Tag Archive: Landscape

Hurricane Preparation in the Landscape

Hurricane Preparation in the Landscape

Trees are often among the first victims of hurricane-force winds. Photo credit: Mary Duryea, University of Florida.

Well, it is the peak of hurricane season (June 1-November 30), and this one is proving to be no joke. After having all summer to heat up, Gulf and Atlantic water temperatures peak in late August-mid September, feeding storms’ strength. Legendary hurricanes like Harvey, Katrina, and Andrew all made landfall during this time of year. The models for Irma show likely impacts in Florida, and due to its extreme size, most of the state is in line to endure heavy rain and wind regardless of location.

From a landscaping perspective, hurricanes can be truly disastrous. I will never forget returning home after evacuating from Hurricane Ivan and realizing all the leaves had been blown from nearly every tree in town. Mid-September suddenly looked like the dead of winter. A Category 3 storm when it landed near the southwest corner of Escambia County, Ivan was responsible for a 40% loss of tree canopy in our county.

Even if the Panhandle is not directly impacted by a storm, it is always smart to prepare. Research conducted by University of Florida arborists and horticultural specialists have yielded some practical suggestions.

To evaluate trees for potential hazards;

  • Know your tree species and whether they are prone to decay or wind damage (more below).
  • Look for root or branch rot—usually indicated by very dark spots on the bark.
  • Tree structure—is there a single, dominant central trunk? Are branches attached to the trunk in a U-shape (strong) or V-shape (weak)?
  • Smart pruning—never “top” (cut the tops from trees) but instead prune crowded limbs and remove limbs that are dead, dying, or hanging above power lines.

As for species selection, keep in mind that pines generally do not perform well in gale-force winds. Longleaf pines are quite strong, but common slash pines often snap or lean in storms. Even if a pine tree survives, it can be vulnerable to damage or death from pine bark beetles. It is wise to monitor pines for up to 2 years after a storm.

In addition, a survey conducted throughout the southeastern United States after hurricanes from 1992-2005 yielded important information on the most (and least) wind-resistant tree species. Live oaks and Southern magnolias topped the list, while pecans and cherry laurels performed poorly. This full, user-friendly report from the study is a useful tool.

For more hurricane preparedness information, visit the UF IFAS Extension Disaster Manual online or contact your local Extension office or Emergency Management agency.




Author: Carrie Stevenson – ctsteven@ufl.edu

Coastal Sustainability Agent, Escambia County Extension

Carrie Stevenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/09/09/hurricane-preparation-in-the-landscape/

Permaculture Practices for the Home Landscape

If you’ve attended any of our landscaping classes, then you’ve probably heard the phrase “Right Plant, Right Place”.  This phrase is a simple reminder to research plant growth habits and growing conditions before making selections for your landscape.  This not only holds true for ornamental plants, but for edible crops as well.  A term used to describe the use of edibles as ornamentals is “Permaculture”.  Now this is an extremely simplified definition of the term, but permaculture comes from a combination of the words “permanent” and “agriculture”.  The thought behind permaculture is to fashion an edible landscape after a natural ecosystem.

There are a number of strategies to becoming a successful permaculturist.  Below you will find a few examples.

  • Site Observation and Analysis – The slope, orientation to the sun, and sectors of your yard should all be documented.
    • Slope – Identifying the slope of your yard can help you determine the natural flow of water and nutrients.  For example, if you have a hill in your back yard you may want to install some plant beds between the peak of the slope and your house.  These beds will help absorb water and nutrients before they have a chance to reach the house.
    • Orientation – Think about the location, relevant to your house, of each of your edible landscape areas.  The eastern side of your house receives morning sunlight, which is much cooler than the western side of your house that receives sunlight in the afternoon.  A tomato plant will be much happier if it can avoid the afternoon heat.
    • Sectors – While walking your property, you will notice differences in soil texture, soil moisture, and the plants and weeds growing in these different areas.  You can divide your yard based on these characteristics along with slope, orientation, and shade percentage to develop sectors of your property.
  • Cover Crops and Living Mulch – Cover crops are planted in areas that you would normally allow to go fallow.  Living mulches are plants that are planted alongside edible plants to help fill voids.  The benefits of both are listed below.
    • Weed Supression
    • Erosion Control
    • Produce and/or Scavenge Nutrients
    • Nematode Supression
    • Harbor Beneficial Insects
clover flower

Clover is an excellent cover crop choice and has a beautiful flower. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS.

