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November 28, 2017
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Living Florida-Friendly begins with selecting the right plant for the right place. If you select suitable plants for your landscape and care for them according to Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles, they will likely thrive.

Florida is a diverse state which includes a variety of soil types, temperature ranges, and rainfall patterns that differ dramatically from region to region. A plant that thrives in a friend's yard on the coast may freeze in your yard just a few miles inland. Different conditions often exist in the same home landscape. The front yard may be high and dry, while the backyard may be poorly drained and soggy.

Walk around your property, noting conditions that make your yard unique. Does your site demand plants that are tolerant of the cold, wind, full sun, shade drought, occasional flooding, or salt spray? Do you know your soil pH and nutrient content? Don't forget to take into account where your septic system, power lines, and underground utilities are located. The following checklists will guide you through some important considerations you should take into account when designing a landscaped area.

1st: Determine Your Needs for an Area.

  • Play area for children
  • Veg./herb/fruit garden
  • Screen home from road or neighbors
  • Wildlife habitat/butterfly garden
  • Water garden/aquascape
  • Sitting garden
  • Area for entertaining
  • Pet area
  • Storage area
  • Pool, spa, hot tub
  • Outdoor barbeque area
  • Showcase the home

2nd: Determine Maintenance Level

Time needed for mowing, pruning, and weeding as well as equirements for water, fertilizers and pesticides.

3rd: Determine the Site Conditions in Your Yard

Time needed for mowing, pruning, and weeding as well as equirements for water, fertilizers, and pesticides.

  • North FL
  • South FL
  • Central FL
  • Well-Drained Soil
  • Poorly Drained Soil
  • Compacted Soil
  • Alkaline Soil
  • Acidic Soil
  • Costal Soil
  • Sandy
  • Marl
  • Clay
  • Full Shade
  • Partly Shaded

Your UF/IFAS County Extension office can provide you information on how to collect a soil sample for a pH, soluble salts, or complete analysis test. For more information on pH see:

4th: Map Your Yard

Creating a low-impact, Florida-Friendly Landscape can be fun and rewarding. But where do you start? If you need help with the layout, viisit

5th: Select Landscape Material

Once you know your site conditions and have decided how you will use your yard, you are ready to begin selecting plants. Now that you have determined the basic layout, the fun part begins. When choosing plants, consider the limitations of your site, maintenance requirements, and wildlife value. A Florida-Friendly Plant List has been established to help you select the best plant choices for your landscape. Visit

Florida-Friendly Landscapes: Right Plant, Right Place

  • Reduce the need for water, fertilizer, pesticides, and pruning by using low-maintenance plants suited to the conditions in your yard.
  • Group plants according to their water needs (e.g., group drought-tolerant plants with low-water needs apart from lawn areas).
  • Determine how much grass you need for children, pets, recreation, swales, right-of-way areas, etc. Use low-maintenance ground covers, shrubs, mulch, or other porous surfaces where possible.
  • Save energy by using trees and shrubs to shade the air conditioner compressor and eastern and western walls of your home.
  • In North Florida, use deciduous trees or shrubs on southern exposures to allow sun to passively heat your home in the winter.
  • Help stop the spread of invasive exotic plants by removing them from your yard (for example, Brazilian pepper, melaleuca, Australian pine, and Chinese tallow). See for more details.
  • Reduce yard waste by choosing plants that will not require frequent pruning when they reach maturity.
  • Preserve native plants, especially trees, when building on a new site. Maintain a protective "do not disturb" barrier under the dripline of trees.

Top 5 Common Mistakes in Landscape Plantings

Adapted from "Landscape Design" by Greg Davis, Ph.D.

Mistakes Solutions
Over-planting: Small trees and shrubs are often planted too close together to get a "full" look. The result several years later is a crowded landscape. Plants must be removed or drastically pruned to reduce competition. Resist the temptation to have an "instant landscape." Know the mature size of plants and give them room - and time - to grow.
Lawn areas are cluttered with trees and shrubs. Plants scattered throughout the lawn appear disorganized. They also create maintenance problems in terms of mowing, raking, and giving plants the amount of water they need. Group shrubs and trees in mulched plant beds bordering the lawn.
Shrubs around the home are too tall. When plants grow too tall they cover windows and no longer enhance the home's appearance. We usually try to compensate for this "misplanting" by shearing to control the plant size. This constant shearing weakens and disfigures shrubs. It also creates extra work and yard wastes. Select foundation plants with an ultimate (mature) size that fits their location. Instead of shearing shrubs, selectively clip stray shoots to keep the plant neat and full.
Plants are planted too close to the house. Plants too close to the house have an unattractive "cramped" look. They also create a maintenance nightmare when it's time to repair or paint the house. Foundation or corner shrubs should be planted half their mature width plus one foot away from the wall. Therefore, a shrub that will grow to be five feet wide should be planted 3 1/2 (2 1/2 + 1) feet away from the house.
Bright colors are scattered throughout the yard. Brightly colored foliage, flowers, or fruit attract attention. When brilliant color is scattered along the foundation or elsewhere around the yard, it confuses and may overwhelm the viewer.

Landscaping Tips

Though your home is your castle, there is no necessity to surround it with a moat. Here are 5 tips that will help you to make your landscaping feel more warm, welcoming and cozy.

1. Put some flowers nearby your entrance. Flowers make any area look more welcoming and attractive, so greeting your guests with Petunia, Snapdragon, Lily-of-the-Nile or some other garden flowers is always a great thing to do. What is more, to add some space between your house and the entrance, you can consider adding a little white fence. It will create an illusion that your front yard is bigger than it actually is. What is more, adding fence will create a great space for planting flowers to add some color and coziness.

2. Add rambling vines to make your yard look absolutely lovely. You can not deny that rambling vines always create romantic and even magical atmosphere. So why not to use this tip while decorating your yard?

3. To hide the unattractive driveway, consider adding some color, texture, and height. You can easily do it by adding various sorts of flowers. To start, create an island of green lawn right in the hub of a drive. Then add a couple of low boxwood hedges with flowers toward the back of your island.

4. If you want your yard to blossom and flourish bust still do not have enough time to maintain it, consider planting low-fuss lilies. Such flowers look absolutely gorgeous and come in the variety of rainbow hues, so you can pick the one you love most. What is more, low-fuss lilies do not care about the sort of soil, they love the sun and welcome hot, they do not afraid of drought. In other words, Crinums is an ideal flower for all those who are looking for low-maintenance solutions.

5. The last tip also touches the low-maintenance aspect. To make your life easier, group plantings into beds and islands. This will help you to avoid mowing and trimming around each individual plant, save a lot of time and even money.

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