Embracing Xeriscaping: Navigating sustainability in Jacksonville's subtropical climate.

We often hear clients say they would like a Xeric landscape. Xeric Landscaping uses slow-growing, drought-tolerant plants to conserve water and establish a waste-efficient landscape. The word "xeriscape" is derived from the Greek "xeros," meaning dry, and "scape," a kind of view or scene. In sub-tropical Northeast Florida, our climate is not arid enough for a classic Xeric garden. But we can adapt our plant choices to achieve the same visual and water conservation results.

Xeriscaping can be adapted to this region to optimize water use, even with the occasional deluge of rain. This article will explore the benefits of adapting xeriscaping to Jacksonville's subtropical climate and provide insights into tailored plant selections and practices for sustainable and striking landscapes.


Water Management in a Subtropical Context 

Jacksonville's subtropical climate can sometimes bring abundant rainfall and the occasional dry spell. Adapting xeriscaping for this context means choosing drought-tolerant plants capable of handling occasional heavy rain. Zoning plants according to their water needs remains crucial. Still, the focus shifts to selecting species that can thrive in wet and dry conditions. This adaptable approach conserves water during drier periods and prevents overwatering during rainy spells.

Basic Principles of Xeriscaping

Water Conservation #1 reason

Soil Improvement To conserve water, the soil needs to retain moisture and have excellent drainage

Limited Turf usage minimizes lawn area and uses turf varieties that require less water

Efficient Irrigation: top two methods to use when irrigating your garden include drip-irrigation systems and soaker hoses

Capture rainwater runoff: use rain barrels or an underground water retention system

Mulch is able to retain the moisture levels and temperature of the soil. 

Drought-tolerant plants. Native plants also minimize water usage since they are used to the natural amount of rainfall we get in Florida

Proper Maintenance: don’t; cut your turf too short, it won't be able to retain moisture

Environmental Resilience and Flexibility

Embracing xeriscaping in a subtropical zone aligns with the goal of ecological resilience. Native plants that have evolved to endure the region's fluctuations can thrive in xeric landscapes. They support local biodiversity, attract native wildlife, and contribute to the ecosystem's equilibrium. Furthermore, xeriscaping's water-efficient design reduces the risk of soil erosion and nutrient runoff during heavy rains, promoting a healthier environment overall.

Example of landscape design minimizing turf and using Florida natives to conserve water.

Cost-Efficiency and Visual Appeal

Adapting xeriscaping to Jacksonville's subtropical climate reaps several rewards. Homeowners can experience significant cost savings by reducing water usage and maintenance efforts. The strategic use of mulch remains important to regulate soil moisture during varying weather patterns. Additionally, the diverse palette of drought-tolerant plants can create visually appealing landscapes that thrive regardless of the weather, enhancing the region's natural beauty.

Plant Choices for Jacksonville's Subtropical Xeriscaping

Incorporating the right plants is vital to a successful xeriscaping project in Jacksonville. Choose plants that offer the dual advantage of drought tolerance and the ability to handle periods of heavy rainfall. Native grasses can effectively absorb excess water while also enduring dry conditions. With its deep roots, Sunshine Mimosa adapts well to fluctuating water levels. Here are some perfect plants for a Northeast Florida water-conscious landscape.

Fakahatchee Grass


A Florida native grass that is drought tolerant but able to deal with those rainy summer days here in N.E. FL. It is somewhat salt tolerant as well and likes full sun. Many grasses are considered drought tolerant and are perfect for xeriscaping. Others include Pampas, Fountain, Muhly, and Cord grasses

Sunshine Mimosa


This is also known as the powderpuff mimosa, because of its distinctive pink flowers that resemble little fiber-optic puffs. It has deep roots, so once you get it established, it requires very little maintenance. A mature plant can spread as much as 12 inches in a day, providing excellent ground cover. It can even be mixed with grass and mowed without damage.



Its sunny, daisylike flowers are beautiful and great for butterflies and pollinators. Once it is established, it’s sun- and drought-tolerant. A mature plant will re-seed itself, which means you don’t just have it once, you have it all the time. Fun fact: The coreopsis is Florida’s state wildflower.



Commonly known as the beach sunflower, this cheerful, low-growing plant has bright, sunflowerlike blooms. A mature plant can cover several feet in diameter, so it makes great ground cover. It will attract many species of butterflies.

Agave & Yucca


Few plants can match the bold and dramatic landscape impact of agave and yucca, both excellent choices for truly low maintenance low water gardening. These amazingly tough plants endure the extremes, hot sun, sandy soil, dry conditions, and salty spots with elegance and style.



Also known as the blanket flower, it has distinctive bright orange and red flowers. It is highly salt-tolerant, prefers sunny locations, and it will seed itself. As an added bonus, the pretty blossoms can last a long time in flower arrangements.

