By Erin Glover-Frey, Esq.
Everyone wants a beautiful lawn and landscaping plan for their home and to look out and see another beautiful landscape across the street. That is one of the primary benefits of living in a deed-restricted community such as an HOA. The HOA and its Architectural Review Committee or “ARC” make sure that every keeps up their homes’ exterior and landscaping. One great way to make sure that everyone’s landscaping looks great is to follow a Florida Friendly Landscape or “FFL” plan. But what is that?
The central doctrine of FFL is “Right Plant, Right Place.” If the natural terrain and conditions are correct for the particular plant, then that plant will require less water, less fertilizer, less pesticides, and generally be healthier and look better. In other words, don’t plant a shade plant in full sun and don’t plant something that likes wet soil on a sandy dune. Florida native plants are encouraged, but not required. Even turf grass, the standard for water-consuming suburban lawns, can be incorporated into a FFL. The other goals of FFL are:
- Watering efficiently – mind the seasonal watering restrictions and use rain shut offs for sprinklers
- Fertilizing appropriately – lawns should only need fertilizer twice per year
- Attracting non-nuisance wildlife like birds or butterflies
- Managing pests with insect-resistant plants
- Mulching to retain moisture in the soil
- Recycling natural resources – capture rain water for irrigation or compost yard waste
- Preventing storm-water run off – efficient watering and rain water catchment prevents pollutants from being washed into the river or ocean
- Protecting the waterfront – natural plantings on retention ponds prevent erosion
Florida Law states that Homeowner’s Associations may not prohibit an owner from installing a Florida Friendly Landscape on his or her land. 720.3075(4), Florida Statutes and 373.185, Florida Statutes. But that does not mean that the ARC has no say in the matter. ARCs can still require approval prior to installation of a Florida Friendly Landscape and can prohibit certain plants for legitimate reasons. Just because a plant is native to Florida – like sandspurs — does not mean it should be in your neighborhood. FFL also does not mean that the owner can allow the land to “go back to nature.” ARCs can still require that a FFL be neat and manicured.
HOAs can also install FFLs in the common areas, which will reduce the Association’s costs for irrigation, fertilizer, pesticide and landscapers. Owners and ARCs should work together to ensure that the proposed landscapes both honor the goals of the Florida Friendly Landscaping laws and maintain a consistent, neat and attractive scheme of development in the community.