8 Florida Deciduous Trees to Discover or Grow Today

Last Updated:
Photo of author
Written By Kenique Ivery

Global Green Thumb

This article may contain affiliate links. We may earn a small commission if you purchase via these links. Learn more.
Home » Florida » 8 Florida Deciduous Trees to Discover or Grow Today

Most of Florida’s deciduous trees are in north and central Florida. Why bother planting deciduous trees in a state with so many evergreen and tropical tree options? 

First, many offer beautiful fall foliage, even in Florida’s subtropical climate. 

Also, they help reduce energy costs. These bare-branched trees allow the warmth from the sun to penetrate through the roof during the winter. 

The eight deciduous trees below thrive in most of the state. But you should check the Florida hardiness zone for your area since a few are not recommended below zone 9. 

Six of the eight trees are native to Florida – you will likely spot them along the highways, old fields, or the state’s many forests. 

8 Common and Interesting Deciduous Trees in Florida

1. Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) – Native Tree

Image by Puddin Tain via Flickr

I chose persimmon for this listicle because it offers incredible fall foliage and delicious fruit. Also, it is a native Florida tree, so it is suitable for native animal species and the environment. In addition, for hundreds of years, people in North America have used persimmon wood for furniture.

In fall, the foliage of this deciduous tree has a burnt orange or brick red color. The bright orange fruit stays on the leafless trees well into the winter months – unless you or the birds pick them all.

Persimmon trees are great in the landscape among large evergreens or large oak trees. The tree’s narrow growth habit contributes to its beauty. During the winter months, the alligator skin-looking bark offers unique visual appeal.

Persimmon trees are low maintenance. They rarely get diseases and pests and, once established, can tolerate drought.

Other Common Names: Common Persimmon, Eastern Permission, Simmon, Possumwood, Possum Apples, Sugar plum

Growing Zones: 5 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 40-60 feet tall, and 25 – 30 feet wide

Flowering Season: Late Spring

Harvest Season: September – February

2. Red Maple (Acer rubrum) – Native Tree

Red Maple_Florida
Image by Doug Hay via Flickr

Few deciduous trees in Florida offer better fall color than the red maple. The tree’s leaves turn to fiery red, orange, or bright yellow in the fall. You can see this spectacular show as far south as Tampa or Orlando.

In early spring, these maple trees become the star of the landscape once more. Between January to March, the bare branches feature beautiful red flowers.

But in many cases, you won’t have to wait long before spring arrives. I’ve seen in Orlando red maple trees with brilliant fall foliage color in late December and then bloom just a few weeks later in mid-January.

In nature, you will find red maple growing in swampy areas. These spots have wet, acidic soil with plenty of organic matter.

Red maples do not require much care and will grow multiple feet yearly. You can plant red maple in full sun or partial shade. It helps to ensure that the soil is acidic, though it will thrive in most soil types.

Other Names: Swamp Maple, Water Maple, Soft Maple

USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 40 – 60 feet tall with a spread of 25 – 45 feet

Flowering Season: Late Winter

3. Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea) – Non-Native Tree

Scarlet Oak_Florida
Image by denisbin via Flickr

The scarlet oak is an elegant-looking and fast-growing deciduous tree. One of the finest features of this tree is its leaves. On top, they are glossy and deep green, with pale undersides. In fall, the leaves turn to a scarlet red color.

Scarlet oak is native to much of the eastern half of the United States. In the wild, its acorns are a valuable food source for turkeys, grouse, white-tailed deer, and small mammals such as squirrels.

This deciduous oak tree has an open and rounded crown. As such, it provides light and dappled shade in the landscape.

A site with at least six hours of direct sunlight is excellent for scarlet oak. Caring for this tree is easy, as it does well in many soil types.

It would be best if you to be mindful for the amount of moisture the tree gets. It requires consistent water in the first few years until it develops good drought tolerance.

USDA Growing Zones:  4 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 80 feet tall with a spread of 40 – 50 feet

4. Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) – Native Tree

Eastern Redbud_Florida
Image by carlfbagge via Flickr

The Eastern redbud is a classic flowering tree in north and central Florida. This native Florida tree usually has pink to purple flowers, which appear in the spring. The flowering start when the tree is young – as early as four years.

Most varieties of eastern redbud are compact – rarely exceeding 20 feet tall. For this reason, they make great trees for tight spaces.

For those with more space, you should consider planting multiple eastern redbud trees near dense evergreen trees such as spruces and junipers. The dark green background brings out the color of the flowers.

It is best to plant eastern redbud in a spot with full sun or light shade. The tree does well in a wide range of soils but strongly prefers moist and rich ones.

If your soil is sandy and not organically rich – common in some parts of Florida; it is a good idea to add plenty of compost throughout the year at the base.

Other Common Names: Redbud, American Redbud

USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 20 – 30 feet tall with a spread of 20 – 35 feet

Flowering Season: Spring

5. Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) – Native Tree

Image by Dan Keck via Flickr

Did you know that the flavoring for root beer in the old days came from sassafras roots? According to McGill University, the FDA banned using the roots because it contains a compound with cancer-causing effects. 

If you come across this native Florida tree in the wild, crush the leaves, and you will get the aroma of root beer. 

