Right Plant, Right Place
(See pages 10-14 in FY&N Handbook)

ood landscape design hinges on one basic concept -- the right plant in the right place.  Carefully planning and site evaluation are the first steps in applying this concept.  The following checklists will guide you through some important considerations and decisions you should make when designing a landscaped area.

Resist (for now) the temptation to rush out and purchase plants. That will come later!  If you have an in-ground sprinkler system, or are planning to put one in, make sure the designs for the landscape and sprinkler system match each other.

Florida is a diverse state which includes climatic zones. Soil types, temperature ranges and rainfall patterns differ dramatically from region to region. It's important to remember that a plant that thrives in a friend's yard on the coast may freeze in your yard just a few miles inland.  Different conditions often exist in the same yard.  The front yard may be high and dry, while the backyard may be poorly drained and soggy.

Once you know your site conditions and have decided how you will use your yard, you are ready to begin with the step of plant selection.  The Cooperative Extension Service has resources to help you with your selections. Prioritize your landscape projects, and then work on them one at a time.

1st: Determine your needs for
an area. (Some suggestions)

___ Play area for children
___ Veg./herb/fruit garden
___ Screen home from road or
___ Wildlife habitat/butterfly
___ Water garden/aquascape
___ Sitting garden
___ Area for entertaining
___ Pet area
___ Storage area
___ Pool, spa, hot tub
___ Outdoor barbeque area
___ Showcase the home

2nd: Determine the level of
maintenance you want.
(Time needed for mowing, pruning, and weeding. Requirements for water, fertilizers and pesticides.)

___ High ___ Medium ___ Low

Reduce the need for water, fertilizer, pesticides and pruning by using plants suited to the site conditions in your yard.
Credit:  2 inches
Group plants according to their maintenance needs. For example, group drought-tolerant plants with low-water needs separately from lawn areas.
Credit:  2 inches
Determine how much grass you need for children, pets and recreation. Use low- maintenance ground covers, shrubs, mulch or other porous surfaces where possible.
Credit:  3 inches
Save energy by using trees and shrubs to shade the air conditioner compressor and eastern and western walls of your home.
Credit:  1 inch
Use deciduous trees or shrubs on southern exposures to allow sun to passively heat your home in the winter.
Credit:  1 inch
Help stop the spread of invasive exotic plants by removing them from your yard (i.e. Brazilian pepper, melaleuca, Australian pine and Chinese tallow.)
Credit:  2 inches
Reduce yard waste by choosing plants that will not require frequent pruning when they reach maturity.
Credit:  1 inch
Preserve native plants, especially trees, when building on a new site.  Maintain a protective "do not disturb" barrier under the dripline of trees.
Credit:  3 inches

_____Total Inches

3rd: Determine the site
conditions in your yard.

___ north FL
___ central FL
___ south FL

___ sandy
___ marl
___ clay

___ full shade
___ part shaded
___ sunny

___ well-drained
___ poorly
........drained soil
___ compacted

___ alkaline soil
___ acidic soil
___ coastal soil

Your county's Cooperative Extension Service can give you information on
how to collect a soil sample for a pH, soluble salts, or complete analysis test.

4th: Create your design plan

Follow the landscape design steps in the FY&N Handbook to draw plans similar to those below.  You can use graph paper.   Be sure to indicate where activities will take place, future plans for additions to the home, and your irrigation zones, if you have an in-ground system.

landscape1.gif (16537 bytes) landscape2.gif (20360 bytes)

      First indicate existing plants... 

...then note site conditions.

5th: Choose plants to meet all the conditions you've selected in this workbook. Note: Plants with the following characteristics will help reduce maintenance:

___ drought tolerant
___ pest tolerant
___ shade tolerant
___ freeze tolerant
___ salt tolerant
___ slow growing shrubs
___ groundcovers


he Top Five Common  Mistakes
in Landscape Plantings

Mistake #1: Over-planting
Small trees and shrubs are often planted too close together to get a "full" look. The result several years later is a crowded landscape. Plants must be removed or drastically pruned to reduce competition.
  Solution #1: Resist the temptation to have an "instant landscape." Know the mature size of plants and give them room - and time - to grow.

Mistake #2: Lawn areas are cluttered with trees and shrubs.
Plants scattered throughout the lawn appear unorganized. They also create maintenance problems in terms of mowing, raking and giving plants the amount of water they need.

Solution #2: Group shrubs and trees in mulched plant beds bordering the lawn.


Mistake #3: Shrubs around the home are too tall.
When plants grow too tall they cover windows and no longer enhance the home's appearance.  We usually try to compensate for this "misplanting" by shearing to control the plant size. This constant shearing weakens and disfigures shrubs. It also creates extra work and yard wastes.
... Solution #3: Select foundation plants with an ultimate (mature) size that fits their location. Instead of shearing shrubs, selectively clip stray shoots to keep the plant neat and full.

Mistake #4: Plants are planted too close to the house.
Plants too close to the house have an unattractive "cramped" look. They also create a maintenance nightmare when it's time to repair or paint the house.

Solution#4: Foundation or corner shrubs should be planted half their mature width plus one foot away from the wall.  Therefore, a shrub that will grow to be five feet wide should be planted 3 1/2 (2 1/2 + 1) feet away from the house.

Mistake #5:Bright colors are scattered throughout the yard.
Brightly colored foliage, flowers or fruit attract attention. When brilliant color is scattered along the foundation or elsewhere around the yard, it confuses and may overwhelm the viewer.

Solution #5: Concentrate color where accent is desired.  The goal is to attract attention to focal areas of the house.


Adapted from "Landscape Design" by Greg Davis, Ph.D., in Master Gardener Update, September 1994.


Table of Contents Introduction What is A Florida Yard? Right Plant, Right Place Water Efficiently Maximize Mulch
Recycle Yard Waste Fertilize Appropriately Manage Yard Pests Responsibly Reduce Stormwater Runoff Provide for Wildlife On the Waterfront
Return to Florida Yardstick Workbook Return to FYN Publications