  • Space Utilization – The third criteria is to mimic a forest.  Just like any good forest, your “forest garden” will consist of different layers of vegetation.
    • You can start by planting large deciduous trees such as pecans or pears farthest from the house.  These trees will allow filtered light to penetrate the layer below.
    • Next, you can plant smaller fruit trees such as citrus or peaches along the understory of the larger trees.
    • Then, you can plant your vegetable and herb garden around your fruit tree plantings.
    • Finish by planting root and vining vegetables such as carrots or sweet potatoes at the edge of the forest.
a mix of vegetable plants

A mixed vegetable garden. Photo Credit: eXtension.org.

We’ve just scratched the surface of the concept of permaculture, but I encourage you to dig a little deeper.  What could be the harm with being able to eat your landscape?  Just don’t eat too much or you may lose your landscape entirely!

An “Intermediate Permaculture” class is scheduled for Saturday, September 23 at the Jackson County Extension Office.  For more information, please call (850)-482-9620 and ask for Matt.

For more information on permaculture please visit the NC State Permaculture Page.

For more information on “Right Plant, Right Place” please visit the UF/IFAS Florida Friendly Living Site.


Author: Matt Lollar – mlollar@ufl.edu

Matt Lollar is the Jackson County Horticulture Agent. He has 5 years of experience with University of Florida/IFAS Extension and he began his career in Sanford, FL as the Seminole County Horticulture Agent. Matt is originally from Belle Fontaine, AL. He earned his MS and BS degrees in Horticulture Production from Auburn University.

Matt Lollar

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/25/permaculture-practices-for-the-home-landscape/

Tips on How to Manage Water in Your Landscape

Tips on How to Manage Water in Your Landscape



Although we’ve received much-needed rainfall of late, it’s still a struggle to manage moisture levels in our Panhandle landscapes this summer. During wet summer seasons, one recurring issue is that watering plants too much can have as much of an ill effect as not watering enough.

Shallow rooted plants, as well as newly set plants can easily become water stressed. Some people lightly water their plants each day. With this practice, one is only watering an inch or less of the topsoil. Most roots are deeper than this. Instead of a light watering every day, soaking the plant a few times a week works better. A soil that has been soaked will retain moisture for several days. This is a very good practice for young plants. In contrast, some people soak their plants to often. This essential drowns the roots by eliminating vital oxygen in the root zone. This can also cause root rot. Leaves that turn brown at the tips or edges, as well as leaf drop, are displaying signs of overwatering.


The following are tips from the UF/IFAS Florida-Friendly Landscape Program. These tips will help conserve water by providing best management practices for your landscape:


  • Choose the right plant for the right place: Be sure to place plants in your landscape that match existing environmental conditions.
  • Water Thoughtfully: Water early in the morning and water when plants and turfgrass start to wilt. Refrain from watering in the late afternoon or evening. This is when insects and diseases are most active.
  • Perform regular irrigation maintenance: Remember, an irrigation system is only effective if it is maintained regularly. Check for and repair leaks. If using a pop-up heads for turfgrass, point heads away from driveways and sidewalks.
  • Calibrate turfgrass irrigation system: Ideal amount of water to apply to turfgrass is ½”- ¾”. A simple test can be done to calibrate. Place a coffee or tuna cans throughout the landscape. Run the irrigation system for 30 minutes. Average the depth of the water containers. Adjust running time to apply the ½”- ¾” rate.
  • Use micro-irrigation in gardens and individual plants: Drip, or microspray irrigation systems apply water directly to the root system with limited surface evaporation.
  • Make a rain barrel: Rain barrels are an inexpensive way to capture rainwater from your roof. This can translate into a big impact on your water bill as well.
  • Mulch plants: Mulch helps keep moisture in the root zone. Two to three inches in-depth, for a few feet in diameter will work well for trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables.
  • Mow correctly: Mowing your grass at the highest recommended length is key. Be sure to cut no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade each time you mow. Keep mowing blades sharp as dull cuts often cause grass to be prone to disease.
  • Be a weather watcher: Wait at least 24 hours after a rainfall event to water. If rain is in the forecast, wait 48 hours until irrigating. Use a rain gauge or install a rain shut-off device to monitor irrigation scheduling.

