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Florida-friendly landscaping guide here in time for the holidays

Lynn Barber
Lynn Barber [ University of Florida Extension ]

Florida is a beautiful place to garden. But especially if you come from someplace else, you may need a helping hand.

Cue the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design.

This is one of my favorite resources. I use it at home, work and many times when on site visits. It is easy to use, understand and makes finding the right plant for the right place a simple process.

The guide is intended for homeowners who want make informed decisions about planting the right plant in the right place. The beauty and functionality of a Florida-friendly landscape depends on a mix of trees, plants and turfgrass chosen for their specific location and maintained according to recommendations by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension service. The principles encourage using both native and non-native plants, but not invasive exotics, which should be removed where possible and never planted.

This must-have resource provides a number of landscape design scenarios, with areas including front entry, along walls, sidewalks and fences, and under windows and trees. It details how to convert your yard to a Florida-friendly landscape, ecological considerations, five common gardening mistakes and a list of trees, shrubs, vines, groundcovers, grasses, perennials, annuals and turfgrass. Plant information covers cold hardiness zones, growth rate, height and spread, native status, drought tolerance and light range.

This handbook covers each of the nine Florida-friendly landscaping principles:

  • Right plant, right place – Select plants that are well-suited to your site and require minimal amounts of water, fertilizer and pesticides.
  • Water efficiently – Irrigate only when your lawn and landscape need water, and apply ½ to ¾ inch per irrigation.
  • Fertilize appropriately – Use time-release fertilizer, and do not fertilize before a heavy rainfall.
  • Mulch – Maintain a 2-3 inch layer of mulch after it settles to retain soil moisture, prevent erosion, improve soil structure and aeration and suppress weeds.
  • Attract wildlife – Plants that provide food, water and shelter are beneficial to Florida’s diverse wildlife. Many consume pest insects and pollinate your landscape.
  • Manage yard pests responsibly – Minimize negative environmental impacts by using natural or low-toxicity controls. Unwise use of pesticides can harm people, pets, beneficial organisms and the environment.
  • Recycle – Convert kitchen scraps and yard waste into nutrient-rich organic matter as a soil amendment.
  • Manage stormwater runoff – Harvest rainwater, sweep or blow fertilizer, pesticides and grass clippings into your landscape and off your sidewalk and driveway to prevent nonpoint source pollution.
  • Protect the waterfront – Eliminate sources of pollution and protect our natural treasure, Florida’s water bodies. If you live on a water body, leave a 10-foot maintenance-free zone between the water and your landscape.

The guide is available online at: You can order a free print copy from the Southwest Florida Water Management District at: Click on Resources, then Free Publications.

For assistance with horticultural questions, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County, 813-744-5519. View our calendar at:, and stop by to view our demonstration gardens at 5339 County Road 579 in Seffner. We hope you will get outside and garden.

Lynn Barber is the Florida-Friendly Landscaping agent for UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County. Contact her at, or 813-744-5519, ext. 54105.

Contact your local Extension Office for more information: