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The 9 Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping – An Intro

Every day, the Nine Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping are helping people in your community create vibrant, resilient yards and neighborhoods. These same 9 FFL Principles also help protect our water, and support Florida’s incredibly diverse wildlife too…




Huh? Confused emoji

“Huh? – The nine what?


Wait… you don’t know about the 9 Principles of FFL?!?  


Ok, let’s back up. Here’s the basic idea… Florida has everything from dry sandy “soil” to soggy swamps… add some heat and humidity, not to mention bugs, plus the occasional hurricane or frost,… you get the idea. Florida can be a challenging place to maintain a good looking yard or landscape.


To make matters worse, many people “try to fit a square peg into a round hole,” meaning they’re attempting to grow plants that aren’t well-matched to their landscape’s natural conditions. As a result, a lot of landscapes provide more grief than enjoyment, and people believe (incorrectly) that a nice landscape requires a lot of fertilizer, water, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc.


The end result?


A lot of landscapes are effectively on perpetual “life-support”

Brown patches and weeds in a lawn

Typical response = “Maybe it just needs a little more of… everything?”


…and a lot of water gets wasted;


Photo montage of various sprinkler issues

Potential future blog post title – “50 Ways to Waste Your Water.” (With sincere apologies to Paul Simon)


…and many of Florida’s unique natural systems (like springs, rivers, wetlands, and coasts) are being gradually pushed out of balance.


Algae scum floating in pond.




Florida-Friendly – A better way…

The idea of Florida-Friendly Landscaping begins with the simple notion of “round peg, round hole,” a.k.a. right plant, right place.”

In other words, when you choose the right plants, they won’t need as much irrigation, fertilizer, or pesticides. When your plants are happier and more “self-sufficient,” you’re happier, (your wallet is happier) and your corner of Florida is just a little more vibrant… (As a bonus, you can feel good about your landscape because you’ll be saving water, reducing nutrient pollution, and helping Florida’s unique wildlife thrive.)



White ibis foraging in shallow water

Who, me?



“Sounds great – I’m ready to tear out all my turf! Which plants are Florida-Friendly?”


Whoa…slow down. Even within a single county like Pasco, there are a lot of different growing conditions and different aesthetic tastes… It would be impractical (and probably impossible) to give a “one-size-fits-all” list of plants that could easily define a “Florida-Friendly Landscape.

Whether a type of (turf/shrub/tree/flower, etc.) is “Florida-Friendly” ultimately depends on how you care for it, and whether it’s the right plant for that place.

Example: Many people believe that turf is frowned-upon for Florida-Friendly yards, but even St. Augustine turf can potentially be 100% “Florida-Friendly.”* (Trivia fact – Did you know that St. Augustinegrass is technically considered a Florida native plant?)

See for yourself:

Healthy, lush turf

*Above: This healthy, lush carpet of non-irrigated, non-fertilized St. Augustine turf is in my partly-shaded back yard. This patch of turf helps filter rainwater before it reaches a drainage creek.


In other words… it’s not just about which plants you use (and which ones you don’t.)


The Nine Principles – Your personal roadmap for success.


Rather than saying, “use these specific plants, and ‘POOF!’ you have a ‘Florida-Friendly’ yard,” the 9 Principles are a flexible ‘how-to’ guide that can work in any situation, as a way to achieve your individual landscaping goals. (i.e. How to chose your plants; how to water them efficiently; how to support wildlife; how to use mulch correctly; how to reduce runoff; etc…)


How about a few examples…


Vibrant yard with healthy turf and cheerful flowers

Using FFL principles and smart irrigation technology can save water and create a vibrant traditional-style landscape.

Let’s say you’re a builder, and you want to design great looking communities with vibrant landscapes. The FFL Principles will help you choose a plant palette that will thrive. Using “smart irrigation” technology and “hydrozoning” lets you build water efficiency right into the design!

Or maybe you’re a homeowner or landscaper looking to transform a “trouble spot” in the yard into something with real curb appeal. (Maybe you just need to keep the HOA happy…) With good plant selection, efficient watering methods, and appropriate care, you’ll get your yard looking good… without draining your wallet or the aquifer,… and you won’t constantly be drenching the yard in pesticide, fungicide, etc.





Bumble bee visits firebush flowers

Follow the 9 FFL Principles to keep your bees and butterflies busy!

Or maybe you really want to create a pollinator paradise? Following the 9 Principles of FFL can help you put the flutter in your flowers and get some buzzing in your bushes! Plant selection and pollinator-safe pest control strategies are all part of the 9 Principles!





