Floridian Nature

Learn about Florida's beautiful and unique nature.

Florida Gardens: Xeriscaping
xeriscaping your florida yard is easy and beautifulXeriscaping is a conceptual form of gardening that uses drought-tolerant plants and grasses to beautify a home or business. The term Xeriscape was coined by the Front Range Xeriscape Task Force of Denver Department in 1978 as a way to promote water efficient landscaping. The name Xeriscape is a registered trademark of Denver Water. The root word Xeros is from the Greek language and means dry. Xeros was combined with the term landscape, which means to modify land. Xeriscape gardening is varied and beautiful no matter the location. It does not mean gardening with only cacti, succulents and rock. It means to landscape a garden with plants that use lesser amounts of water to help people lower their water bill and reduce maintenance. If it were better understood, xeriscaping and drought tolerant design would be practiced more often than it already is. Xeriscape based design can be very beautiful and generally requires less water, fertilizer, maintenance, and pest control than traditional landscaping. And, of course, using less of these will save you time and money. The principles of xeriscaping address the areas of slope, plants, plant groups, watering methods, and soil. And because xeric design is based on principles, shape and other design aspects can be based on and used for any design style.

A Florida friendly yard doesn’t merely offer a beautiful landscape, it also becomes an asset to the environment, protecting natural resources and preserving Florida’s unique beauty. Recognizing that the home landscape is part of a larger natural system will help in creating a Florida-friendly yard. Florida friendly landscaping can be considered an expansion of Xeriscape. A Florida-friendly yard goes beyond Xeriscape, to better fit our unique geography. It includes best management practices concerning stormwater runoff and living on a waterfront. A properly maintained Florida-friendly yard can help homeowners conserve water and reduce pollution of water resources.

Florida friendly landscaping encourages the use of native plants in landscaping. These plants are uniquely adapted to grow in Florida. Natives generally require little watering once established, and are naturally pest resistant, which means less use of expensive and toxic chemicals. So by using native plants we conserve water and reduce pollution while maintaining a healthy landscape. Read through our sections on Florida plants and trees to find native plants that will work best in your yard and garden!

Creating a Florida-friendly landscape is simple, but first you need to get to know your yard. Step back, look around and take inventory of your landscape. Now is the time to learn about your soil, drainage patterns, and the sunny and shady areas on your property. Knowing these facts will make it easier to determine which plants will work best in your landscape. When you evaluate your site, remember that characteristics may differ depending on the location, time of day and season

In much of Florida, soil and sand are almost synonymous. Because sand allows for rapid drainage of water and nutrients, sandy Florida soils dry out quickly. Plants that have high water and nutritional requirements don't do well in our sandy soil. Other kinds of Florida soils include loam and clay; each having different characteristics that fit different plant needs. 

The pH (acidity/alkalinity) of a property's soils will also determine what plants are best suited for your yard. This isn't complicated, but it is important to understand. In general, sandy coastal areas are usually alkaline (high pH). Varying levels of pH on the same property are also very common. Over time, features such as concrete slab foundations, brick, mortar, plaster and other materials can affect soil pH, because they leach alkaline compounds into the surrounding soils. You can test your soil with a purchased kit or have it tested at the County Extension office.

Drainage is another key factor to getting the most out of your hard work and giving your xeriscape the best chance to thrive. As we discussed earlier, Florida soil is generally sandy, so it drains quickly. However, some building sites have been filled with mucky soils that retain water and drain slowly. What happens in your yard after a hard rain? Understanding the way water drains from your yard will help you determine the right plant for the right place. Note that the low-lying areas on your property collect water naturally. If you choose not to build up low spots that have slow drainage, you can use those areas to your advantage by planting water-loving wetland plants or cypress trees there. Of course, these plantings should not interfere with swales. Swales, berms and retention areas play a key role in collecting, directing, and filtering storm water runoff. These features work together to protect property and neighborhoods from flooding.

The patterns of sun and shade in your yard affect where plants will grow best. Shading by trees can also play a big part in shrinking your energy bill. A Florida-friendly yard conserves resources using common sense!
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