Caring for Trees in your Florida Garden
- By: Cheli Scott
- Date: Dec 15 2022
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Caring for trees in your Florida garden
The sunshine state is a great place to grow anything with fertile soil and lots of sun so we’ve collected some tips on caring for trees in your Florida garden! Trees are wonderful for the environment and a beautiful addition to your yard.
Choosing and planting trees is a fun project that will improve your landscape design. Trees add shade and create a wildlife habitat, as well as cleaning the air and producing oxygen. Additionally, mature trees can add as much as 19% to your property value.
Tips for planting trees
There are a number of things to ask yourself when selecting trees for your garden. First, you will want to consider if the tree is good for your area. Perform a soil test at your local extension office before planting trees to determine the pH of your soil. You will also want to consider the size of the tree and its root system at its full size. Some trees may not work for a small backyard or an area close to a walkway where roots can break through.
It is important before planting trees to consider the spread of tree roots so that they don’t damage any underground gas, water, or sewer lines. You will also want to check for these utility lines before you dig by calling 811 in Florida.
Consider if the tree you are choosing will drop leaves in the fall or fruit. For example, you may not want to plant a tree that will drop leaves where they will collect on your car windshield or unwanted fruit on your sidewalk. Since Florida is prone to hurricanes you will also want to research whether the tree you are choosing is sturdy enough to handle your conditions.
The best time to plant trees in the fall so they will be established the following summer. Soil in fall is still warm, while the air is cool, creating a mild environment for the tree roots to take hold.
Be sure to research whether or not your tree is right for the location you choose. Some trees have different soil, light, and drainage requirements.
Ensure the root flare is visible when you plant trees. The hole should be broad and shallow, only as deep as the root ball.
Confirm the tree is straight. You may need to enlist the help of a friend or family member to make sure the tree is properly aligned before you fill in the hole.
Caring for newly planted trees
Once your Florida trees are planted, there are some things you can do to ensure they grow properly.
It is generally recommended to avoid using stakes to hold up your trees if possible. Trees develop stronger trunks if they are not staked. If you feel you need to stake your trees do to high wind be sure to remove the stakes after one year.
Water your newly planted trees once a week until fall, when you can slow down watering for winter.
You will want to put two inches of mulch down around your tree, being sure not to pile it up around the trunk. Mulch insulates the soil for your tree roots, protecting them from extreme weather. It also keeps moisture in the earth so that your tree roots can absorb it instead of letting it evaporate. The best time to apply mulch is in the middle of spring. Be sure to rake old mulch to prevent compaction that will keep moisture and nutrients from getting to the root ball.
After planting you will need to prune any branches that may have been damaged by travel, but hold off on decorative pruning for a season.
Caring for tree roots
Tree root systems can be four times the size of a trees canopy so being aware of where you plant your tree is essential to root care. Choose a location that can accommodate a wide root system so you will not have to damage it by cutting roots later on or remove the tree all together.
Barriers can also help prevent problematic roots from damaging septic systems and other utilities. When you plant trees install a root barrier 18-24 inches around the root ball.
In order to help your tree develop deep roots you will want to water your tree deeply once or twice a week. Research your individual trees watering needs to adjust the amount or schedule.
Seasonal tree care
Trees need some maintenance to thrive, but most of it is done a few times a year. Trees should be fertilized in spring or fall. Prune trees in late winter and early spring. You should research how to prune your individual trees or reach out to a landscaping service for professional help. Most pruning can be done by you, but for larger trees you may need to call a service.
Types of trees for Florida
There are hundreds of different tree species that grow in Florida, so you have endless options to choose from. Whether you want a tree for shade, flowers, or fruit there are so many options it can be overwhelming! We’ve collected some of the most popular ones that do well in Florida’s conditions.
If you have plenty of space, live oaks are iconic Florida trees with large, elegant branches you often see draped with Spanish moss. They make excellent shade trees with beautiful, full canopies.
Live oaks require full sun and a considerable amount of space for their large root systems. Branches can expand out to as much as 100 feet! They are not a tree you would want to plant close to your home.
One benefit of live oaks is that they don’t require a lot of maintenance, however they do need to be regularly watered while they are becoming established. Once your live oak is established you will only need to prune dead branches and keep an eye out for diseases to keep it maintained.
Citrus trees are both beautiful when fruiting and flowering and make an excellent addition to a Florida garden. They have pretty, fragrant flowers that bloom in the springtime and come in a wide variety. These trees are a slightly more challenging tree to maintain than for example, a live oak, but even a beginner gardener can successfully grow citrus trees.
Since they are a temperature sensitive plant that can easily be damaged by frost, you will need to live in central or south Florida where it doesn’t freeze to grow them in the ground.