Excited about “going native?” The 9 Principles can serve as your guide here too! Remember – Just because a plant is native to Florida doesn’t necessarily mean it will automatically thrive in every corner of Florida… you still need to follow right plant, right place… and you’ll want to provide the right care, especially until they’re well-established and able to fend for themselves. So, “which Florida” do you have?

Festive berries and contrasting leaves against a sunny sky

Here’s Florida…



Low-growing flowers, pine needles, pinecone

Also Florida…



Compact, needle-like leaves of Ceratiola ericoides

Some very, very dry Florida…
(Florida sand-heath [Ceratiola ericoides] grows only in the most well-drained sand scrub habitat.)


Yup, there’s wet Florida too…
(Coastal hammock featuring ferns and wild coffee)


Well, you get the idea…

By following the 9 Principles of FFL, you’d be able to select which native plants are the right native plants for your unique corner of Florida, and you’ll be able to get them established and keep them looking their best!


Your ideal landscape…

In other words, no matter what your landscape goals are, the 9 Principles of FFL will serve as your personal how-to guide to help you achieve your ideal landscape.

Because when your plants are happier, you’re happier, (your wallet is happier) and your corner of Florida is just a little more vibrant.


Native green anole



Stay tuned!

This post just barely scratched the surface. In upcoming blog posts, we’ll be diving into each of the principles one-by-one. So be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with all the latest posts!



The 9 Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping are:



REMEMBER – You’re not alone! Everyone at your local UF/IFAS Extension and  Master Gardener team is here to help you! Soil tests, plant selection, pest questions – Ask us anything! Click here to find your local UF/IFAS Extension office!


About the Author: As the Florida Friendly Landscaping (FFL) Program Coordinator in Pasco County, Frank works with the residents, homebuilders, and businesses of Pasco to achieve attractive, resilient, low-maintenance yards and communities while reducing over-reliance on irrigation, fertilizer, and pesticides. Through an innovative collaboration with Pasco County Utilities, Frank provides on-site assistance to individuals and communities identified as high water users. He can be reached at (813)929.2716.

Thirsty for more FFL knowledge? Check out some of my previous posts!


About UF/IFAS Extension: UF/IFAS Extension serves as a source of non-biased, research-based information for the residents, businesses, and communities of Florida, providing educational materials and programs for adults and youth. We proudly “provide solutions for your life.”

Come learn at one of our workshops! Check out our Eventbrite page for a list of upcoming events:

UF/IFAS Extension Is An Equal Opportunity Institution.

3 Comments on “The 9 Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping – An Intro

    • Hi Chris, thanks for checking out the blog, and for the great question about invasive plants. Here’s one way I like to think about it: The first FFL Principle, “right plant, right place” means that you should be matching your plant selections to your site conditions, and to the amount of available space. For example, if you have a 3′ x 3′ area next to your front door, you wouldn’t want to plant a live oak there. It would obviously be the “wrong plant,” because if it grew to it’s maximum potential, it would cause significant maintenance costs, harm to your home’s foundation, etc. So, any plant (native or not) that’s destined to outgrow its available space and become a maintenance nightmare would be considered the “wrong plant” for that space, according to the FFL Principles.

      However, invasive plants take that concept further. By definition, invasive plants are those that have proven themselves to be unwilling and unable to be contained and maintained in the place they are planted. Likewise, they’ve proven themselves again and again to be 100% capable of becoming maintenance nightmares. They are known to escape cultivation, and when they do, they cause significant environmental and/or economic harm. They disrupt habitats, out-compete, smother, and displace native plants (and the wildlife that depend on them), many are toxic to wildlife and livestock, and they almost always cost significant amounts of money and labor for control and removal.

      (Furthermore, because many invasive plants are capable of being are spread long distances by water, wildlife, landscape equipment, etc., often the person who originally planted them is not the one bearing those costs – at least not directly – however, because management of invasive plants impacts the operations and budgets of many municipalities, parks, ranchers, farmers, etc., EVERYONE actually pays the costs to manage invasive species.)

      So I hope this answer helps you, and other blog readers, to see the connection – by their very nature, invasive plants can’t meet the criteria for “right plant, right place!” If you’re interested in learning more, be sure to follow @PascoExt on Facebook or Twitter. I’ll be sharing lots of information, tips, and trivia for “Invasive Species Awareness Week” later in February!

      Sneak peek: Did you know? Some invasive plants actually make it much more difficult to manage Florida’s fire-dependent habitats with prescribed burns, and can even allow natural wildfires to burn bigger, faster, and hotter than they otherwise would!

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