Recently I conducted a site visit to evaluate why some ixora plants weren’t growing after about a year in the ground. I quickly observed high traffic in the landscape, and the soil was also compacted during the home construction.
A proper site analysis is the first step toward having a thriving landscape. The site should determine the plant type suitable for the landscape. Install sun-loving plants in open areas, plants that require shade in the shade, and plants that require moisture in areas with high moisture. Always consider the Right Plant, Right Place, Florida Friendly Principle when designing a landscape. You can also change the site to the plants’ needs. Introduce shade for shade-loving plants and amend the soil by adding compost to Florida soil, improving soil structure and water retention. If the site holds excess water, making a trench, installing a drainage pipe, or planting on elevated beds at least 12 inches above grade may help prevent plant roots from staying wet.
When choosing plants, ensure they thrive in your local USDA hardiness zone. Also, knowing the correct planting space and size of the desired mature plant is important. Plants that are installed too close will require pruning. In addition, it would be beneficial to select plants that are native to the area. Native plants require little or no fertilizer or irrigation after plants are established. Native plants also experience fewer insects and disease problems.
A good landscape starts with healthy plants. Container-grown plants should be removed from the container to inspect the roots. Healthy plants have light-colored roots, while unhealthy plants have dark brown roots, which may decay and circle in the container. When planting trees, dig the hole at least two times wider than the root ball of the plant and to the depth of the root ball. Plants buried too deep may develop issues usually within five years of installation.
After planting, water plants thoroughly to remove excess air in the soil. Adding mulch around the plants is beneficial. Mulch prevents the soil around the plant roots from drying out and prevents weeds from competing with your desired plants. When mulching trees, do not place the mulch in direct contact with the tree trunk; wet mulch can cause the trunk to decay and make the condition favorable for plant disease.
Newly planted trees can be fertilized with a low or no-phosphorous fertilizer. Fully established trees often do not need fertilizer, whereas annual needs fertilizer frequently. It’s not beneficial to fertilize plants that are stressed by environmental or cultural factors. Plants should be lightly irrigated after fertilizer application.
For more information on ornamental plants or other horticulture-related topics, contact Grantly Ricketts, UF/IFAS Commercial Horticulture agent, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 772-462-2847.