Guest Article for the Tallahassee Democrat
Photo by Deborah Lawson: European fan palm is planted in the wrong place.
January 24, 2014
By Deborah Lawson
I’m being silly – there’s really no such thing as “brown thumb syndrome.” I suppose the differences in each individual’s desire to nurture may have something to do with having a green thumb versus a brown one. But really what it boils down to is the desire to grow things and the knowledge – whether it was handed down from your grandparents or learned from books. Armed with knowledge you can easily overcome the “brown thumb syndrome.”
This article discusses a few aspects of the first of nine Florida Yards and Neighborhoods (FYN) principles, “Right Plant, Right Place.” Understanding this principle can easily turn your brown thumb green.
Plants need three primary things in order to thrive. They need the proper nutrients, the right amount of water, and the proper amount of sun or shade to create energy that promotes growth.
Plants get their nutrients from the soil, so planting plants that do well in our more acidic soils makes sense. If you live in a coastal area your soil will be more alkaline and you will be looking for plants that do well in coastal areas and are salt tolerant. Many plants do well in both types of soil. Either way, local nurseries typically sell plants that do well in our area and can answer your questions.
The right amount of water is important. Florida friendly plants are going to be ones that once established can do well in our climate without substantial supplemental watering, but meeting the water needs of plants from planting until they are established is critical. An excellent publication for the planting and care of shrubs and trees can be found at http:/edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep112.
The right amount of light is third but equally important. Most plants are now labeled for this purpose. “Full sun” means a minimum of 6 hours of full sun each day, preferably more. “Full to partial sun” means the plant will really do better in full sun but can survive in somewhat less. “Shade to partial shade” means less than 6 hours of sun, morning sun being preferable.
If you conquer these first few basics you will succeed in growing a healthy plant. If you want to then create a successful landscape, you must incorporate additional “right plant, right place” knowledge –group plants according to the needs we have discussed in this article. You don’t want to plant rosemary which needs very little water and plenty of sun in the same bed with hydrangeas which require less sun and more water. Consider the mature size of your plants when placing them. As demonstrated in my photo, the European fan palm is planted too close to the house and sidewalk. It was not a good plant choice for this location despite the fact that it is thriving in that location.
Some of us learn the hard way, through trial and error. But arming yourself with even small bits of knowledge will produce a degree of success that will tempt you to keep planting and growing. Check out the FYN handbook for more information on “right plant, right place” and other FYN principles at http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/handbook.
Deborah Lawson is owner of Rejuvenation, LLC landscaping and design, Master Gardener and a member of the Leon County/UF IFAS Extension Urban Forestry/Horticulture Newspaper Column Working Group. For more information about gardening in our area, visit the UF/ IFAS Leon County Extension website at http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu. For gardening questions, email us at Ask-A-Mastergardener@leoncountyfl.gov