Landscape criteria

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Florida Water Star landscape efficiency practices focus on the design and installation of landscapes that contain site-appropriate plants which are selected and grouped according to similar environmental needs. Specifically, plants are grouped into hydrozones, which are distinct groups of plants with similar watering needs and climatic requirements.

The practices specified in this Florida Water Star manual provide detailed information for designing hydrozones and implementing other water-efficient landscaping practices, resulting in sustainable landscapes that effectively thrive over the long term. These practices are consistent with the principles of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping program.

Although many landscape design practices today encourage landscaping that appears mature at the time of installation, this “instant landscape” look leads to greater competition among plants and results in plant stress and higher watering and maintenance requirements. Florida Water Star landscaping criteria result in sustainable landscapes that provide many benefits while conserving the greatest possible amount of water.

Sustainable landscapes promote ecosystem services, such as natural stormwater treatment, and provide for aesthetics and ecological diversity. While landscape designs vary widely across the state, they are most sustainable when designed with plant species that are appropriate to the landscape’s specific site conditions. When designed with water efficiency in mind, sustainable landscapes demand less supplemental irrigation, maintenance and nutrient applications and, in turn, have less stormwater runoff — all of which is important to protecting the quantity and quality of Florida’s water resources.

Florida Water Star encourages use of site appropriate, drought-tolerant plants that survive without rainfall or irrigation for short periods. Most plants are drought-tolerant after establishment if planted in the right conditions; i.e., succulents survive droughts in xeric soils, while wetland plants survive droughts in hydric soils. The practices described in this manual are intended to guide the applicant through the process of planning a water-efficient, Florida Water Star landscape.

Landscape criteria are divided as follows: