Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ – Right plant, right place

Many homeowners turn to their yards when it comes time to bump up the beauty and pump up the property value, only to watch in mounting frustration as plant after plant withers under blazing sunlight or sags in torrential rains. If only they’d considered Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ before turning the first shovel of dirt.

Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ is a way to create healthy, sustainable, and beautiful landscapes while protecting Florida’s unique natural resources. These landscapes thrive in local conditions, rather than struggling to change them.

Array of Florida-Friendly plants used to landscape home

The first of nine principles for Florida-Friendly Landscaping ™ is “Right Plant, Right Place,” or the idea of using plants suited for your landscape. [CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension]

The program rests on nine, interrelated principles, which we will discuss individually in the coming months. It all starts, though, with getting “the right plant, in the right place.”How do you know what’s right? To answer that, start by carefully analyzing your particular landscape, since it likely is unique. Look at sun exposure and shade patterns, and wet and dry areas. Evaluate the water supply and drainage. Note overhead obstructions, and existing sidewalks, patios and other hardscape, and, of course, existing plants.Now that you know what kind of landscape you have, determine what type of landscape you want. Do you want to attract wildlife (think birds and butterflies in urban areas)? Do you want a pollinator garden to help reverse devastating habitat loss? Perhaps you are more interested in an edible garden with vegetables, herbs, and fruit. Maybe you are looking strictly for aesthetics. Most of the time, combining a little of this and a little of that is both practical and workable.

Nine Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™


RIGHT PLANT, RIGHT PLACE – Enjoy healthier plants and reduce work by using plants suited to your landscape conditions

Water Efficiently – Reduce water bills, pest problems, and maintenance needs
Fertilize Appropriately – Prevent pollution and maximize plant health
Mulch – Keep moisture in the soil, help control weeds, and reduce stormwater runoff
Attract Wildlife – Bring your yard to life by providing water, food, and shelter for birds, butterflies, and other creatures
Manage Yard Pests Responsibly – Create an effective defense against pests while minimizing your impact on the environment
Recycle Yard Waste – Re-use your yard waste to save money and enrich your soil
Reduce Stormwater Runoff – Filter rain through your landscape to protect waterways and replenish the aquifer
Protect the Waterfront – Help preserve Florida’s waterways, plants, and wildlife

Once you know what you want, choose plants carefully for your site conditions. This will help ensure the plants thrive, while minimizing the need for irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, and other maintenance. You’ll need to dig into the data on plants: how much light and water does a species or variety need, how high and wide does it grow, and what will it look like when grown? Grouping plants according to their water requirements and other maintenance needs is a good idea.

Finally, don’t waste time, energy, and money trying to grow a plant in a location where it won’t – or shouldn’t – grow. For $5, have your soil tested for pH and soluble salts at our Extension office. For $7, the University of Florida will test soil samples for pH, soluble salts, and nutrients, like phosphorous, calcium, and magnesium.

All of this might sound daunting, but we can help. As part of the University of Florida, we offer expert advice based on years of research. Visit us online at http://sarasota.ifas.ufl.edu for more information about landscaping, gardening, and more, or to find a calendar of classes. Stop by one of our Master Gardener Plant Clinic locations, where volunteers answer your questions on plants, turf, and landscaping. Find a clinic at http://sarasota.ifas.ufl.edu/PlantClinic/.

Our “Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook” gives you more about the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ approach, and the “Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection and Landscape Design” can help make your landscape vision a reality. If you prefer a printed copy of either or both, stop by our office. Or find others at our web site.

And if you need further help, call us at 941-861-9900, email sarasota@ifas.ufl.edu, or stop by our office at Twin Lakes Park, 6700 Clark Road, Sarasota.

 

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