However, many citrus trees can be planted in pots that can be moved inside for brief freezes if you live in north Florida. Citruses like cumquats, lemons, and limes make beautiful potted plants. Potted citrus plants require regular watering and fertilizing, and a little proper pruning to remove lower branches and new growth to retain their shape.
Young citrus trees soil needs to be fertilized regularly with a citrus specific fertilizer and like to be planted in full sun. Prune frost damage and diseased leaves regularly. You will also want to prune the tree canopy to allow for easy access to your fruit.
There are many options to choose when picking a citrus tree, from the simple orange to more exotic tangelos. Valencia oranges are the classic juicing oranges, but there are other types of oranges to choose from including Navel and Hamlin. Tangerines are also tasty citrus fruits you can grow in Florida, which have a sweeter flavor than oranges. Whatever type of fruit you purchase, The University of Florida suggests buying your citrus trees only from certified nurseries in the state.
Crape myrtles are a stunning flowering tree that is known for it’s beautiful, lush blooms in a variety of colors. The blooms last as long as 100 days, making it a wonderfully showy tree. It’s extremely hardy which makes it a popular choice for Florid landscapes.
They are also a very versatile plant for a gardener with less space to work with, coming in dwarf varieties that are as small as four feet, intermediate varieties that are around 12 feet, and the largest over 20 feet. It’s important to plant trees that are the right size for their location, since that will greatly reduce the amount of maintenance needed to care for them. These trees prefer slightly acidic soil, but will tolerate most conditions.
Crape myrtles have problems with few natural diseases and need little pruning when sized appropriately for their location. If they are planted over walkways, you may want to prune them away so blooms don’t collect underneath. However, you want to prune your crape myrtles only when necessary as over pruning trees can cause significant damage to the plant.
Southern magnolia trees are an elegant, classic tree that elevate any landscape. They are large trees that produce big off white blossoms with a beautiful scent. Their dark, evergreen foliage fit nicely into any color scheme.
These trees will need a lot of space to grow with broad canopies and a lot of leaf drop, so careful site selection is essential. The University of Florida suggests planting magnolias in beds rather than on lawns due to their leaf shed and surface roots. They can be grown in full sun or shade, but keep in mind they are a very large tree and will need space.
Magnolia trees need little pruning unless you want to shape them into a more pleasing shape which makes them relatively low maintenance. Leaf litter will need to be raked occasionally. They like well drained, but moist soil.
There are magnolia varieties that can be grown in pots. Magnolia trees grow very slowly so dwarf magnolias will grown in pots for almost twenty years before they would reach a height that would make them unmanageable.
There are two kind of maple trees that grow well in Florida, the Florida maple and the Red maple. While they are slightly different trees from one another, both make a beautiful addition to a woodland yard and don’t require extensive trimming.
Florida maples are a fast growing, large tree whose leaves change a pretty color red before falling in the winter. If you are a fan of color change with the seasons Florida maples are the trees for you. These trees are ideal for a large to intermediate yard. They don’t have a huge branch reach, but they do lose their leaves in the winter and will need to be raked. Maples also sometimes have surface roots, so care needs to be taken when mowing.
Red maple trees are a lovely blooming, large tree with bright red leaves in the fall. The fruits they produce attract birds and their large round crowns are make excellent wildlife habitats as well as being very attractive. Red maple trees do well in wet soil, so if you have a well draining yard you will need to provide proper irrigation systems for them to thrive.
Bananas are a fun fruit to grow in Florida. They are both yummy and have attractive, tropical looking foliage. There are fruiting varieties of bananas and ornamental ones that are not edible, so be sure to choose carefully.
These trees like a warm climate, but if you live in north Florida you can still enjoy ornamental bananas by choosing a variety that is cold hardy. If you live in a cooler area leaves will die back in the winter, but will return in the spring. Bananas grow best in moist fertile soil and need to be fertilized and watered frequently, so they do require a bit of maintenance to produce the most fruit.
Bald cypress are fascinating trees that can live up to 600 years. These trees can be massive, growing as tall as 100 feet. They produce knees when planted near water. They can get as wide as six feet. So choosing an appropriate location for your tree is essential.
While they prefer wet soil and growing near water, bald cypress will tolerate dry conditions with a bit of extra maintenance. Water them regularly. Mulch around the base of the tree to preserve moisture in the soil. They really shine, however, planted next to a river or pond.
Bald cypress do not need any pruning to encourage healthy growth and form a pyramid shaped, lush crown of needles. They lose them in fall after turning orange. They are relatively low maintenance trees once they are fully established and withstand flooding well.
Enjoy your healthy trees
As you can see, there are a number of trees you can successfully grow in your Florida garden all on your own. Trees improve your curb appeal, while making your home more enjoyable and are an excellent DIY gardening project. However, when working with large trees, there are going to be some issues you will need to get help from a professional.