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Florida Ornamentals and Supplemental Irrigation

While Florida is generally considered to be a swampy, moist state; even we have certain times of the year when our moisture levels begin to dry out. Spring is Central Florida’s driest season of the year. During this time, it is important to check your irrigation systems and recalibrate as necessary to ensure that your landscape is getting the needed water around your tree and shrub root systems. Specifically if you have Florida ornamentals in your yard such as Ligustrum, Bottlebrush, and Orchid trees.

The Florida Dry Season

Typically, we Floridians begin to notice rain drop off by mid-October. And while rain levels do indeed slow quite a bit at this time of year, our soil has adapted to hold moisture levels well into mid to late February. This is partly due to our state’s lower sea levels, and partly due to our plant life slowing down during the winter season. Because of this, many homeowners typically do not need additional irrigation during is time. In fact, depending on your specific location and soil conditions, many homeowners can turn off their irrigation entirely during these months.

However, by early spring, the soil has been drying for several months. Plant life is beginning to awaken for their yearly growth phase. And many varieties of grasses, shrubs, and trees will be ready to begin higher uptake of water to kick-start their new yearly growth season. During this time, it is highly recommended to make sure your soil retains the proper moisture levels so that your landscape has what it needs to thrive.

Ornamentals Often Need Supplemental Irrigation In The Spring

Florida native plant life is highly adapted to our yearly cycles. And purposefully selecting native plants that work best in your specific environment goes a long way towards keeping them happy and healthy. However, ornamental plant varieties common in Florida yards often need supplemental irrigation in the spring to ensure they’re properly saturated and ready for their yearly growth phase. This is mostly because these ornamentals typically hold less water reserves throughout the year as compared to heartier species like Live Oaks. They also tend to grow quickly and have higher water uptake requirements when they begin their yearly growth cycle. So, making sure your soil is properly hydrated before the beginning of their growth phase can go a long way towards giving them their best start to the season.

Tips For Proper Watering

It is important to understand that every area is different. Sandier soils may require more irrigation than low-lying, organic-rich environments. So, get to know your specific circumstances before deciding your irrigation schedule. Many cities will provide watering recommendations based on your area. And while these are good guidelines to consider, keep in mind that you may need to adjust your specific watering schedule based on the conditions in your immediate area. No two yards are exactly the same!

Ensure that your coverage area gives the proper saturation level around the entire root system of your ornamentals. Simply laying a water hose at the base of your tree or shrub is not enough. Root systems can vary greatly in size based on soil conditions, proximity to objects or other plant life, or simply the genetics of the specific species. So, make sure that the entire area surrounding the ornamental is receiving proper irrigation.

Many modern irrigation systems include rain or soil moisture sensors. Check to make sure they are in good condition and operating correctly. Soil sensors specifically are great tools to get to know your yard’s conditions throughout the year. Many of these sensors can tell you the current saturation level of your soil, the soil’s ground temperature, and some even provide average evaporation speeds over the course of the month. Armed with this information, you can more closely monitor your yard’s specific needs at the appropriate times. Most importantly, rain and soil sensors can stop your irrigation system from operating if additional water is not currently needed. Save water, save money!

Final Thoughts

Keep in mind, many varieties of ornamental trees and shrubs drop their leaves during the winter season. And while it can be annoying to constantly rake your yard over the last few months, the leaf drop is normal. So don’t confuse leaf drop as the tree or shrub needing more water. This is just part of the natural cycle. But don’t worry, summer is approaching, and the leaf-covered yards are nearly done for the season. Hooray!


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