Florida Friendly Landscaping — Sustainable Gardening | Osceola News Gazette

Historically, people have loved plants that need large amounts of water, fertilizers, and pesticides to thrive. However, these factories are simply not the most practical, especially with the recent increase in costs. Not only do we have to spend more money, time and effort to maintain these plants, but the environment around us also suffers.

Florida Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) is an attempt to promote sustainable practices. These include minimizing water use, avoiding runoff of water, fertilizers and pesticides, and providing wildlife habitats. We can also use mulch, recycle yard waste and choose the best plants for our conditions. All this contributes to creating a less demanding site for us, which will certainly make our lives easier.

We can start by choosing plants that don’t outgrow their space, which can prevent over-pruning and yard waste. Then we can find plants that can survive with less water, if we have a dry yard. If we have a flooded area, there are plants that can tolerate this.

One of the other most important choices we can make is how much pest plants are likely to attract. For example, a Sago Palm is no longer considered a great choice, due to the emergence of Cycad Scale. Not only does it affect plant leaves and stems, but it also infests underground roots, where it cannot be destroyed with contact pesticides. This means that after killing all the scale insects you can see, reinfestation can occur repeatedly. A Florida Coontie, although it has no trunk, is an attractive native cycad that is easier to keep healthy. Another example is oleander, which does well with little water. However, we now have the Oleander caterpillar defoliating it repeatedly. Like the sago palm, it requires the use of significant amounts of pesticides. It does our butterflies and bees no good.

As far as Florida-friendly plants go, the beloved Sabal Palm is tolerant of almost any light, soil, and water situation, and it doesn’t freeze. Bismarck and Roebellini palms are also prone to lethal tans, but are generally tolerant of most conditions. Also, the Majesty is definitely a choice for a small palm tree.

The Sand Live Oak tolerates drought better than most trees and does not grow as large as a Live Oak. The Southern Magnolia is also perennially attractive, although it may require more water to establish. A top deciduous tree is the Sweetgum, with a nice cone shape and lovely fall color.

Some small trees and tall shrubs would include the Upright Bottlebrush, which is great for hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. A Podocarpus is a 40 foot tall evergreen tree. The golden trumpet, or yellow tabebuia, is a beautiful flowering tree.

Some of the more shrubby choices include the Chaste tree, Walter Viburnum, Florida Coontie, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (YTT), Bush Allamanda, Plumbago, Firespike, and the super butterfly/hummingbird plant, the native Firebush.

Small flowering plants are also excellent, with plenty of choice. Pentas and Salvia (sage), are loved by hummingbirds and butterflies, Gaillardia (loved by bees), Flax Lily, Cinnamon Fern, Tampa Vervain (native Verbena), Coreopsis, native Milkweed, Society Garlic, Bulbine, Variegated Ginger ( actually loved by hummingbirds when in bloom), Red Spiral Ginger (also a hummingbird plant) and Muhly Grass.

I hope we are all on our way to a beautiful yard without so many struggles and drudgeries as we follow FFL guidelines.

Contact the Plant Clinic with your gardening questions at 321-697-3000 for a free phone consultation. Master Gardeners are available to help you with your garden questions or email us at [email protected]

Terri S. Tomasini