For more information on water conservation principles contact your local county extension office.

Supporting information can be found at the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation & Ecology’s Drought Toolkit: http://clce.ifas.ufl.edu/drought_toolkit/


Author: Ray Bodrey – rbodrey@ufl.edu

Gulf County Extension Director, Agent II Agriculture & Natural Resource, Horticulture, Sea Grant

Ray Bodrey

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/06/29/tips-on-how-to-manage-water-in-your-landscape/

Landscape Pruning

Properely pruned plants will produce vigroous new growth and ample new flowers. While these roses were pruned in February, it will be time to prune azaleas right after bloom.

Properely pruned plants will produce vigroous new growth and ample new flowers. Even though these roses were pruned in February, soon it will be time to prune azaleas, right after they finish their bloom.

Pruning is something all homeowners and landscapers know is one of the many chores to be completed in the landscape. Everyone recognizes that pruning needs to be done on occasion, but it can be confusing to know how to prune the variety of species that can be in a landscape. There are some simplistic principles that can be followed while pruning.

Reasons for pruning:

  1. Training – to form good structure or good branching.
  2. Maintain plant vigor
  3. Control plant form and size
  4. Influence plant flowering and fruit

When to prune?

Several factors need to be considered when deciding the proper time to prune.  If the plant species has a showy  bloom to then consider the time of year it blooms. Some landscape plants flower on last years growths, therefore must be pruned following bloom time just before the flower buds are set for next year (ex. azaleas, spireas, and dogwoods).  Plants grown with little regard to blooms, such as foliage plants like hollies, can be pruned from January to late Summer.

Learn More:

the following are great extension publications on pruning.  read these to learnt he finer details of pruning so you can become an expert.  Always remember to call your local extension office if you have any questions regarding pruning.

UF/IFAS – Pruning Landscape Shrubs and Trees

Alabama Cooperative Extension – Pruning Ornamental Plants

UF/IFAS Pruning website


Author: Blake Thaxton – bthaxton@ufl.edu

Santa Rosa County Extension Agent I, Commercial Horticulture

Blake Thaxton

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/05/19/landscape-pruning/

The Visual and Delectable Appeal of an Edible Landscape

The Visual and Delectable Appeal of an Edible Landscape

Figure 1: Edible Landscaping.
Credit: Dr. Gail Hansen, Environmental Horticulture-UF/IFAS

Edible landscaping has become a trend for many gardening enthusiasts. A combination of edible plants along with traditional ornamentals can create an artful presentation. There are some challenges when designing such a landscape, but in those challenges opportunities’ may be found. One of the most difficult challenges is making sure your garden or landscape is healthy and vibrant year-round since many edibles are short-lived annuals. These include plants such as eggplant, pepper, lettuce, artichoke and some annual herbs. There is a solution to this concern. First, know your edible plant’s propagation and maturity months. This way you can offset plantings to ensure color in your landscape. Another key measure is to mix some evergreen ornamentals in with short season edibles and long season edibles. Examples of long season edibles include berry shrubs, fruit trees and biennial or perennial herbs.

Table 1: North/Central Florida Front Yard Edibles.
Credit: Dr. Gail Hansen, Environmental Horticulture-UF/IFAS.

When designing your edible landscape, think about style and theme to help guide you through the process. A formal design has more straight edges and geometric shapes, whereas the more natural approach has meandering edges and irregular shapes. A color scheme in harmony is very important. Remember, an edible landscape should not just be a production food garden but a visual treat. The goal is not to grow a high yield garden, but only to produce supplemental edibles to make the endeavor worthwhile.

