Frequently Asked Questions
Questions about Florida-Friendly Landscaping™
What is a Florida-Friendly Landscape?
What does a Florida-Friendly landscape look like?
Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) isn’t a single look or style. Every community is unique. Landscape conditions vary. Florida-Friendly Landscaping is about matching the right plant with the right place, and providing the right care at the right time. Anyone can apply the 9 Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ in a way that fits their community aesthetics and landscape goals. Well-designed Florida-Friendly Landscapes look vibrant and attractive, while using less water, fertilizer, and pesticides.
Does a Florida-Friendly yard look messy or unkempt?
Many people wonder whether a Florida-Friendly landscape will look “messy” or “weedy,” but well-designed & maintained Florida-Friendly Landscapes can absolutely look vibrant and attractive. Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ isn’t a single look or style. The 9 Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ can be applied to any landscape in a way that fits a community’s unique aesthetics and landscape goals. It’s about choosing the right plants for the right place and reducing the constant application of irrigation, fertilizer, and pesticides. HOAs and municipalities can still require that Florida-Friendly Landscapes meet certain standards of upkeep and maintenance (if designated in local codes, ordinances, or deed restrictions).
See additional resource links for Home Owners Associations (HOAs).
Is there a percentage of coverage for landscape beds versus turfgrass?
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program and the 2009 Florida-Friendly legislation do not specify a ratio of landscape beds to turfgrass. The 2009 Florida-Friendly legislation requires that water management districts develop a model landscape ordinance specifying the percentage of landscape beds to irrigated turfgrass in new developments. Counties are encouraged to adopt these model landscape ordinances.
Is Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ the same as Xeriscaping?
No, xeriscaping and FFL are very different concepts designed for very different climates. Because Xeriscape was developed for arid climates that receive minimal rainfall, it is inappropriate for our unique Florida climate, which can include extreme wet or dry conditions. Therefore, Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ was designed to emphasize sustainable landscape practices such as adaptable, site-appropriate plants, stormwater filtration, and protection of water quality, as well as water conservation.
Is it or isn't it?
Is turfgrass Florida Friendly?
A Florida-Friendly landscape may contain turfgrass, provided it’s the right plant for that location, and it’s cared for responsibly. Improper management of turf (or any plant), can cause environmental harm, particularly if there is excessive use of irrigation, fertilizer, and pesticides.
Under the appropriate conditions, healthy turfgrass can provide many benefits in the landscape. It can clean and cool the air, absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen, and collect dust and dirt. Turf can also filter stormwater runoff and reduce erosion, glare, and noise. However, these benefits are only realized if turfgrass is used and cared for properly. (More information on lawn care.)
Certain site conditions, such as deep shade, are poorly suited to growing warm-season turfgrass. In these situations, the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program typically recommends alternative options such as shade-loving plant selections, ground covers, and/or pervious pathways and pavers. (More information on landscaping in the shade.)
Are synthetic turf yards Florida-Friendly?
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program does not consider artificial turf to be a Florida-Friendly product. Synthetic turf surfaces have substantially higher surface temperatures than natural turfgrasses thereby destroying beneficial microbes in the soil. Artificial turf can contribute to the heat island effect and it does not provide habitat for wildlife or beneficial insects.
Are rock yards Florida-Friendly?
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program does not promote a landscape of all rocks, or the use of artificial turf and rubber mulch. Such materials increase heat and may result in loss of habitat, or in habitat that does not support wildlife. If an HOA review board allows any rocks, The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program recommends they be used in a reasonable way in landscapes that have plants. They also can be used for accents around heat-tolerant plants and trees, in rain gardens, or to lessen the impact of rainfall from roof overhangs. This last usage may be especially important as woody mulch along the foundation may attract termites, and rock will protect the soil from erosion without floating away or attracting pests.
FFL and HOAs
Do HOA review boards have the authority to tell homeowners what they can and cannot plant?
Yes, if the HOA review board is permitted to do so through their covenants or deed restrictions. An HOA may specify the options available to homeowners so long as the list of potential plants, turfgrasses, and mulch options are suited to site-specific conditions that reflect the “right plant, right place” principle of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™.
For information on incorporating Florida-Friendly Landscaping into deed-restricted communities, please see the resources available in the FFL “Community Association Kit”.
Does Florida Statutes section 373.185, allows homeowners to retrofit their yards by removing turfgrass and installing Florida-Friendly plants without HOA permission?
