Florida Friendly Landscaping

Ordinance 5469, which goes in to effect December 31, 2018 dictates the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that can be used for fertilizer on lawns in the City. The best way to maintain a beautiful and lush landscape with fertilizer restrictions which take in to account the needs of Florida soil and Florida water is to plant Florida plants.

There are many beautiful native Florida plants and plants which are Florida Friendly which do well in Florida’s soil, seasonal rains, and heat. These plants would require less additional fertilizer, water, and care than ornamental exotics and turf grasses. Birds and butterflies also love them! Being Florida Friendly is more than just plant selection, learn more about the nine principles below.

Use the Nine Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping to make your yard a Florida yard!

1. Right Plant, Right Place

The first step in getting a resource efficient Florida yard is selecting the right plants and the right landscape designs. Get started with the following resources.

  • Florida Yards: Includes an interactive landscape map and a plant database of Florida Friendly options.
  • Palm Beach County Native Plant Society: Meet other native plant enthusiasts and learn how to identify, cultivate, and obtain native plants for your yard.
  • Natives for your Neighborhood: An interactive database of native plants for all of South Florida. Search by your zip code for a historic list and detail about plant habits, tips for growing, links to nurseries, and information about wildlife benefits.
  • Native Plant Nurseries: The Broward County Native Plant Society put together a list of nurseries in South Florida which carry native plants.
as much as 50% of the water we use outdoors is wasted from inefficient watering methods and systems.

2. Water efficiently

Native Florida plants and Florida friendly plants may have less intense watering needs than exotic ornamentals. Choose a landscape design that groups plants by water needs and design your sprinkler system to water each of those sections on a separate schedule. Use wetland plants and plants that can handle some inundation for swale areas and rain gardens. Florida law requires all automatic sprinkler systems to automatic rain cutoffs to prevent irrigation in the rain, but a better practice is to turn your sprinklers on and off manually to better monitor weather conditions to prevent irrigating when rain is in the forecast.

3. Fertilize Appropriately

Florida soils do not need extra phosphorus. The abundance of surface water and a shallow aquifer also make reducing nitrogen vital to water quality. Follow the guidance found in the City’s fertilizer ordinance regarding maximum nitrogen quantities that can be used. The tendency of homeowners is to fertilize too much, but a lot of those nutrients don’t go in to the soil and plant but rather are washed off and in to a storm drain. Don’t fertilize if rain in anticipated or if the soil is wet, don’t apply fertilizer within 10 feet of a water body, and remove any fertilizer that is on an impervious surface, including grass clippings. A great resource for fertilizer tips is Tamp Bay Estuary Program’s “Be Floridian” website which includes a list of “Florida Friendly” products.  (It should be noted, however, that Pinellas County has black out dates from June 1 – September 30th. The City of Boca Raton does not have black out dates.)

4. Mulch

The use of mulch can reduce area covered in turf, retain soil moisture, and reduce the growth of weeds. Make sure to use sustainably harvested mulch. Cypress mulch is not recommended.

5. Attract Wildlife

One of the best benefits of a Florida yard can be the Florida wildlife that comes with it. The City maintains several hundred acres of natural areas and yards can serve as important connecting habitat between these larger pieces, benefitting butterflies, the many migratory birds who include Florida in their paths, as well as the many local birds, beneficial insects, and mammals that call Florida home. (Did you know, opossums eat cockroaches and bats eat mosquitos! Both are beneficial to have in your yard!) Join a larger network of homeowners who are protecting wildlife habitat by certifying your yard through the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife program!

certified wildlife habitat sign

6. Manage yard pests responsibly.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) helps to reduce pests while also limiting the herbicides and pesticides used. IPM starts with selecting plants and landscape designs which are resistant to pests. From there pests are treated by reducing the source of the problem, manual removal, and other low impact methods. The right plant in the right place will better be able to resist pests and out compete weeds.

7. Recycle yard waste.

Your yard clippings and kitchen scraps are an easy and cheap source of soil amendments and can reduce the need for additional fertilizer. An easy practice is to use the mulch setting on your lawnmower and leave the clippings in the grass. Additionally, you can set up a backyard bin or even a worm bin for smaller spaces! Learn more about composting here.

8. Reduce stormwater runoff.

Water moving quickly over our urban surfaces – roofs, driveways, lawns – carries a lot of contaminants in to our storm drains and ultimately our water bodies. Options to reduce stormwater runoff include:

  • Reducing impervious area through the use of permeable pavers.
  • Installing rain barrels to use for irrigation or connecting to a rain garden.
  • Creating rain gardens to hold and filter rain water.

9. Protect the waterfront.

The City’s fertilizer ordinance requires a zone of 10 feet from any water body where fertilizer cannot be applied. Best practices also call for maintaining this zone as “maintenance free,” meaning plantings which would not require mowing, fertilizer, or pesticides.