Dr. Gail Hansen, Associate Professor of Environmental Horticulture at the University of Florida, has developed twelve ideas when creating an edible landscape:
  • Combine reliable, low-maintenance ornamental with edible plants. Use evergreen ornamentals to maintain enough green structure, so that potential cool season bare spots are not visual.
  • Use support structures for an artistic effect and to assist in growth of some plants. Trellises, arbors and even tomato cages are some examples that can be used.
  • Use containers in areas to keep the landscape more organized. Planters will also help in maintenance, as plants will be easier to reach and the soil will be easier to manage.
  • Create some hard edges in your landscape. Raised beds, garden walls and borders will give defining lines to the landscape and promote a clean appearance.
  • A pathway through the landscape will both provide an access to plants and give an inviting appeal. Brick pavers, gravel and mulch are good examples of pathway material.
  • Remember color is key. Create a visually pleasing combination of plant color, form, texture and sizes.
  • Always start by keeping it simple. So, start small and simple. Then, you can begin filling in the landscape.
  • Look for one unique feature to create an added interest to you landscape and provide growth to plants. This could be a shade house for ferns and other hanging baskets or a hay bale, where lettuce, tomatoes or peppers could grow upon.
  • Select appealing and easy to grow plants that you want to eat!
  • Let plants reach maturity before taking them out of the landscape. For example, rainbow chard will grow larger, if allowed to continue to grow after seed has been produced.
  • Use the Florida-Friendly Landscaping principle, “Right Plant, Right Place”, when adding edibles to your landscape. Match the growing needs with the most suitable location.
  • Consider your location and layout for irrigation. All plants need some degree of water. An above ground drip irrigation system is usually the most flexible and adjustable irrigation method in regards to overall plant watering needs in a landscape.


Following Dr. Hansen’s ideas will help you create the edible landscape of your dreams. For more information on edible landscaping, please contact your local county extension office for more details.

Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS Publications, “Landscape Design with Edibles” by Dr. Gail Hansen: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP47500.pdf


UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.


Author: Ray Bodrey – rbodrey@ufl.edu

Gulf County Extension Director, Agent II Agriculture, Natural Resource & Community Development

Ray Bodrey

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/03/21/the-visual-and-delectable-appeal-of-an-edible-landscape/

Consider Landscape Fabric Carefully

Consider Landscape Fabric Carefully

Homeowners and horticulture professionals spend time to develop an attractive ornamental bed only to have weeds take over months or a few years later. One common method in the attempt to prevent weeds is to apply a landscape fabric around plants in beds and place a layer of mulch on top to dress it up.  The thought is that this barrier on top of the soil will prevent a large number of weeds from emerging.  The fabric physically prevents the growth of weeds form the soil below and blocks sunlight from reaching weed seeds.  Available fabrics are labeled as porous to allow air and water to move through them and reach ornamental plant roots.

On paper, landscape fabric sounds like a good idea and it may work for a little while. Over time, soil particles and decomposing mulch fill up the porous spaces in the fabric which prevent air and water from reaching plant roots. Even with irrigation or routine rainfall, plant roots often do not receive the needed water and air for healthy growth.  Plants may respond by trying to send roots through fabric seams which breaks down the intended weed barrier.  Other plants slowly decline or may die quickly due to water stress or lack of sufficient air movement into the soil.

Fabric may prevent some weeds but it can also prevent air and water movement. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF Extension Escambia County

Fabric may initially prevent some weeds but it can also prevent air and water movement. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF Extension Escambia County

Weed seeds also find their way into the mulch that is on top of the fabric from nearby lawns and landscapes. The next thing you know, you have an entire weed crop growing in the mulch on top of your landscape fabric.  Perennial weeds such as torpedograss and purple nutsedge eventually grow through fabrics.

Seeds from annuals like Chamberbitter easily get into mulch from surrounding areas. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF Extension Escambia County

Seeds from annuals like Chamberbitter easily get into mulch from surrounding areas and grow on top of fabrics. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF Extension Escambia County

The best place to consider fabric if you want to install it in the landscape is under mulched paths or other areas without ornamental plantings where a synthetic groundcover is needed. In order to have a healthy root environment for your ornamental bed plants, it is best to keep landscape fabric out of these areas.



