A Part-Time and New Resident’s Guide to Gardening in Central Florida

Welcome to Florida!

Palm trees against the background of a blue and orange sunset.
Palm trees at sunset. UF/IFAS File Photo.

The land of abundant sunshine and a more varied climate than you may think. From the occasional near freezing temperatures every few winters to summers full of heat, humidity, and rainstorms, Florida is quite a unique place. With such variety, a few tips will help get you started and ensure a successful garden or landscape in Central Florida.

Tips for gardening in Central Florida:

Right Plant, Right Place
Water Resources
Photo of an irrigation sprinkler spraying water.
Proper irrigation can save thousands of gallons per year! Photo credit: Tyler Jones
  • Florida’s rainy season typically runs from June through October, and we can receive around 40-60 inches of rain per year. While this is great news for plants, there are a few things to keep in mind in relation to rainstorms. Adjust irrigation to avoid overwatering with so much rain. Reduce stormwater runoff by directing gutter downspouts to lawn and landscape areas, installing rain barrels, adding a rain garden, and using permeable surfaces. Also, do not fertilize before a heavy rainstorm. You will just be wasting your time and money and contributing to the pollution associated with stormwater runoff, one of Florida’s top water quality issues.
  • Protect Florida’s water resources. Adhere to the nine principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ and if you do live on a body of water create a 10-foot maintenance free zone between your yard and the water that avoids mowing, fertilizing, and pesticide use.
  • Watering restrictions are year-round. We all can help conserve our water resources from overuse & pollutants. Check with your water utility or the water management district for details.
Wintertime, Trees, and Edible Gardening
Dark pink blooms on crapemyrtle tree.
Crapemyrtle in bloom at the UF/IFAS Extension Polk County Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Demonstration Garden in Bartow, FL.
  • During the winter (or cool season), plant growth slows down in Central Florida. Skip winter fertilizer applications and always know your local fertilizer ordinance. This also means you can skip a week of watering and only water if needed every 10-14 days.
  • Take advantage of fall leaves to use as mulch or add to compost. You can also prune deciduous trees and ornamental grasses while they are dormant.
  • Avoid “crape murder” or improper pruning of crapemyrtles. Check out this article for more on proper care and maintenance of Crapemyrtle trees.
  • Know your edible growing seasons. Vegetable plants can be grown year-round, but timing is key. The Vegetable Gardening Guide is a great resource for setting up an edible garden and also includes charts with timing for different vegetables along with varieties that perform best in Florida.
Know Your Plants

Another great resource for new and even experienced Central Florida gardeners is The Your Polk Yard, a 12-Month Garden Guide & Journal. It features monthly tips and reminders for the edible garden and landscape. It is also perfect because it was written by UF/IFAS Extension Polk County Master Gardener Volunteers!

Guide & Journal Cover
Cover of the guide. Photo credit: Anne Yasalonis, UF/IFAS Extension
Additional resources on gardening for part-time and new residents:


Zhang, Meijing , Young Gu Her, Kati Migliaccio, and Clyde Fraisse. 2017. Florida Rainfall Data Sources and Types. AE517. Gainesville: Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/AE/AE517/AE517-10033997.pdf.

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Headshot of Julie Schelb, Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program Coordinator with UF/IFAS Extension Polk County.
Posted: December 6, 2022

Category: Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Home Landscapes, Lawn
Tags: Central Florida, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Gardening, Jschelb, Part-time Residents, Plants, Polk County FL, Snowbirds, Vegetable Gardening

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