You can quickly identify sassafras by its unique mitten-like lobed leaves. During the spring and summer, the leaves are bright green before turning to shades of yellow, scarlet, purple, or deep orange in the fall. 

But the leaves and roots aren’t the only remarkable features of this tree. In early spring, sassafras trees produce clusters of beautiful and fragrant yellow flowers. These flowers turn into dark blue fruit that matures in the fall. Deer, wild turkeys, and other birds love eating them.  

Sassafras grows in spots with moist, well-drained, sandy, loamy soil in the wild. If you decide to grow one, it is best to mimic these conditions. Also, the tree will do fine in either partial shade or full sun. 

Other Common Names: White Sassafras, Red Sassafras, Silky Sassafras

USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 60 feet tall with a spread of 25 – 40 feet

Flowering Season: Early Spring

6. Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipa) – Native Tree

Tulip Tree_Florida
Image by Buddha Dog via Flickr

The tulip tree gets its name from its tulip-shaped leaves and flowers. In late spring, mature trees send out about 11/2 to 2 inches wide flowers. The petals are greenish-yellow with an orange base.  

Tulip trees are widespread in Florida’s forests. A race of tulip trees grows there, known as the East Central Florida ecotype.

This unique race flowers much earlier than most – as early as late January. The flowers are also much yellower. These trees tolerate very wet conditions. The University of Central Florida Arboretum in Orlando is a great location to explore the East Central Florida ecotype. 

Tulip trees offer year-round beauty to the landscape. But also they are famous for rapid growth. If you decide to plant one, you should grow it on a site with plenty of sunshine. 

Other Common Names: American Tulip Tree, Yellow Poplar, Fiddletree, Whitewood, Tulipwood

USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 70 – 90 feet tall with a spread of 40 feet

Flowering Season: Spring

7. Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) – Native Tree

Sweet Gum_Florida
Image by Julie Jordan Scott via Flickr

Sweetgum is a famous deciduous tree for aesthetic reasons. Its star-shaped leaves have a deep, glossy green shade most of the year.

In fall, the foliage is a unique mix of yellow, red, and purple. In most Florida, the turned leaves will remain on the tree until January.

Another beautiful feature of sweetgum is its pyramidal shape. For this reason, rows of sweetgum trees provide lots of visual appeal.

Sweetgum trees do not require much care as they tolerate lots of soil types and have good drought tolerance. They do best on sites that get at least six hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Other Common Names: American Storax, Gum, Satin-Walnut, Star Gum, Sweetgum

Growing Zones: 5 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 75 feet tall with a spread of 40 – 50 feet

8. Plumeria (Plumeria spp.) – Non-Native Tree

Frangipani 'Bali Swirl' (Plumeria rubra) Tree and Flowers
Frangipani ‘Bali Swirl’ – Images by Fern Berg, Own Work, for Tree Vitalize

Plumeria is a tropical deciduous tree that offers some of the most beautiful and fragrant flowers in the world. Traditional Hawaiian leis include these flowers.

Plumeria drops its thick leaves in late fall and usually doesn’t return until late spring. But as soon as they come back, the tree sets flower buds. The fragrant flowers can be white, red, pink, yellow, or a mixture of two or more colors. Trees continue to bloom for many months, well into the fall.

These small trees are great for small tight spots. Also, they give a lush tropical feel to the landscape with their bountiful flowers and deep green foliage. But since they lose their leaves, you should plant them among evergreen tropical trees to keep the landscape lush in the winter.

Plumeria does well outside in zones 10 and up. You may be able to grow them outside in zone 9B, but they will need protection from frosts and freezes. Below zone 9B they make a great container plant though you have to move them indoors during the winter.

Other Common Names: Frangipani

USDA Growing Zones: 10 – 12

Average Size at Maturity: 20 – 25 feet with a similar spread

Flowering Season: Spring through fall

Deciduous Trees in Warm and Sunny Florida?

Consider planting a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees to make your Florida landscape more dynamic. The proper selection of deciduous trees can provide fantastic fall color, tender spring leaves, and impressive flower displays like those of the eastern redbud tree

If you arrive in north or central Florida in the middle of January, you will find many trees without leaves. Such is especially true in the state’s large state and national forests

A large portion of the native Florida trees include maples, oaks, deciduous cypresses, etc. These trees are deciduous. Most of them, especially red maplepersimmontulip tree, and sassafras, offer reliable and brilliant fall colors each year. However, the color may not show until December. 

Thankfully, winter does not last long in Florida. Visible signs of spring, such as new leaves and flowering trees, can appear as early as late January.  

Related Articles:

Photo of author

Kenique Ivery

Global Green Thumb

Kenique grew up in Florida and currently lives in southern China. Before China, he spent many years in Portugal and the Caribbean. He studied economics and is a teacher, entrepreneur, and writer. Since he was knee-high, he has been gardening and was an active member of FFA (Future Farmers of America). He is his best self in a densely wooded forest or park. Depending on the day, you can find him reading, hiking, traveling, exercising, sipping lots of tea, or eating everything in sight.

2 thoughts on “8 Florida Deciduous Trees to Discover or Grow Today”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.