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Florida Water Star Technical Manual

Landscape criteria

General practices for a Florida Water Star landscape design

Plant installation best practices


The quality of a plant’s installation can greatly affect its establishment and long-term health. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) provides the following plant installation instructions.

Plant Installation Guidelines
Adapted from Florida Friendly Best Management Practices for
Protection of Water Resources by the Green Industries
(Source: DEP)

Before digging the hole, (1) remove all soil from above the topmost root, and (2) measure the distance between the topmost root and the bottom of the root ball. Dig the hole about 10% shallower than this depth and as wide as possible (at least one and a half times the width of the ball and even wider in compacted soils). The root ball should be positioned in the hole shallowly enough so that the finished grade of the backfill soil and landscape soil is lower than the top of the root ball. In other words, leave the upper portion of the sides of the root ball exposed to the air. Then apply mulch so that it covers the sides of the root ball. Be sure that when you are finished planting, there is NO SOIL, and little or no mulch, over the top of the root ball. Soil (as well as thick mulch layers more than 3 or 4 in. deep) over the root ball can prevent water and air from entering the root ball.

When finished planting, you should be able to see the topmost root in the root ball originating from the trunk at the soil surface. In other words, the trunk flare (root flare) should be visible. Soil should be packed firmly between the root ball and existing soil to eliminate air pockets where roots can dry out. Air pockets can be removed when planting large specimens by inserting a running hose between the root ball-soil interface several times until all the soil settles around the root ball.

Requirements and certification

All plants are installed according to Florida Green Industry best practices.







The landscape installer must attest to the use of the aforementioned DEP plant installation guidelines, by signing the affidavit that is available within the Florida Water Star landscape design resources. A signed affidavit must be submitted to the Inspector prior to certification. The Inspector is responsible for submitting this document via e-Certification.

Program tip

If plants are not installed according to these required practices, reinstallation might be required. Florida Water Star Inspectors should refer landscape designers to the DEP plant installation guidelines document, upon initial contact.

St. Johns River Water Management District
4049 Reid Street, Palatka, FL 32177