Many people shop for plants without a plan. Don’t!
It’s good to have at least a general idea of the size of the landscape bed you want to create, the height and spread at maturity, and the light and soil moisture needed for plants you are considering. When plants match the growing conditions they need, they usually require less water, fertilizer, pesticides and maintenance.
Here are tips for avoiding common landscape mistakes:
Buy Healthy Plants
What are those black spots, leaf holes and distorted leaves? Before you buy a plant, check for signs of pests. If you see pests, don’t buy the plant. If the plant is rootbound, which is when roots are coming out of the bottom of the pot and circling, consider another plant. Weeds growing in the pot may be a sign the plant is not getting the nutrients it needs.
Test Your Soil
Have you tested your soil recently? Most UF/IFAS Extension offices provide pH testing for a minimal fee. Depending on the soil test result, follow the recommendations made by your extension office. If you need to make any changes to the bed, do so before planting.
Account for Sunlight
What are your site conditions? They include sun, shade and partial sun/shade. If you plant a sun-loving plant in the shade, it will not perform at its best. If you place a shade-loving plant in the sun, it may not survive. Select plants that match your site conditions.
If there is too much shade, you can plant shade-loving shrubs and groundcovers in areas where turfgrass is challenging to maintain. Trees and shrubs should be positioned to improve your home’s cooling and heating capacity.
Plan for Growth and Shape
What is the growth rate, height and spread? Select plants that won’t block doors or windows, or require excessive pruning.
Why mulch? It retains soil moisture, moderates soil temperature, reduces runoff and erosion, improves soil structure and more.
Mulch the landscape bed after your plants are planted. Do not place the mulch against the trunk or stem of the plants or trees because that decreases oxygen to the roots, keeps roots too wet in poorly drained soils and can cause trunk rot.
Mulch should be 2-3 inches in depth after it settles.
Follow Water and Fertilizer Laws
What are the water and fertilization laws in your area? Turfgrass—irrigated and fertilized—is good for recreation, dog runs and erosion control. Follow your county’s fertilization regulations.
If turf and weeds grow to the tree trunk, they can decrease nutrients and moisture from the tree and may inhibit tree growth.
Turfgrass and landscape plants should be in separate irrigation zones because turf needs more water than ornamentals.
Installing microirrigation in a landscape bed is a win-win situation. Microirrigation provides gallons per hour, not gallons per minute, as with inground irrigation.
If you have a rain shut-off device, is it working? If it is raining and your irrigation system is running, there is probably an issue.
Rain shut-off devices have an approximate five-year life expectancy. A soil moisture sensor, when properly installed, is a better option.
Want more information on Florida-friendly landscaping? Visit the Florida-Friendly Landscaping program website at ffl.ifas.ufl.edu. or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension.