Annotations on 7 Xeriscaping Principles for South Florida

(created by Ronald E. Mossman, Ph.D., edited and revised by Sebastian Eilert, AIA)

  1. DESIGN: Select low maintenance plants. Use few flower beds and only near entrances – not a ring of flowering plants around each tree. Evaluate the site for daily and seasonal wind and sun exposure. Buffer NW winter winds and lightly shade SE areas. Shade the AC compressor and west-facing wall. Determine major Residential uses: public, private, service and shade accordingly.
  2. PLANT SELECTION: Group plants by water needs. Native and regionally appropriate plant community and other plants with specific water tolerances (water, soil, light, salt and wind). Plan for different species to be in bloom each season. Select for wildlife food sources as well as human food sources. Select plants for their mature size, avoid instant landscape. Give the plants room to grow properly.
  3. IMPROVE SOIL: Compost flower beds, vegetable gardens and trimmings. Mulching gradually adds nutrients from decayed organic matter already in your environment.
  4. USE TURF WISELY: Xeriscaping principles suggest that 10% or less of the property should be lawn. Turf uses 50-60% of residential landscape water. Irrigate in the early morning. Water is only needed when a footprint can be seen in the lawn after you walk across. Cut at the highest mover setting and use a mulching mower. Use St. Augustine “Floratam” sod
  5. IRRIGATE EFFICIENTLY: Limit irrigation to first year after planting for non-turf areas such as bedding and patios. Use drip or micro irrigation systems and include recycled water from the roof and redirected water from paved areas.
  6. MULCH: Mulch assists in holding water in the soil by restricting evaporation. Mulch reduces soil temperature by up to 10 degrees compared to bare soil. 18% of all US waste is yard waste! Get mulch from local sources and keep timings from your own yard.
  7. MAINTANCE: do not rake and collect grass trimmings. Spread grass trimmings that are left to rot return nutrients to your lawn. It has been shown that 40% more nitrogen fertilizer must be added to return what has been lost in removal – a waste of money and energy. Keep fertilizers and pesticides to a minimum and use integrated pest management (IPM). Allow natural predators such as lizards, snakes, ladybugs and use clandosan. Read fertilizer labels and use appropriate fertilizer for correct plants. Practice selective pruning and raise canopy to channel wind from the Southeast to reduce temperature around your house and yard. Regularly check your irrigation system for leaks and damage as well as proper coverage.

Extensive plant information can be found at and native plant identification photos at