Landscaping in Florida: A Season by Season Guide

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Landscaping in Florida is easy if you follow some easy to understand methods. That’s because our beautiful climate allows something to grow during every season. With a little planning and some simple tips, the outside of your home can be as inviting as the inside. We will show you how in this complete, season by season, guide.

Picking the right plants for our tropical climate

Florida has many transplants. If you began gardening in a cooler climate, you might not be familiar with the wonderful range of plants that grow. Florida has many native plants, and with a little extra care, many more plants thrive here.

Before planting a garden or choosing trees for your home, consider placement. You will need to place larger tree varieties farther from your home. A vegetable garden requires at least six hours of direct sunlight and needs to be near an easy water source. Choose the placement of ornamentals and flowers with an eye for aesthetics and sun conditions.

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If you plant drought resistant plants, they will survive better during the dry season. Native plants have evolved to thrive in the unique conditions of Central Florida. Choosing the right plants can save you time and money while still giving you all the benefits of a beautiful yard. The right plants can also attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators, which is a benefit to you and the environment.

Fall landscaping in Florida

Fall in Florida is still warm, but it’s a good time to transition from heat hearty plants to more delicate varieties. This is the time of year that Florida goes from the rainy season into the dryer months.

Keep these tips in mind for fall gardening:

Pruning: Although trees don’t tend to lose all their leaves in central Florida, it’s a good idea to skip pruning during this season. You should prune most trees in late winter or early spring, and this rule remains true in Florida.

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Flower beds: Now is a great time to prepare and spruce up your flower beds. By planting annuals and bulbs that do better in slightly cooler temps, you can have beautiful color through the new year. Remember to separate and replant your perennials.You want to give them enough time to reestablish before the cold snaps hit.

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Vegetables and Herbs: Vegetables like broccoli, kale, collards, and lettuce should be planted at this time.  If you use the same area for your garden throughout the year, pull all the plants after your final summer harvest. Make sure to remove the entire plant–roots and all. Removing the entire plant can help reduce disease and fungal issues. Rotating the area of your garden plots can also help reduce these issues.

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Now is also the time to have an outdoor herb garden in Florida. The summer heat has dissipated a bit, but you are unlikely to experience any jacket weather for a few months.

Irrigation: Remember that as the weather cools, your plants need less supplemental watering.

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Fertilizer: October is a good time to fertilize your lawn. The normal, daily rain storms have passed by this time, so the rains won’t wash the fertilizer into the waterways where it can harm plant and wildlife. It will stay where you want it: on your lawn and garden. Now is a good time to fertilize citrus trees too.

Strawberries: If you plan to plant strawberries, do it in the fall. Strawberries make a great addition to most gardens, including planters and porch gardens. The young plants need daily watering. 

Winter gardening and the perks of a mild climate

Winter in Florida is not brutal, but you do need to prepare your plants.

Covering your plant and flower beds with mulch can be effective for some hardier plants. However, you should be ready to bring cold-sensitive plants into the house or to cover outdoor plants when temperatures drop.

Prepare for cold weather with these tips:

Pruning: You can prune non-spring flowering trees and shrubs in January. January is also a good time to prune your deciduous fruit trees–peach, plum, Asian pear.

Prune roses in the early months of the year. After pruning shrubs and roses, you should fertilize and re-mulch the beds. The new layer of mulch will help maintain moisture and keep the fertilizer where it belongs.

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Pruning trees during the dormant, cold season is usually your best practice. Discuss any questions or concerns with a certified arborist if you aren’t sure what your healthy trees need.

Flower beds: Plant annuals that are cold weather tolerant. This includes pansies, snapdragons, and petunias. The cooler winter months are the time to establish bulbous flowers like amaryllis. When planting bulbs outside, make sure to provide a layer of mulch for temperature protection. The bulbs will need routine watering to help them become established.

Vegetables: Many plants will thrive through most of Florida’s winter. You should watch for freezing temperatures and cover your garden beds, but winter is a great time to plant and grow a variety of vegetables.

Many of the vegetables you grow in the fall will continue through the winter. Vegetables to add to the garden in the winter include:

  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • potato varieties.

In February, you can begin planting seeds for your spring garden. Keep an eye on the seedlings. They will be susceptible to any drops in temperature.

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Fruit trees: Fertilize your citrus trees, and look for scab disease. Plant any new deciduous fruit trees. Planting them now will give them time to become established before the warm and dry months of spring. Prune and fertilize any existing deciduous fruit trees. 

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Camellias and Azaleas: Winter is the time to establish new camellias and azaleas. Camellias should be chosen and planted in January. Once established, camellias add beautiful color to a landscape with minimal care. February is a great time to choose azaleas and add them to your landscape. Azaleas bloom in February, which will allow you to pick the perfect variety for your home. Both of these plants are great additions to a Florida landscape.

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Palms: Palms can be damaged in cold weather. After any frosts or sudden drops in temperatures, pay close attention to your palm trees. Treat them for cold damage if you notice dead branches or leaf tissue.

Spring forward into the great outdoors

Spring is a wonderful time to be outside and work on your landscape. It’s not too hot yet, but it’s warm enough that many plants will flourish through this time. Now is a great time to check your irrigation. Make sure it is in good working order for the dryer and warmer months ahead.

This time of year inspires many people to start new garden projects. If you are one of them, consider the following:

Pruning: Prune azaleas right after the plants finish blooming. This is the time to shape your azaleas. If you are pruning flowering shrubs or trees, prune after the last flowers have withered but before the new buds have set. This guarantees a well-shaped tree or shrub and keeps you from removing the buds for next year’s blooms.