The Florida Statutes states that HOA rules “may not prohibit or be enforced so as to prohibit any property owner from implementing Florida-Friendly Landscaping, as defined in s. 373.185.” *
However, an HOA’s architectural review board is still allowed to determine what types of landscaping modifications will fit within the aesthetic style of the community. Therefore, while the HOA can’t outright prohibit someone from applying Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles, any proposed landscape modifications still could be required to meet certain aesthetic guidelines and could be required to receive HOA board approval (provided that’s the process detailed in the deed restrictions). Likewise, local government may have certain standards of property upkeep that must be met in order to avoid code enforcement actions, etc.
In short, the law does not undo the architectural review process, and an HOA still potentially has authority to decide whether a proposed landscape modification would fit within the community’s overall design. Likewise, allowing weeds to take over a yard is not “Florida-Friendly”, and calling it “Florida-Friendly” can potentially still result in penalties or enforcement action, depending on how the rules of your community are written. For example, if a homeowner’s proposed landscape modifications are deemed too extreme to maintain the aesthetic uniformity of the community, based on Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CCRs), the board can still potentially reject the modifications. Or if the landscape is not maintained to a certain level of upkeep, the HOA or local government can enforce certain community standards through fines or citations.
Does the Florida Statute (Section 373.185) override my HOA rules?
The amendments to Florida Statutes section 373.185, et seq., have not changed the review approval process for HOAs. If deed restrictions or covenants require HOA approval for landscape modifications, then homeowners still need approval from HOAs. Additionally, please note that a Florida-Friendly landscape includes both non-native and native plants and turfgrass as long as the plants and turfgrass match site conditions.
Can HOAs require St. Augustine grass for lawn turfgrass?
It can be required just like any other Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ turfgrass, provided it is the right plant for the right place, and it is specified in the deed restrictions.
Are there any resources available to assist the HOA review boards in setting community standards for appropriate landscaping design while allowing residents to follow the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles?
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program has developed an excellent set of tools specifically to help HOA's incorporate Florida-Friendly Landscaping language directly into their CCRs.
- Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Model Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions
- ARB considerations for FFL guidelines
For additional helpful resources, including a model Florida-Friendly Landscaping maintenance contract template, please see the FFL "Community Association Kit"
Your local FFL Program Coordinators can also provide educational programs for the HOA board and community members so that everyone understands exactly what is and isn't considered "Florida-Friendly," how to select the "right plant, right place," etc.
Plant selection and maintenance
Is there a list of Florida-Friendly plants available?
Landscape conditions can vary. Plant selection and maintenance should too.
Factors to consider include:
- Soil / pH / drainage
- Mature plant size (height x width)
- Sun / shade requirements
- Drought tolerance
- Cold tolerance
- Salt tolerance
- Wind resistance
- Other goals (i.e. supporting beneficial wildlife – pollinators, birds, etc.)
Selecting the right plants can decrease maintenance, reduce fertilizer, pesticide, and water usage, and improve the overall health and appearance of the landscape. The Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program has the information you need (based on University of Florida research) to help put the “right plant in the right place” every time, and to provide the “right care” to help them thrive.
The following plant selection guides can be helpful in finding appropriate plants for any site conditions and landscaping goals:
- The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design, available in print and pdf, provides information on hundreds of plants
- Florida-Friendly Landscaping Plant Selection Guide is searchable plant list which includes both native & non-native options
Just because a plant is not listed on the Florida-Friendly plant list does not mean it can’t be the right plant for the right place. Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office to find out which plants do well in your area.
Why doesn’t the Florida-Friendly Program promote using only native plants?
Site-appropriate native plants can certainly provide excellent habitat value to wildlife and pollinators. However, a plant’s native status does not automatically mean it will thrive in all parts of Florida, especially in developed urban environments. The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program emphasizes always matching the right plant with the right place, regardless of whether it is native or not. As long as gardeners avoid using invasive species, the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program allows for the inclusion of non-native landscape plants. By allowing the inclusion of non-invasive “Florida-Friendly” plants, the FFL program aims to provide greater flexibility for all landscape conditions, goals, and aesthetic tastes.
What types of turfgrass are Florida-Friendly?
Five types of turfgrass are considered Florida-Friendly as long as the choice matches the site conditions. For details, see pages 13-14 of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Handbook for Home Landscapes.
For more information, see: Gardening Solutions: Turf Types
Since five kinds of turfgrass are listed on the Florida-Friendly plant list, can homeowners plant whichever one they choose?
