Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Florida-Friendly Plant: Scorpion-Tail Heliotrope

Scorpion-Tail Heliotrope (Heliotropium amplexicaule)

Scorpion-Tail Heliotrope is a low-growing, sprawling perennial. It will grow to about 6 inches tall and 3 feet wide. It is a Florida-Friendly plant that grows well in full sun. It is very drought-tolerant and blooms profusely all summer long. Consider planting the Scorpion-Tail Heliotrope in your garden. Combine it with ornamental grasses, taller perennials, or use it as a border plant along a walkway or garden bed.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ten Plants that Beat the Heat

Welcome to summer! The Florida heat makes both people and plants wilt at this time of year. Are you looking for some plant options that do well in this weather? Here is a list of ten tough plants that that thrive in Florida's summer. These plants are all drought-tolerant and require no supplemental irrigation after establishment. They will look great in your landscape, even if other plants do not! Look for these plants at your local nursery and install them following the Florida-Friendly Landscaping principle Right Plant, Right Place .

1. Yucca

Yucca is a very drought-tolerant, tough plant that will grow well in full sun. Plant Yucca in well-drained soil and combine it with evergreen shrubs and flowering perennials such as Fleabane and Beach Sunflower. There are many species and cultivars of Yucca on the market, so there are a lot of choices for the landscape.

2. Perennial Peanut

Perennial Peanut 'Ecoturf' does well during the hot summer months. It is drought-tolerant and flowers profusely all summer long. Grow Perennial Peanut in full sun locations. It is a low growing groundcover that makes a great lawn.

3. Bulbine

Bulbine is a tough flowering perennial. It grows in full sun and will flower all summer long. This drought-tolerant perennial can be combined with ornamental grasses and other perennials for a low-maintenance landscape.

4. Coontie Cycad

Coontie Cycads are drought-tolerant evergreen shrubs that will grow in sun or shade. Their glossy green foliage looks attractive combined with variegated plants and flowering perennials. This plant can be seen growing in highway medians, so you know that it is tough!

5. Blanket Flower

For colorful flowers all summer long, look no further than the Blanket Flower. Blanket Flower will grow in hot, dry, sunny, and sandy locations and will bloom with minimal care. This flowering perennial is a great addition to any low-maintenance landscape.

6. Beach Sunflower

Beach Sunflower is a tough, drought-tolerant, low-growing perennial. This plant will cover an area of six feet wide and flower all summer long with minimal care. Use Beach Sunflower in full sun locations where it is difficult to grow other plants.

7. Firecracker Plant

Firecracker Plant is a sprawling evergreen shrub that produces red flowers year-round. This tough plant grows in full sun and looks attractive combined with ornamental grasses, Beach Sunflower and Blanket Flower. It is drought-tolerant and can handle sandy, sunny locations.

8. Fakahatchee Grass

There are some great Florida native ornamental grasses that are very drought-tolerant, and Fakahatchee grass is one of those. It will grow up to six feet tall and does well in full sun. For a smaller grass, try the Dwarf Fakahatchee grass. It grows to only two feet tall. They are low-maintenance and will require minimal to no irrigation after establishment.

9. Bromeliads

Bromeliads are evergreen, shade-loving plants that are very drought-tolerant. They come in a variety of colors and sizes and require almost no maintenance once they are installed.

10. Agave
Agave, like the Yucca, prefers hot, dry, sandy soils. Perfect for many of our Central Florida yards. There are many cultivars of Agave that grow to different sizes. Plant in full sun with any of the other plants on this list.
For more questions on drought-tolerant plants for Central Florida, contact the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service. The Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Program can provide you with a list of low-maintenance plants. Contact us at (863) 519-8677 or go to our website.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Learn about Landscaping Online!

The UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Program is now offering online workshops. Learn how to add a little Florida-Friendly to your yard...while sitting at home in your pajamas!
New workshops added today!

Online Workshops

For more information on the Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Program go to http://polkfyn.ifas.ufl.edu/.

Florida Yards & Neighborhoods is a grant-funded program in cooperation with the University of Florida, Polk County, and the Alafia River, Hillsborough River and Peace River Basin Boards of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The program emphasizes creating and maintaining attractive landscapes to enhance the community and protect our valuable natural resources.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Let's Review the Nine Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping!

