Xeriscaping gives Florida gardeners a vast number of plant choices. From muhly grass to bromeliads, low-maintenance plants come in all textures, sizes and colors. The key idea of xeriscaping is selecting “the right plant for the right spot.” The ideal xeriscape design remains essentially maintenance free once established. While gardeners often use cacti for xeriscaping in dry areas, many plants and flowers flourish in Florida xeriscaping.
Xeriscaping does not have to completely transform your yard. Take baby steps. Begin xeriscaping by selecting a section of yard to transform into a low maintenance bed and marking the perimeter. Then remove all plants from the planned bed. Next, select low-maintenance plants based on bed size and sun requirements. Check for native plants. Natives perform best because they are adapted to the local environment while also functioning to reintroduce wildlife habitat to your yard. Native plant nurseries exist in many Florida counties. Start there. Most local nurseries also carry some native plants.
Create interest by mixing textures. The textures can include spiky, soft or fluffy, thick leafed or slender leafed. Consider starting with Spanish bayonet, which reaches 20 to 25 feet high and produces multiple trunks with long, spiky leaves, then plant around the base with either coontie or purple muhly grass.
Coontie reaches 4 feet high with evergreen foliage and flourishes in sun or shade. While purple muhly, an evergreen ornamental grass that also reaches 3 to 4 feet high, produces pink fluffy spires.
For another combination, surround a birdbath with aloe, a succulent that comes in many varieties and produces summer flowers. Outside the aloe add a mixed planting of dwarf mondo grass with daylilies for a burst of summer color.
Xeriscaping does not require a monochromatic landscape. Many low-maintenance, drought- and salt-tolerant plants, including firebush, bromeliads, beach sunflower and daylily, add color to the Florida landscape.
For a colorful, full sun to partial shade, eye-catching garden start with firebush, a shrub that produces red flowers all year. Surround the base of the firebush with bromeliads, which come in many colors, shapes and sizes. Intermix beach sunflowers that produce yellow blooms year-round and grow 12 to 24 inches high with daylilies that produce pink, yellow or orange flowers in summer with flower stems reaching up to 36 inches.
Butterfly gardens create a dramatic and fun xeriscape. Start the bed with a tall Spanish bayonet that serves as a host for both yucca and cofqui giant-skippers. Host palmetto skippers and monks on a saw palmetto. Add a mass planting of seven partridge peas to host the ceraunus blue, gray hairstreak, little yellow and cloudless sulfer butterflies. Include a mass planting of seven butterfly milkweeds as both hosts and nectar for monarchs, queens and soldiers. Plant seven clumps of coastal bluestem grass to feed the caterpillars of the swarthy skipper, neamathla skipper, Delaware Skipper and twin-spot skipper. Attract and feed the butterflies with masses of beach sunflower, blanket flower, salvia and stokes’ aster. A variety of plants and mass plantings increase the number and types of butterflies you will attract to your garden.
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