Saturday, Apr 19, 2014
Agri Leader

Keep your yard Florida friendly


Published:

It's almost fall and many home gardeners are using this time to plan their spring garden.

If you are considering adding new plants to your landscape setting, take a little time and research your choices. While there are a variety of plants to choose from, it is always best to use plants native to Florida.

Choosing Florida friendly plants is the best way to protect our environment from damaging invasive species. Here are a few plants to avoid when planning your garden for the next growing season.

Invasive plants are those that take over your yard and damage the environment. These plants can be poisonous to wildlife and they also compete with native plants for nutrients and water. Of the 4,000 species of plants in Florida, 3,000 are considered native. Not all non-native plants are considered dangerous, however. The following plants are listed by the University of Florida as some of the most damaging to our environment.

The Brazilian pepper tree was introduced to Florida in the late 1800s from South America. Infesting more than 650,000 acres in our state, this tree grows in dense stands and when large enough, it blocks sunlight from native species. Over 350,000 acres have been invaded by Australian pine. This tree has a very fast growth rate, thriving in high temperatures and with little water.

There are some ornamentals on the invasive species list, as well. Nandina is native to China, but when planted in our area it chokes out native plant growth. This shrub grows to 8 feet in height and if left unchecked, will take over your entire yard or garden. The Olde World climbing fern is another problematic plant. As it grows, this fern climbs existing trees and blocks out the sun. Trees suffer from malnutrition and have reduced vigor.

Our landscapes are not the only areas affected by invasive plants. Lakes and ponds can also suffer when certain plants are introduced into the water and begin to grow. The water hyacinth floats on the water's surface, impeding water flow. These plants can grow up to 3 feet in length and can actually block boat traffic.

Hydrilla is an aquatic plant that can reproduce with little light, eventually taking over entire ponds or lakes. These plants are very dense beneath the water and multiply rapidly. Avoid placing these plants in your backyard ponds at all costs.

The University of Florida, IFAS Extension office has implemented a plan to help home gardeners keep their yards Florida friendly. These experts recommend using native Florida plants that match the growing condtions in your area. Watering and fertilizing appropriately is an important part of raising healthy native plants. You will find that native plants are far easier to maintain than plants ill-suited to our area. This means you will not need insecticides as often, promoting the development of wildlife such as butterflies, birds and bats.

Choosing Florida friendly plants will give you a beautiful, low-maintenance yard while protecting our delicate environment. If you need help choosing the right plants for your yard or garden, go to FloridaYards.org for a list of native plants as well as a multitude of helpful resources designed to help home gardeners keep it Florida friendly.

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