It has been a while since we discussed the nine principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping. Many people are actively working in their landscapes, so it is a great time for a review. Remember to incorporate the nine principles when you are designing, installing, and maintaining your landscape!
1. Right Plant, Right Place
Match the plants you install your yard's site conditions. Do you have sandy soil that drains quickly? Then you need to find a drought-tolerant plant. Do you have an area where you want to grow a plant that will mature at only three feet? Choose a dwarf holly that will only grow to that size. By following the right plant, right place principle, you can save time, money and resources keeping plants alive that are not growing in appropriate conditions. Planning is very important, know your landscape and exactly what you are looking for before you go to the nursery.
2. Water Efficiently
Water is a limited resource, so it is important that we use it efficiently. Also, we can forget that with water, too much is not a good thing. Excess irrigation can cause pests, disease and other landscape problems. To water efficiently in your landscape, choose the right plants for your yard, use micro-irrigation in planting beds, calibrate and maintain your irrigation system, use a rain barrel, mow correctly and mulch your plants. By practicing these tips you can not only conserve water--you can conserve money too!
3. Fertilize Appropriately
Why do we apply fertilizer? Greener leaves, more flowers, and faster growth are reasons to apply fertilizer in our landscapes. All fertilization should be done following the UF/IFAS fertilizer recommendations and it is important to read the instructions on the bag and use a slow-release fertilizer. Remember to never fertilize within ten feet of any water body, do not fertilize before a heavy rain, and apply iron instead of nitrogen to green-up lawns in the summer.
4. Mulch
Mulch is a very important part of the landscape. Not only does it make the landscape aethetically pleasing, it also helps maintain soil moisture, reduce erosion, reduce weeds, and can improve the soil as it breaks down. A good 2-3 inch layer of mulch should be applied to all mulched beds, but make sure the mulch is pulled away from the base of all of the plants.
5. Attract Wildlife
Wildlife is important in any yard, and it can make your yard an educational and exciting place to observe. Provide for wildlife by providing them habitat. Habitat consists of food, water, and cover. Birds like plants with berries, and butterflies can be attracted by beautiful flowers and host plants for their larvae. Provide a bird bath, pond, or puddling station. Remember, if you are creating a wildlife habitat in your yard, you need to limit pesticide use!
6. Manage Yard Pests Responsibly
Yard pests are a problem in every yard! The key is to manage pests because you will never be able to control them. Choose plants that that are not suscetible to pests (insects and diseases), keep your plants healthy, don't overwater, and encourage beneficial insects. If you have a pest problem that you cannot identify, remember that you can bring a sample to the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service and we will identify it and recommend a management option for you.
7. Recycle Yard Waste
How do you recycle in your yard? When you mow your yard, leave the clippings on the lawn. Not only does that save you time and reduce waste, it leaves those valuable nutrients on the lawn where they are needed. Choose plants that require minimal to no pruning. If you do have plants that require pruning, use the clippings in a compost pile or run over them with a lawnmower and use them as mulch. A very popular way to recycle in the landscape is to compost. It is easy to maintain a compost pile and you will reduce outdoor waste and indoor waste in the process. Compost is a great soil amendment that can be created for free!
8. Reduce Stormwater Runoff
Stormwater runoff is when water moves over a surface and carries oil, fertilizer, debris and pesticides with it as it moves. The water ends up in the nearest water body. This is what causes pollution of our lakes, ponds, rivers and oceans. To reduce stormwater runoff pollution from your landscape, do whatever you can to allow water to soak into the ground instead of runoff. Direct downspouts and gutters onto the lawn or planting area (or better yet, into a rain barrel), create a rain garden in a low-lying area, and use porous surfaces for walkways, patios and driveways.
9. Protect the Waterfront
All of our yards are connected to the water. If you do not live on a water body, do what you can to reduce stormwater runoff pollution. If you do live on a water body, take extra care when maintaining your landscape. Keep a 10-30 foot "no pesticide, no fertilizer, no mowing" zone along all bodies of water, plant native aquatic plants along the shoreline to help filter pollutants (and keep the water clean), and follow all local and state regulations when maintaining your shoreline.
As you work in your Florida yard this summer, keep the nine principles in mind. For more information on the nine principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping, call 863-519-8677 ext 121 (or email your name and address to aeyasalonis@ifas.ufl.edu) and request The Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook.
Florida Yards and Neighborhoods is a grant-funded program in cooperation with the University of Florida, Polk County, and the Alafia River, Hillsborough River and Peace River Basin Boards of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The program emphasizes creating and maintaining attractive landscapes to enhance the community and protect our valuable natural resources.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Stormwater Runoff Pollution Solutions

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, stormwater runoff is the number one water quality issue in Florida. Stormwater runoff occurs with rain or irrigation water flows over the ground. Impervious surfaces prevent the water from naturally soaking into the ground. You may know how serious this problems is, but you may not know what you can do in your own yard to prevent non-point source pollution. Non-point source pollution is pollution that drains from the land and there is not one source discharging it. More than half the pollution in Florida waters is non-point source pollution.

What can you do to prevent stormwater runoff pollution?

☼ Grow Florida-Friendly.
Use Florida-Friendly plants that require little or no fertilizer and pesticides.
☼ Use plants effectively.
Use groundcovers to prevent soil erosion and trees to prevent wind erosion. Try and let your plants “trap” soil, fertilizers and pesticides before they get to the storm water drain.
☼ Let it grow.
Remove no more than 1/3 of the grass blade each time you cut your grass.
☼ Don’t bag it.
Recycle grass clippings by using a mulching mower or collect them and use them in your compost pile.
☼ Let your lawn tell you when to water.
Grass blades will fold and turn a bluish-gray in color when they are ready to be watered.
☼ Know how much to water.
Apply ½ to 3/4 inches of water per irrigation application.
☼ Irrigate properly.
Too much water too fast will flood the garden and not absorb into the soil.
☼ Fertilize sparingly.
Always use a slow-release fertilizer and apply it according to UF/IFAS recommendations.
☼ Know what’s bugging you.
Know the beneficial insects and eradicate others with environmentally friendly options.

For more tips on preventing stormwater runoff pollution visit the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods website: http://polkfyn.ifas.ufl.edu/. The UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service can provide you with more solutions to preventing runoff pollution!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What's Blooming Now?

Loblolly Bay
Gordonia lasianthus

Whirling Butterflies
Gaura lindheimeri

Purple Coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

White Coneflower
Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan'

Black-Eyed Susans
Rudbeckia hirta

Salvia 'Mystic Spires'