for their foundation plantings

While we need to add natives to our landscapes to promote sustainable and ecologically healthy ecosystems, we also need to understand the importance of diversity.

Native plants are not only beautiful but also come in a variety of form, color, texture and fragrance. Too many homes use the same material for their foundation plantings, creating costly, unsustainable monocultures that require harmful chemicals and constant attention: perfectly trimmed walls of green island ficus, manicured spikes of podocarpus, and adjacent rugs of jasmine minima add nothing to the surrounding landscape.

If this is the look you’re after, you may as well be planting plastic for all the help you’re giving the environment. Besides, don’t you want to be a little more creative? Foundation plantings don’t need to be boring, symmetrical and lifeless; they provide far more curb appeal with diverse heights, shapes and textures.

A foundation using cocoa plum or wild coffee could still be pruned, but at least it would be providing pollinators with a food source. For added interest, Jamaican caper could be added along with the dense, rounded black torch and pearlberry.

Jamaican caper, Capparis cynophallophora, is one of Florida’s most versatile ornamentals, working equally well as a specimen, hedge or accent plant. The neat, pyramidal growth habit never needs pruning and the attractive leathery green foliage has a soft rose-tan underside. The fragrant white to purple flowers are reminiscent of starbursts, with long stamens extending far beyond the petals. These only appear from April to June, but are well worth the wait

Black torch is an accent shrub that does well in sun or shade.

Black torch, Erithralis fruiticosa, is a wonderful accent shrub with glossy evergreen foliage and delicate panicles of small star-shaped white flowers followed by clusters of shiny black berries. It does well in sun or shade.

Pearlberry is listed as critically imperiled and endangered by the state.

Pearlberry, Vallesia antillana, is a rare specimen shrub with shiny, deep green leaves and small white flowers followed by iridescent, almost translucent white berries, hence the common name. This is listed as critically imperiled and endangered by the state, so you will be doing yourself as well as the plant a big favor by incorporating it into your landscape.

Saw palmetto along a wall provides sculptural and textural interest with beautiful spikey grayblue fronds; and the fragrant white flower clusters host numerous bees and butterflies, including the rare Atala.

The flowers of a saw palmetto attract bees and butterflies.

If you want to add additional color, try incorporating the lovely Necklace pod, Sophora tomentosa, with its arching spikes of bright yellow flowers. All of these plants are salt and drought tolerant, requiring little maintenance once they are established.

If you’re dealing with a shady area and looking for a spot of color, try Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana. This shrub grows to 5 feet, producing graceful arching branches covered in thick clusters of deep purple pearl-like berries. There is an equally beautiful white variety.

Beautyberry will add color to a shady area.

Palm Beach is an island of hedges, but as Ficus benjamina is now banned from future planting, let’s explore some of the many more interesting, beautiful and sustainable options that never need spraying of any chemical pesticides or fungicides. Instead of a single plant hedge, envision a stunning assortment of thatch palms, Simpson’s stopper, buttonwood, wild coffee and saw palmetto, with some marlberry, myrsine and Bahama strongbark thrown in for a splash of color with their bright black and red berries.