When selecting a turfgrass it is important to select the right turfgrass for the location. If the landscape is subject to HOA restrictions the homeowner should get approval from the HOA review board before making changes.
Will Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ cost less to maintain? / take less time to maintain? / take less effort to maintain?
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping program conducted a side-by-side comparison of a “traditional Florida landscape” (75% turf, 25% shrubs/ornamental beds) and a Florida-Friendly landscape (25% turf, 75% shrubs/ornamental beds) and found that the total maintenance time in a year was nearly the same for each. However, the time was spent differently. While each landscape required both mowing and hand weeding, most of the maintenance time in the traditional landscape was spent mowing, while in the FFL landscape more time was spent hand weeding.
The FFL landscape was both a water saver and a money saver, using 84% less irrigation water than the traditional landscape.
We'd like to hire a landscape maintenance company that will follow Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Principles. What should we look for or ask about?
The FFL Program has developed several helpful resources to make it easier to hire landscape professionals who have been trained in Florida-Friendly Landscaping™.
- Look for a company with employees who have received certification in the Green Industries Best Management Practices (GI-BMP). You can use the Green Industries Best Management Practices (GI-BMP) Certification List to check for landscape professionals in your area who have successfully completed this training.
- These resources provide guidance in selecting and contracting with a landscape maintenance provider:
- Hire Florida-Friendly
- Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guidelines for Community Associations: Considerations for Selecting a Landscape Contractor and Writing an Effective Landscaping Contract
- Model Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Maintenance Contract - editable (Microsoft Word download) | Model Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Maintenance Contract (pdf)
- Individuals who have completed FFL certification training are found on the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Certified Professional (FFLCP) list.
Can my city or county government enforce landscape restrictions, such as keeping “grasslike” groundcovers to 12 inches or below.
Yes, counties and municipalities often have landscaping codes that restrict the height, maintenance, and appearance of landscapes in their jurisdiction.
Questions about Green Industries Best Management Practices (GI-BMP)
What is the Green Industries Best Management Practices (GI-BMP) Program?
The science-based GI-BMP Program teaches environmentally responsible landscaping practices that help conserve and protect Florida’s ground and surface waters. This training program was developed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, is endorsed by the pest control industry, and is brought to you by the UF/IFAS Extension’s Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program. The training is available through in-person, Zoom, DVD and self-paced online training formats.
Who should take the GI-BMP program?
This program is designed to provide Green Industry (landscape and lawn care maintenance) professionals with training in the Best Management Practices.
This training program is required in order to apply for the Limited Urban Commercial Fertilizer Applicator Certification (LF license) from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). The LF license is required for anyone applying fertilizer commercially.
Other individuals who would benefit from this training include corporate, governmental, and environmental agencies, HOA board members, property managers and anyone with an interest in science-based landscape design and management techniques.
Additionally, the GI-BMP Training Certificate may be required by your local county or municipality to register a Lawn-Landscape maintenance company, to do work as part of a maintenance crew, or to do work as an institutional worker. Check with your local Tax Collector or UF/IFAS County Extension office.
Is the GI-BMP Program offered in other languages?
Currently the GI-BMP Program is available in English and Spanish. We are developing the training program in Haitian Creole and hope to have this available in the near future.
How long does the GI-BMP class take?
While it may vary slightly from region to region, you should plan for the class to last six to eight hours.
What is a passing score on the exam?
You must achieve at least a 75% correct score in order to receive your GI-BMP certificate.
How long will it take for me to get my certificate?
Certificates and wallet cards are mailed or emailed within two weeks of your completing the training and passing the certification test at an in-person or live online (Zoom) class. For self-paced online or DVD training, the certificate is usually sent one or two business days after passing the online certification test.
How long is the GI-BMP certification good for?
The GI-BMP certification does not expire. The Limited Urban Commercial Fertilizer Certificate from FDACS must be renewed every four years.
What CEUs are needed to renew my Limited Urban Fertilizer License?
Renewal of the Limited Commercial Fertilizer Applicator Certificate (fertilizer license) requires four CEUs total: two 482 CORE and two Limited Urban Fertilizer (LF) category.
Most GI-BMP in-person classes and live, instructor-led online classes (via Zoom) provide all four CEU's required to renew the fertilizer license, but you should check before attending to be sure CEUs will be awarded for that class. Note that the self-paced GI-BMP online training does NOT provide CEUs.