Author: Beth Bolles – bbolles@ufl.edu

Horticulture Agent, Escambia County

Beth Bolles

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/08/12/consider-landscape-fabric-carefully/

Water Conservation in the Landscape

Water Conservation in the Landscape


In this photo released from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, extension agent Janet Bargar checks the water flow and direction of a pop-up irrigation system at a home. Bargar, a water quality expert, suggests residents check with their county extension office about local watering restrictions. She says the ideal time to water is before sunrise and that residents should check irrigation systems watering the sidewalk. (AP photo/University of Florida/Josh Wickham)

Extension agent Janet Bargar checks the water flow and direction of a pop-up irrigation system at a home. (AP photo/University of Florida/Josh Wickham)

Early spring is a great time of year to reevaluate your lawn and landscape water needs. University of Florida studies have shown that in homes utilizing automatic sprinkler systems, 50% of total home water consumption in the summer comes from running a sprinkler system.  When a homeowner is using utility water, they are typically charged twice; first for bringing the water in and second for wastewater fees.  Estimated costs for irrigating a 5,000 square foot yard range from $ 5-$ 25 per irrigation session.  So how does one cut down?

To start with, check your sprinkler system for efficiency.  Turn on the water, stand back, and watch it run.  Look for broken or clogged heads (evident by uneven and high-volume spray), or leaks within the water line.  Clean out the heads or replace these broken parts—most are very inexpensive and found in the plumbing section of home improvement stores.  Look at the reach of the spray, and make sure irrigation water is not landing wastefully on roads, sidewalks, or adjacent houses.  To paraphrase a wise colleague, “No matter how much you water it, concrete won’t grow.”

Many of our clientele ask how long an irrigation system should be run and how much water plants should get.  Ideally, turf and landscape plants should get ½” to ¾” of water per application.  The frequency of application varies by plant needs, weather, and soil type.  For very sandy soils, some specialists have recommended applying less water at a slightly more frequent rate, since sandy soils are unable to hold water in the root zone of plants for long.  Mulching around plants and amending soils with organic material can help improve a soil’s water-holding capacity.

An efficient irrigation system should direct water to root system of a landscape and reduce overspray onto homes and sidewalks. Photo credit: UF IFAS

An efficient irrigation system should direct water to the root system of a landscape and reduce overspray onto homes and sidewalks. Photo credit: UF IFAS

A simple sprinkler calibration can be conducted by spreading empty aluminum cans around one’s yard, and turning on each sprinkler zone.  Run each zone for 30 minutes and measure how deep the water is in the cans.  If the water depth is within the recommended amounts, no changes are needed.  However if it’s not deep enough or greater than ¾” of an inch, run times should be adjusted accordingly.   If some of the cans receive a noticeably different amount of water than those adjacent to them, it is a signal that the reach of the spray heads is not adequately set and should be corrected to make sure the entire landscape has even coverage.

The primary goal of supplemental irrigation is for the plants’ root zones to be wet, but not saturated or too dry.  Ideally, established lawns and landscapes should thrive on rainfall after initial establishment, and only take irrigation in longer periods of drought.  However, this is contingent on the planting of Florida-friendly vegetation and a homeowner with a keen eye to the condition of one’s plants, who is willing to turn the sprinkler system to “manual” and wait for his or her plants to start drooping before turning on the water.  In reality, most homeowners find it difficult to take this much time and care with their irrigation system, and opt for the “water every two or three days whether needed or not” approach, even in parts of the state with water restrictions.  In fact, anecdotal evidence seems to show that homeowners only allowed to water lawns one or two days a week will overdo it just to make sure their plants survive.

Luckily, new technology exists that can take the guesswork out of irrigation for a homeowner, while keeping plants alive and conserving water at the same time.  “Smart” irrigation systems include soil moisture sensors and evapotranspiration (ET) controllers.  Soil moisture sensors (SMS) use electrodes buried within the root zone of turf, which are calibrated to a certain level of moisture in the soil.  The system is only allowed to run when water levels drop below a preset threshold.  ET (evapotranspiration) controllers monitor weather conditions on site or from a nearby weather station, using satellite signals to determine when plants will need additional water.



