If you're looking to attract wildlife to your garden in Central Florida, native plants are the way to go. Not only do they provide food, but they also provide cover and nesting habitat for a variety of animals. Dense evergreen trees or shrubs, such as Yaupon holly or Walter's viburnum, and thorny shrubs and vines, like blackberries, are perfect for providing cover. Dead trees and piles of weeds also make great cover for animals.
If possible, leave a dead tree for bluebirds, woodpeckers, and flying squirrels. In addition to providing cover, you can also plant lanceolate cover flowers along with other wildflowers in your garden. This will ensure that there is always something in bloom for butterflies to make nectar from. Perennials keep their leaves all year round, while deciduous plants change color and fall off the branches in autumn. Florida's plants and animals have evolved together for thousands of years, so it's important to plant native species. For example, oakleaf hydrangea is a shrub that grows best in full shade and is perfect if you need to plant something under a large tree.
You can let them grow tall and use them as a hedge or windbreak or prune them shorter as an ornamental plant in the landscape. Research the specific species you want to have in your garden to find out what conditions it needs before planting them. The most common manta flower (Gaillardia pulchella) is not native to Florida, but the lanceolate manta flower is a similar species native to North and Central Florida. So if you've planted a nice large native shrub with flowers right in the center of your garden and haven't seen any wildlife yet, this could be why. By planting native Florida plants, you're providing wildlife with the food, shelter, and nesting habitat they need. There are several species of milkweed native to Florida with different colored flowers, so you can choose the one that best fits your palette.
With some careful research and planning, you can create a beautiful garden that will attract wildlife from all over.