Flower beds: Remove any dying winter annuals and replace with varieties that will bloom into the warmer months. Plant bulbs like caladiums. Caladiums will grow well throughout the spring and summer. Consider planting daylilies, which come in early-, mid-, and late-blooming varieties to guarantee months of blooms.

As we come into the warmer months, it is important to consider where you are planting your flowers. Remember to look for plants that will do well in the specific areas in your yard. Some plants will thrive in the sun while others will need more shade.

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Now is a great time to consider adding a pollinator area to your garden. A pollinator garden helps attract pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Planting Florida natives is a great way to reduce the need for fertilizers and heavy watering. It also adds much needed environment for our native wildlife. Pollinator gardens are a beautiful addition to any landscape. You can find out more by visiting the Florida Native Plant Society.

Vegetables and Herbs: In March and April plant warm-weather-loving vegetables such as:

  • squash
  • beans
  • sweet corn
  • cucumbers
  • tomatoes
  • watermelon
  • peppers

You can plant seeds into the garden plot, or you can begin with transplants. Some varieties of vegetables are harder to transplant than others. Always make sure to use quality seeds and plants zoned for your area. In late April and May, you can begin introducing heat-loving plants such as okra, southern peas, and sweet potatoes.

Plant herbs that do well in the warmer temperatures such as rosemary and basil. Herbs are a great addition to your garden. Not only do they taste great when you use them at home, but they also attract butterflies. The plants themselves are also lovely and often ornamental.

Keep an eye out for signs that your vegetables and herbs need water. Mulching liberally can help keep weeds down and also keep moisture in.

Shrubs and Ornamentals: Fertilize palms, azaleas, and camellias as needed. Re-mulch after fertilizing. This locks in the fertilizer and keeps moisture better through the dry season.. Now is also the time to plant new shrubs.

Gardenias: With their dark green leaves and fragrant blossoms, gardenias are great additions to your landscape. They bloom many months out of the year and are easy to maintain if you choose the right type of gardenia. Prune for shape more than anything else. However, this should be done lightly and after the plant has finished blooming. Fertilize gardenias in early spring and fall.

During the spring, look for yellowing of new growth. Yellowing and dropping of older growth is common in the spring. If new growth is yellow or dropping from the gardenia, it can be a sign of a pH imbalance or a nutrient deficiency. These imbalances can be harmful to the plant.

Insects and Pests: Due to the balmy weather in Florida, insects can cause problems early in the spring. You will need to look 

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for aphids on new plant growth, as well as thrips, mites, and scales on ornamental plants. Roses and gardenias can lose blossoms and leaves from these pests. If your lawn is showing brown spots, make sure that it is not from lack of water before applying pesticides for lawn insects.

Before using high-powered pesticides, consider using organic or natural products first. These are less harmful for the environment if they end up in groundwater or on other plants. Besides, they are less likely to harm beneficial insects and pollinators.

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Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a favorite of home gardeners because they are delicious and will grow in the spring and fall. They also do well in many types of gardens–in the ground or in planters.

Tomatoes are not cold tolerant. Do not plant seedlings in the ground until after any frost or freezes have passed.

Start tomatoes in the ground or containers using seeds or transplants. You will need to thin your tomatoes if you planted them from seeds. Some varieties require staking or caging. Tomatoes need between 1 and 2 inches of water a week. In the early spring or fall, this usually means extra watering. Tomatoes do better with one heavy soaking per week rather than many short bursts of water. Properly mulched tomato plants will keep water and any fertilizer you have added better than unmulched beds.

Hurricane preparedness: Begin preparing for hurricane season now. Check trees for damaged or weakened branches, and call a certified arborist if your tree’s health worries you. Call an arborist if you think your trees need pruning to prevent damage to your house or other buildings.

Summer heat doesn’t have to kick you out of the landscape.

Summer brings in high heats and heavy rains. Gardening during the summer takes care and patience. As always think about placement and plant variety.

If the heat overwhelms you, follow these easy steps to keep your yard beautiful through the long days of summer:

Flower beds: Flowers that thrive in high heat such as coleus and ornamental peppers will do well in the summer. Plant gladiolus until about mid-summer. Lilies such as spider, aztec, and butterfly can be planted throughout the summer.

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Vegetables and Herbs: In June and July, plant southern staples that grow well through the hottest part of the year. These include:

  • okra
  • southern peas
  • sweet potatoes
  • malabar spinach

It is too hot to plant tomatoes at this stage. In July, you can plant Halloween pumpkins.

Do not start herbs from seeds at this point. The heat will damage the very young plants. However, you can transplant heat-tolerant herbs throughout the summer.

Another option is to clear out your garden and practice soil solarization. This practice can remove unwanted weeds, nematodes, diseases and insects from the soil. Clear plastic covers tilled soil and conducts the heat into the topsoil. The heat builds and can kill diseases and insects if solarization is successful.

Irrigation: Make sure your irrigation systems are working properly and not leaking. Consider installing a detector to turn off sprinklers and irrigation when it rains.

Palms: The summer months are the perfect time to plant palms. This gives them time to establish themselves before any cold snaps. Don’t cover the trunk with soil and keep lawn fertilizers away from the root system. Check for yellowing on older growth fronds. This can show a potassium or magnesium deficiency.

Enjoy Florida’s famous weather! Get outside and growing.

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Landscaping in Florida: A Season by Season Guide

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