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Checklist of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Practices

Sydney Park Brown


A Florida-Friendly landscape is attractive, functional, and ecologically sound. Its creation and maintenance can be accomplished by using the landscape practices listed below. They are grouped according to how much money or labor they take to accomplish from easiest (Tier One) to most expensive and/or labor intensive (Tier Three). Even a simple practice—like raising the height on your lawn mower—can have significant, positive impacts on the landscape and the environment. The page number(s) that follow a practice refer to information in The Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook, 5th ed. (2015), which is available free from your local Extension office or online . To contact your county office, see:

Helpful websites from the University of Florida/IFAS are also included in this publication. These resources provide even more tips and practices to incorporate Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ into your yard, but the list below provides a good starting point.

Tier One Practices (require little to no money and/or labor)

  • Mow grass at the right height to encourage a deeper, more drought- and pest-resistant root system. (pages 13, 18, and 33)

  • Leave grass clippings on the lawn to recycle nutrients back into the soil. (pages 14 and 39)

  • Use fallen tree leaves and pine needles on-site as mulch. (page 29 and 40)

  • Avoid shearing shrubs, topping trees, and over-pruning palms. (page 39)

  • Make sure obstructed or misdirected sprinklers are correctly positioned. (page 18)

  • Schedule a free irrigation inspection. Contact your local Extension office or utility for availability of this service.

  • Manually operate your irrigation system on an as-needed basis, especially during winter months and the summer rainy season. (page 17)

  • Properly schedule irrigation run times. See the Urban Irrigation Scheduler: For information on how to set your irrigation controller, visit:,

  • Use a rain gauge to measure rainfall and irrigate only during prolonged dry periods. (page 19)

  • Regularly check rain or soil moisture sensors to make sure they are operating correctly. (page 14 and 20)

  • Irrigate in the early morning hours when temperature and wind are low. (page 18)

  • Direct downspouts onto turf, plant beds, or containment areas where rainwater can be absorbed. (page 43)

  • Establish a 10-foot-wide low-maintenance zone around any water bodies on the property. (page 46)

  • Use pesticides only on affected plants or lawn areas; no indiscriminate or routine pesticide use. (page 34)

  • Fertilize as needed rather than routinely (pages 23 and 28); follow local rules regarding fertilizer "black-out periods.

  • Tolerate some insect damage on plants; insects are a food source for beneficial insects, birds, and other organisms. (pages 33–34)

  • Prevent grass clippings, fertilizer, and other debris from going into storm drains and water bodies (pages 14, 24, and 46).

Tier Two Practices (require some money and/or labor)

  • Calibrate irrigation system to apply ½–¾ inch of water per application. (pages 18–19)

  • Install a rain shut-off device or soil moisture sensor to automatic irrigation systems. It is required by law. Check regularly for proper operation. (pages 14 and 19);

  • Segregate irrigation zones to water lawn areas separately from plant beds. Lawns typically need more frequent irrigation than landscape plants.

  • Repair broken or leaking sprinklers. (page 18)

  • Maintain a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch over tree roots, shrubs, plant beds. Pull mulch away from base of plants. (page 30)

  • Use organic mulches such as recycled yard waste, melaleuca, pine bark/straw, eucalyptus, tree leaves, etc. (pages 29–30)

  • Use slow- or controlled-release fertilizers. (page 25)

  • Add a deflector shield to your fertilizer spreader to help keep fertilizer off the street, sidewalk, driveway, and adjacent water bodies. (page 24)

  • Reduce mowing and raking by removing grass beneath tree canopies and creating large, "self-mulching" areas. (page 40)

  • Make a rain barrel to collect and store rainwater for use on plants. (page 44)

  • Bring your yard to life by creating habitat for Florida's wildlife. (pages 31–32)

  • Improve your soil by adding organic matter. (page 6 and 40)

  • Have your soil tested. (page 7)

  • Compost yard and kitchen debris. (page 40)

  • Choose "least harmful" products when a pesticide application is justified. (page 34)

  • Choose the right plant for the right place in your landscape. (pages 5–15)

Tier Three Practices (require considerable investments of money and/or labor)

  • If free irrigation inspections are not available in your area, hire a Florida Irrigation Society (FIS) "Water Auditor" to inspect your system. (See below for FIS contact information).

  • Install microirrigation (such as drip or microsprayers) in plant beds. (pages 18-20)

  • Install a cistern for non-potable water use. (page 44)

  • Replace problem lawn areas and landscape plants with more appropriate choices. (pages 5-16) Also see the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design:

  • Plant deciduous trees on southern exposures to allow winter sun to passively heat buildings. (pages 5, 10–11)

  • Plant shade trees on the east and west sides of buildings and around air conditioner compressors to passively cool buildings. (pages 5-6, 10–11)

  • Reduce stormwater runoff and pollutants by using mulch or other porous surfaces (pavers, bricks, gravel, etc.) for patios, walkways, or driveways. (page 44)

  • Create swales, berms, terracing, and/or a rain garden to capture and filter stormwater runoff. (page 44)

  • Plant native aquatic plants along the shoreline of water bodies. (page 45)

  • Remove invasive exotic plants. (page 9)

Additional Resources

FFL website:

The Florida Friendly Landscaping Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design

Hire Certified, Reputable and Responsible Professionals (pages 13–14 and 39)

The following is a list of Green Industry professional organizations:

Florida Irrigation Society:

Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association:

International Society of Arboriculture Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects:

Florida Turfgrass Association:

We can all play a role in protecting Florida's natural resources.

Take the FFL Pledge!

We can all play a role in protecting Florida's natural resources.

Publication #ENH1153

Release Date:April 29th, 2019

Related Experts

Park Brown, Sydney G


University of Florida

  • Critical Issue: Agricultural and Food Systems
Fact Sheet

About this Publication

This document is ENH1153, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date December 2009. Revised December 2009, September 2011, August 2014, and March 2018. Visit the EDIS website at

About the Authors

Sydney Park Brown, emeritus associate professor, Environmental Horticulture; UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, Plant City, FL 33563.


  • Claire Lewis
  • Sydney Park-Brown