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15 Hawaii Native Plants Perfect for Landscaping

Hawaii often tries its hardest to keep everything as local and natural as possible. Our state has strict rules in an effort to keep our ‘aina, millions of years in the making, safe from invasive plants and animals (don’t even think about bringing a snake here!)

Groundcovers are better for the environment than grass since they don’t require as much irrigation, and though many non-native plants do well in our perpetually warm, sunny climates, why use imported plants when Hawaii native plants are perfectly suited, and just as beautiful?

Check out 15 Hawaii native plants, trees, and shrubs that are well-suited for landscaping use – hearty, easy to maintain, and 100% natural!


15 Hawaii Native Plants Perfect for Landscaping!


1. ‘illima papa

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These bushes with beautiful yellow flowers are not difficult to grow if pests are already under control!


2. acacia koa

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A fast-growing tree that enjoys higher elevations, a fully grown koa has a canopy spread of about 20-40 feet. Its wood is one of the most expensive decorative woods, well known throughout the world.


3. Bacopa monnieri

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This groundcover thrives even in salty, sunny conditions, excellent for leeward landscapes near the ocean.


4. a’ali’i

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This dense shrub/small tree also grows well where most plants do not, preferring little water and dry soil. It’s known for its resiliency, as quoted in an ancient warrior boast: “He ʻaʻaliʻi au; ʻaʻohe makani e hina ai” meaning “I am an ʻaʻaliʻi shrub; no wind can push me over.”


5. ‘ohe

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Live somewhere where it’s rainier? The ‘ohe tree has a unique look to it compared to other Hawaii native plants, and thrives in wet conditions.


6. ‘ulei

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A low-growing shrub, ‘ulei has beautiful dark green, fern-like leaves, and is adapted to drier areas.


7. Pritchardia Palms

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There are 23 types of native palms to Hawaii, all offering that tropical look many tourists and locals alike find attractive. Interesting factoid: the landscape industry’s two most commonly used palms, the P. pacificus and P. thurstonii, are actually not native. Check out a fully local P. hillebrandi palm above.


8. kou

kou tree


These medium-sized trees are great for dry-climate landscapes. Its dark green leaves create heavy shade, and its light-colored wood is prized by woodcarvers.


9. alahe’e

Hawaii native plants hedges and trees

Looking for a good hedge? Alahe’e can be pruned into hedges, and blooms fragrant white flowers.


10. moa

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A great accent plant, moa has a very unique look to it. It shares its name with the Hawaiian word for chicken because of its bumpy, skinny appearance, similar to that of a chicken leg.


11. manele


Also known as the Hawaiian soapberry, manele are simple, hearty trees than can grow to great heights.


12. hala

hala pandanu trees

Formally known as a member of the pandanus tree family, beautiful hala trees are often called by ugly name of “screw pine.” They do well in sandy areas with poor soil, and give an edible, unique fruit.


13. pa’u o hi’iaka

oval leaf cluster

Another excellent groundcover also known as the oval-leaf clustervine, this plant is known for its versatility: it can be grown on rich clay soils as well as sandy ones, and blooms small white flowers.


14. aloalo

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Better known as hibiscus, there are dozens of varieties native to the islands, and are defined by their flowers. Some varieties include the O’ahu white hibiscus, the Mokule’ia rosemallow, and the Punalu’u white hibiscus.


15. hapu’u

landscaping ferns

The hapu’u, or the Hawaiian tree fern is well-suited to wet, shaded areas on the windward side. It is an attractive accent fern, and doubles as protector against soil erosion.


Mahalos to UH Manoa’s College of Tropical Architecture and Human Resources and Native Plants Hawaii for the scholarly info!

Looking to get some native plants installed in your home or business? Total Landscape can help! Call us at (808) 779 6133 for to set up your free estimate.




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