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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Good news for your utility bills and the environment: New University of Florida research shows that landscape shrubs need much less water to establish healthy roots than you might expect.
“We finally have our irrigation recommendations for establishing shrubs backed up with science. We need less irrigation than many people think,” said Ed Gilman, a UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences environmental horticulture professor who led the research study.
The six-year study’s objective was to determine how best to irrigate shrubs during “establishment” — the 20- to 28-week period when shrubs’ roots grow until the plant can survive without irrigation.
The research examined irrigation frequency and volume on the quality, survival and growth rates of three-gallon, container-grown shrubs. Plants were examined in Fort Lauderdale, Balm, Apopka and Citra, locations that span three water management districts in Florida and have varied growing conditions.
Some of the state’s most popular ornamental shrubs were evaluated, including both native and non-native species, such as yaupon holly and gardenia.
“One of the results that we noted was that there are no differences between native and non-native species for amount of water required for establishment, “Gilman said. “This often surprises people, but it emphasizes that the Florida-friendly principle — right plant, right place — is worth following.”
Florida-friendly gardening means planting that accounts for site conditions, maintenance needs and local climate. Such landscapes may use both native and non-native plants, as long as the non-native plants aren’t an invasive species. (more …)