There are advantages and disadvantages to using pebbles in Florida flower beds. They are attractive, and gardeners have many options, including granite, coquina gravel, river rock, marble chips, lava rock and pea gravel. With the wide range of color choices, gardeners are also able to match their surrounding landscape or homes. The disadvantage is that the solar radiation will make pebbled flower beds hot during Florida summers, and the soil will not benefit from any organic decay. Gardeners can compensate for these deficiencies through additional watering and fertilization.
Use the pebbles in flower beds containing Florida native plants, palms and succulents, or in xeriscaping, as these plants require less water and the excess heat and lack of moisture due to the pebbles will not bother them. Pebbles also work well around pool areas.
Use the pebbles in shady areas that will not develop as much heat during Florida summers, if planting shade-loving or water-loving plants. The moisture will evaporate less rapidly from the soil, affecting the plants less.
Clear the area of any unwanted vegetation such as weeds or grasses before laying the pebbles on the ground. Pull the vegetation out by hand or spray it with a nonselective herbicide that does not have long-lasting soil effects. Turn water off to the area for approximately 48 hours to allow the vegetation to die.
Remove the dead vegetation and rake the soil level. Remove any rocks, sticks or other debris lying inside the bed.
Measure the length and width of the flower bed so you will have an accurate measurement for cutting the correct size of ground cloth or weed barrier cloth. Ground cloth will keep the pebbles on the surface of the soil instead of sinking down into it, as the vast majority of Florida soil is sandy.
Roll the ground cloth out on a flat surface such as a patio or driveway. Mark the cloth with your length and width measurements. Cut the piece of cloth to your flower bed's measurements.
Lay the ground cloth upon the flower bed's soil. Make vertical and horizontal slits in it so it will fit around any existing plants growing inside the flower bed or sprinklers. It is easier to lay the ground cloth before placing plants into the ground.
Tack the ground cloth into the soil by placing a ground cloth pin at each corner and at the center section of each side. Poke the pin through the cloth and into the ground.
Open the bag of pebbles and begin pouring them onto the ground cloth to keep it in place on the ground. Apply approximately 2 to 3 inches of pebbles throughout the flower bed. Each bag of pebbles will cover approximately a 2-foot-square area.
Water the pebbled area frequently, depending upon your local Florida weather conditions and season of the year. Plants that are not drought-tolerant require regular, daily watering to replenish moisture lost in the heat. Watch the plants for signs of water needs; if they start wilting or drooping, they need a dose of water.