Author: Carrie Stevenson – ctsteven@ufl.edu

Coastal Sustainability Agent, Escambia County Extension

Carrie Stevenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/04/08/water-conservation-in-the-landscape/

Planning ahead can reduce home and landscape damage

Planning ahead can reduce home and landscape damage

Even large oaks may fall during a tornado. Photo credit: northescambia.com

Even large, healthy oaks may fall during a tornado. Photo credit: northescambia.com

When we think of bad weather in Florida, hurricanes are typically the first thing that comes to mind. In reality, Florida is 4th in the nation in tornado frequency—and when adjusted for frequency per square mile, we are actually number 1. Residents of Escambia County are believers now, as the community reels from enduring two tornadoes in the span of a week. Both rated as EF3 storms, the winds in the twisters (136-165 mph) were nearly equivalent to a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. The western Panhandle and much of south Alabama were under tornado watches as the most recent band of thunderstorms moved through.

Based on a thorough study of surviving trees after hurricanes in Florida, there are several species of trees best suited to windstorms. For north Florida, some of the top species are: Florida scrub hickory, several native holly species, Southern magnolia, sand live oak, myrtle oak, and bald and pond cypress. Data from the full study and an in-depth overview is available from the University of Florida.  To prepare for a heavy thunderstorm or a milder hurricane, it is wise to replace or plant trees with the most wind-resistant species. Because of the damage from falling trees in storms, many homeowners are nervous about planting trees. However, there are so many benefits to healthy trees in a landscape that they vastly outweigh the small risk of them falling.

Keep in mind that tornadoes are the most violent natural disasters and may cause complete devastation of homes, neighborhoods, and forests in a matter of seconds. After the Escambia County tornadoes, we witnessed large uprooted trees, downed power lines, flipped vehicles and blown-off roofs. Several homes and apartments were completely flattened or blown off their foundations. Luckily, the odds are in one’s favor of not getting hit directly by a tornado—because there’s often little anyone can do for a landscape in that situation. It’s best to hunker down in a windowless inner room or hallway, which saved the lives of hundreds during the last round of bad weather.

Updraft entering the garage of this house may have caused the roof blowout above it. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

Wind entering the garage of this house may have caused the roof blowout above it. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

However, there’s good news that work that can be done to help protect a home during storms. Hardening homes through “windstorm mitigation” techniques can prevent updraft from strong winds. A house is only as strong as its weakest area, and those are typically the connections between the walls, roof, and foundation. A wind-rated garage door and/or brace are crucial, as strong winds can enter a garage and blow out the roof above it.

When strong winds enter a hope, their force moving out can cause an updraft and lift off the roof. Graphic courtesy UF IFAS.

When strong winds enter a home, their force moving out can cause an updraft and lift off the roof. Graphic courtesy UF IFAS.

In Escambia and Santa Rosa County, the local nonprofit “Rebuild Northwest Florida” operates a cost-sharing program to help residents harden homes. After the tornado in Century (near the Alabama border in north Escambia County), engineers from Rebuild examined a home that suffered a direct hit from a tornado. The home had been retrofit with crucial wind mitigation techniques and sustained no structural damage. Buildings, sheds, and homes all around it were destroyed. Examples of several wind mitigation techniques, including storm shutters, wind-rated windows, garage door braces and a tornado shelter are available for public viewing at the Escambia County Extension office in our windstorm mitigation building.

As the spring storm season heats up and rolls into hurricane season, keep in mind these suggestions for both the landscape and home. As always, contact your local Extension office if you have any questions.


Author: Carrie Stevenson – ctsteven@ufl.edu

Coastal Sustainability Agent, Escambia County Extension

Carrie Stevenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/03/02/planning-ahead-can-reduce-home-and-landscape-damage/

Waxmyrtle, an Overlooked Landscape Shrub

Waxmyrtle, an Overlooked Landscape Shrub

Waxmyrtle. Image Credit UF / IFAS Solutions

Waxmyrtle. Image Credit UF / IFAS Solutions

Myrica cerifera Southern Waxmyrtle, Bayberry is a large shrub to small tree that is now native to much of Florida and much of the Southeastern United States. It was introduced to Europeans in the 1700s and is considered native by many botanical authorities. Sources disagree to the validity of its native status. It is usually found as an understory plant in lightly forested areas, swamps, brackish areas, as well as around old home sites.

