Do the trees, shrubbery, and other plants near your home take a beating during hurricane season? High-velocity storm winds can uproot trees, causing them to fall onto rooftops and power lines. Hurricane-force winds can also catapult loose objects through windows and anything else in the way. Meanwhile, storm surges accompanying hurricanes and tropical storms can occur anywhere along Florida’s coastline – and carry saltwater inland for miles. The saltwater then dries out the roots of less hardy trees and plants, making them unable to absorb needed water and nutrients, ultimately killing them.
But it's not just hurricanes taking a toll on the lush greenery surrounding your home. Regular summer thunderstorms can wreak havoc on carefully placed mulch and wash soil away from tree roots and plant beds. Does water collect in your yard after heavy rain? Where there's standing water, mosquitoes, bacteria, and fungi can thrive, creating additional problems around your home.
Because Florida has unique climatic challenges and is regularly subjected to severe weather events, a specific type of landscaping strategy is required. Florida-friendly landscaping refers to making sustainable plant and other landscape choices best suited to the state’s distinctive ecosystems and weather patterns. This allows your home, yard, and property to be best protected in the long term.
Why Choose Florida-Friendly Landscaping?
Well-maintained and thoughtfully designed Florida landscaping can provide protection against potential storm damage. Trees and shrubs can act as windbreakers and stop flying debris from reaching your home. Good landscaping can help with flood mitigation by improving drainage around your home. And, of course, good landscaping can enhance the aesthetic appeal of your home and increase property value.
In other words, using appropriate Florida landscaping can provide the following benefits:
- Storm protection
- Reduced soil erosion
- Enhanced biodiversity
- Resiliency: adaptable to local conditions
- Aesthetic appeal
- Increased property values
- Shade for a natural cooling effect
- Environmental preservation
Right Plant, Right Place
One of the most important elements of proper Florida landscaping is selecting the right plant and putting it in the right place. Aim for selecting trees, shrubs, and other plants best able to withstand the elements in Florida. This means concentrating on wind-resistant, flood-tolerant, and salt-tolerant species.
Protect Against High Winds
To ensure your trees don’t fall onto your home, power lines, or other nearby structures, choose wind-resistant trees for your property. You’ll want to look for trees with sturdy trunks, a lower center of gravity, and flexible branches. Trees with deep and wide root systems are ideal.
Important tips to keep in mind include:
- Tree size, placement matters. Understand how tall the tree will be at maturity. If a tree will be 20’ tall, plant it at least 20’ from the nearest power line/home/etc.
- Group trees for added wind resistance. Plant a mixture of different types of trees in clusters or groups, but with enough space for the roots to grow deep and wide. This helps to create a root network to stabilize the entire area, an FAU study found. It’s best when 5 or more trees are planted within 10’ of one another. Trees positioned in a cluster – even if they have shallow roots – are more resilient to high winds than those planted in a row.
- Don’t immobilize newly planted trees. Don’t strap or tie trees down too tightly. Newly planted trees should be able to bend and move with the wind, so they can adapt to conditions in the area.
- Avoid overwatering. Tree roots will remain shallow if they don’t have to burrow deep in search of water. Water trees less often to help a tree grow deeper roots for added hurricane-tolerance as part of your Florida landscaping plan.
- Regularly prune/trim. Inspect your trees, shrubs, and other plants for damaged, diseased, or dead limbs – and remove them. And be sure to trim the tree canopy. Your goal with regular pruning and trimming is to allow the wind to flow through branches instead of the wind potentially getting caught in the dense crown of a tree and lifting it out of the ground.
Protect Against Flooding
Flooding can happen anywhere in Florida, at any time. There are several ways to use landscaping to improve the drainage of water from your property and help prevent the more harmful effects of flooding, including:
- Rain garden. Would you like to better manage stormwater runoff on your property? Consider a rain garden. It’s designed to capture and absorb water from nonporous surfaces, such as the roof and driveway to help prevent flooding. Rain gardens require little to no upkeep – and, bonus: It helps keep pollutants from entering our lakes and rivers.
- Flood-tolerant plants. Choose those species known to be able to withstand flooding. Flood-tolerant trees include cypress, red maple, and pond apple. You should also use absorptive plants with deep roots, which allows water to more easily be absorbed into the earth.
- Divert water away from your home. You’ll want your yard to angle slightly downward, away from your home, so water doesn’t pool close to your house’s foundation. To divert water away from your home, you could dig a small channel, install a culvert, or create a raised barrier (usually a mound of soil, or berm).
- Build a retaining wall. If your property is near a hill or on a slope, you’re probably more susceptible to flooding than most. Building a retainer wall can help protect against soil erosion and keep floodwaters away from your home and its foundation.
Protect Against Saltwater Intrusion
For Florida homeowners living near the coast, there are a variety of resilient trees, shrubs, ground covers, flowers, vines, and grasses particularly well suited to withstand saltwater intrusion. These include bougainvillea, beach evening primrose, beach sunflower, calendula, Fakahatchee grass, live oak, railroad vine, sabal palm, St. Augustine grass, saw palmetto, sea oats, seaside goldenrod, southern red cedar, Spanish bayonet, yucca, and zinnia.
Excellent Tree Choices for Florida Homeowners
According to various sources (see the resources section below for the most authoritative of these), the following are good Florida landscaping choices. Be sure to confirm with a local landscape professional or arborist to make sure the plants you choose are best for your home and community.
Consider Replacing These Trees
Avoid fragile, easily uprooted trees and shrubs, such as those with shallow root systems and/or dense canopies. It’s also best to stay away from those with brittle branches or trunks most susceptible to breaking in high winds.
If you have any of the following on your property, you may want to consider replacing them with more Florida-friendly landscaping options:
Check out these resources for more helpful information about making the best Florida landscaping choices:
- The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design (2010), published by the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS)
- Storm Wise South Florida Landscapes (landscaping in hurricane-prone southern Florida), by the South Florida Water Management District
Florida Landscaping: The Right Plant Choices to Protect Your Home
At Florida Peninsula Insurance Company, we’ve been in the business of protecting Florida homes and homeowners for nearly 20 years (since 2005). As one of the biggest home-grown carriers in the state, we strive to provide you the insurance you need, along with practical information – such as these Florida landscaping tips – so you have everything needed to protect your home and family.
In addition to home insurance, condo insurance, and renters insurance, we also offer DP-3 (landlord) coverage and much more. To find out more, contact your insurance agent. Or, if you’re not currently a Florida Peninsula policyholder, get a quote now.