Florida-Friendly Landscaping™

Your Questions Answered

September 2020

Homeowners in Florida know the scorching heat can wreak havoc on lawns and landscapes, which can increase your yard irrigation and your water bill. That’s why Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ is gaining in popularity. The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Senior Communications Coordinator Katherine Munson explains what Florida-Friendly Landscaping really means and the benefits it provides.

Q: What is Florida-Friendly Landscaping™?
A: Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) is a set of nine guiding principles which help protect natural resources and preserve Florida’s unique beauty. A Florida-friendly landscape is beautiful yet saves water and protects the environment too.

Q: What are the nine guiding principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™?
A: The nine guiding principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ are right plant, right place; water efficiently; fertilize appropriately; mulch; attract wildlife; manage yard pests responsibly; recycle; reduce stormwater runoff; and protect the waterfront.

Q: What does a Florida-friendly landscape look like?
A: Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ is about matching the right plant with the right place and providing the right care at the right time. Well-designed Florida-friendly landscapes look vibrant and attractive, while using less water, fertilizer and pesticides. A typical Florida-friendly landscape provides a diversity of vegetation appropriate to the conditions of a yard or site and may include turfgrass and landscaped beds with trees, shrubs, grasses and groundcovers.

Q: Why doesn’t the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program promote using only native plants?
A: The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program emphasizes always matching the right plant with the right place, regardless of whether it is native or not. However, a plant’s native status does not automatically mean it will thrive in all parts of Florida, especially in developed urban environments. As long as gardeners avoid using invasive species, the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program allows for the inclusion of non-native landscape plants. By allowing the inclusion of non-invasive “Florida-friendly” plants, the FFL program aims to provide greater flexibility for all landscape conditions, goals and aesthetic tastes.

Q: Can my Homeowners Association prohibit me from using a Florida-friendly landscape?
A: Yes, if the Homeowners Association (HOA) review board is permitted to do so through their covenants or deed restrictions. An HOA may specify the options available to homeowners so long as the list of potential plants, turfgrasses, and mulch options are suited to site-specific conditions that reflect the “right plant, right place” principle of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™. You can learn more on incorporating Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ into deed-restricted communities in the FFL “Community Association Kit” at ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/community_association_kit.htm.

Q: Are rock yards recommended in Florida-Friendly Landscaping™?
A: Rocks, or the use of artificial turf and rubber mulch increase heat and may result in loss of habitat, or in habitat that does not support wildlife and are not recommended. The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program recommends rocks or artificial materials be used in a reasonable way in landscapes that have plants. They also can be used for accents around heat-tolerant plants and trees, in rain gardens, or to lessen the impact of rainfall from roof overhangs.

Q: Where can I find a list of Florida-friendly plants for my yard?
A: Check out the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design, which provides information on hundreds of plants. You can order a free copy on the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s website at WaterMatters.org/resources/free-publications. 

Katherine Munson
Senior Communications Coordinator