North Florida is located primarily in Zones 8 to 9a and has a significantly different climate from that of central and southern Florida. This more temperature region sees freezing temperatures during the winter, which can limit planting. In addition, northern Florida is also subject to highly variable water availability and problems with invasive plants. Choosing the right plants and locations for your north Florida front yard can make building an attractive, lower-maintenance landscape a lot easier.
Plant for Drought
Northern Florida is often subject to drought or inconsistent water supply, which can cause problems with plants that need a lot of water or which don't adapt well to dry spells. Choose drought-tolerant ground covers such as bahia grass. Many landscapers also recommend St. Augustine grass for Florida yards, but pay close attention to moisture levels. St. Augustine can require irrigation to maintain its appearance. Flowering plants such as lantana and beach sunflower add color without requiring a lot of water, and trumpet vines make excellent ground cover.
Reduce Grass Percentage
The standard green carpet-style lawn looks great, but requires a lot of attention, fertilizer and water. Florida homeowners looking for a lower-maintenance, less-expensive front yard may wish to choose more natural options. For instance, replacing areas of grass with flower beds, low creeping ground covers such as ivy and creeping Charlie, and adding more native trees and shrubs, such as live oak and Florida privet, can provide an attractive look while reducing water, time and money expenditures.
Plant for Floods
Some areas of north Florida also suffer from periodic flooding, which can wash away delicate plants and cause erosion problems. Landscape your front yard to reduce water runoff after severe storms and to help keep soil where it belongs--in front of your house, not in the street or storm gutter. Use sturdy plants with deep root systems along the edges of the yard. Boston fern works well to control erosion on slopes. Avoid placing large trees close to the house, because hurricanes and other strong storms can cause them to drop limbs.
Carefully placed trees and structures can provide shade for beds of plants that don't like the strong, direct sun of a north Florida summer. While the heat in this area is less severe than it can be further south, strong sunlight can burn or wilt plants. To alleviate this, position flower beds in the shade of trees or in the shadow of the house, where they can still receive indirect sunlight, but won't scorch. Plants such as coontie, mondo grass and partridgeberry all do well in shaded areas.