It was planted widely in the 18th,19th and early 20th century as a plant for medicinal and industrial purposes. Four pounds of its berries will yield one pound of wax for candle making. When processed, this wax was also used in  surgeon’s soap, shaving lather, and sealing wax. Fermented leaves were used to produce a substance which was said to treat fever, stomach aches, and headaches.

Southern Waxmyrtle can reach up to 25 feet but is best maintained as a 10-20 foot multi-trunked shrub or small tree. It can also be trained as a smaller hedge and several dwarf form exist. Landscapes are enhanced by the shrubs’ olive green foliage, leaf aroma, open, rounded form and waxy blue-green berries. Wildlife enjoy the berries as a food source as well. They can provide dappled shade for outdoor entertainment spaces or front entrances.

Waxmyrtle Leaves. Image Credit Brent Sellers - UF IFAS EXTENSION

Waxmyrtle Leaves. Image Credit Brent Sellers – UF / IFAS Extension

Another benefit of Waxmyrtle is that it can be used in tough-to-landscape roadside and coastal areas since it is both pollution and salt tolerant and will cease to require irrigation once it is established. ‘Pumila’ is a dwarf cultivar suitable to small spaces.

Waxmyrtle is susceptible to few pests and diseases but can occasionally be attacked by webworms, mites and caterpillars. These can be controlled by pruning out of infested areas, forceful applications of water or Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis for caterpillar). It is also occasionally susceptible to canker on old branches and Fusarium wilt in central and south Florida. It is also considered a weed in pasture situations.


50 Common Native Plants Important In Florida’s Ethnobotanical History
Myrica cerifera: Southern Waxmyrtle
Texas Native Plant Database: Waxmyrtle


Author: Matthew Orwat – mjorwat@ufl.edu

Matthew J. Orwat started his career with UF / IFAS in 2011 and is the Horticulture Extension Agent for Washington County Florida. His goal is to provide educational programming to meet the diverse needs of and provide solutions for homeowners and small farmers with ornamental, turf, fruit and vegetable gardening objectives. Please feel free to contact him with any questions you may have.

Matthew Orwat

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/11/05/waxmyrtle-an-overlooked-landscape-shrub/

Evaluate and Enjoy Your Landscape This Fall

Evaluate and Enjoy Your Landscape This Fall

Fall is a good time to evaluate your landscape, learn from what has and what has not worked and formulate plans to improve your landscape.

Evaluate problem areas in lawn. Photo Credit: Larry Williams

Evaluate problem areas in lawn. Photo Credit: Larry Williams

Before your lawn and landscape plants go dormant, do a walk through of your landscape, make notes if necessary and visually inspect the plants. You get to see the plants that did great as well as the plants that were not so successful. You can make decisions on which plants to do away with, which to keep, which that might benefit from being moved to a more appropriate location, etc.

As you inspect your landscape, ask yourself questions. You can easily identify problem areas in the lawn now. As you identify problem areas in the lawn, attempt to determine why those areas aren’t doing so well. Begin formulating plans for correcting/improving those problem areas. Decide if renovating and replanting with grass is your best option. Or, something other than grass may be the best option, particularly if there is a history of problems with grass in a specific location.

It may be time to remove and replace an older, declining plant with something new. There may be a plant that hasn’t performed up to par but that would do better if moved to a more appropriate location – fall is a great time to relocate plants. Now is a good time to take a soil sample and take the guesswork out of liming or fertilizing. The UF / IFAS Extension Office in your County can provide information on how to have your soil tested.

This only represents a few ideas related to evaluating your landscape. You’ll probably think of many more as you’re out in the landscape. Taking notes will allow you to implement your ideas later.

Not only is fall a great time to enjoy the outdoors, there’s much that we can learn from our own landscapes this time of year. We can gather Information that will allow us to improve our own landscapes.



Author: Larry Williams – llw5479@ufl.edu

Larry Williams is the County Extension Director and Residential Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Okaloosa County.

Larry Williams

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/11/04/evaluate-and-enjoy-your-landscape-this-fall/

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