Embracing xeriscaping in Jacksonville's subtropical climate presents a sustainable approach to Landscaping that harmonizes with the local environment's dynamics. Residents can optimize water usage and contribute to conservation efforts by selecting plants that can handle wet and dry conditions. The resilience of native flora, reduced maintenance demands, and cost savings underscore the value of this landscaping method. As Jacksonville continues to evolve, let us embrace xeriscaping as a pathway to a more sustainable and resilient future, celebrating the beauty that thrives in harmony with the subtropical climate.


Freshening up an old tired landscape

around some very good bones.

Join 'The Pond Guy,' Jason Duffney, in Marsh Landing as he describes the transformation of a landscape affected by a harsh winter. Witness the blend of modern redesign while preserving gems like the Bismarck and Pindo palms. In just a few months, see a tired landscape updated, thus improving the home's overall curb appeal. Dive into this inspiring before-and-after journey!

Click on the video below to see the full-length video transformation.

Beat the heat with a garden display full of

unique sun-loving plants.

The choices are endless for these collectible plants. They are all truly thrillers! Their unique shapes, colors, and blooms make them perfect stand-alone stars.

Plant one per pot, then group them in a series of coordinating containers. Or combine a few of your favorites and let them do their thing.

  1. Cordyline Red Sensation Very easy to grow in virtually any location. Deep red-burgundy sword-like leaves make this an outstanding choice as a focal point.
  2. Crown of Thorns This flowering succulent loves the sun but can do great as a houseplant. Planted in the ground, it can grow quite large. Protect from a freeze.
  3. Aptenia Variegated or Baby Sun Rose is a trailing succulent perfect for spilling over the edges of your pot. They also make a great groundcover option.
  4. Stapelia Gigantica This unique succulent is known for having one of the largest flowers in the plant kingdom. Although the blooms are beautiful, their common name, "Carrion Flower," suggests you might not want to give them a sniff.
  5. Aloe Vera is not just beautiful when it shoots up striking red spikes that are sure to thrill. Break off a leaf and use the gell-like sap to ease sunburns and insect bites!
  6. Mangave Blazing Saddles This amazing hybrid was designed to be a star in any landscape! A cross between Agave and Manfreda, the resulting spotted leaves and rosette shape make it simply gorgeous.
Shop This Recipe


Tackling chinch bugs in St. Augustine grass:

a Floridian challenge

St. Augustine grass, a thick, lush green carpet, is the pride of many Floridian yards. However, these beautiful lawns are threatened by tiny but destructive intruders:

Chinch Bugs.

Who Are Chinch Bugs?

Southern chinch bugs (Blissus insularis) are small insects, typically 1/5 inch long, with black bodies and white wings folded over their backs. Their life cycle is rapid, with adults capable of producing several generations during the warm months, making their potential for destruction relatively high.

Conditions They Like

Chinch bugs love warm weather, making Florida a perfect environment. They thrive in hot, dry conditions and are active from spring until late fall. They are particularly fond of St. Augustine grass due to its high water content and nutritional value.

How to Identify Them

Chinch bugs suck the sap out of grass blades, then inject toxins into the blades, causing them to yellow, wither, and die, creating patches of dead grass. Unlike drought-affected areas, these patches won't recover with watering. If your lawn has irregular, expanding yellow patches, chinch bugs may be the culprits.

Push a bottomless metal can into the yellowing turf to confirm its presence, fill it with water, and wait ten minutes. If chinch bugs are present, they will float to the surface.

lawn with a chinch bug infestation

chinch bug

How to Treat Them

Prevention is the first line of defense. Regular watering, fertilization, and mowing at the correct height can keep your lawn healthy and less susceptible to chinch bug infestations.

If you find an infestation, it's crucial to act swiftly. Insecticides labeled for chinch bugs are available and should be applied according to their instructions. Often, it's most effective to treat the whole lawn rather than just affected areas, as chinch bugs can move quickly across your yard.

Consider contacting a professional pest control service for severe infestations to ensure the problem is dealt with effectively.

Gray Leaf Spot is still out there.

Along with chinch bugs, gray leaf spot is prevalent in Jacksonville lawns.

It can be caused by anything which stresses the turf. Here are a few things you should do if you see signs of Gray Leaf Spots:

1. Avoid using post-emergent weed killers when the disease is active.

2. Moderate nitrogen fertilizer usage.

3. Promote air circulation and light penetration in your lawn. Prune overhanging trees and surrounding shrubs.

4. Mow with sharp blades when the grass is dry, and at the right height, then bag and discard grass clippings if the disease is evident.


Looking for a quick solution to a cloudy pond?

Join Rhonda from Earthworks as she introduces the Rapid Clear Flocculent — a magical product that binds to floating debris in your pond, causing it to sink to the bottom, leaving your water crystal clear. This is especially useful if you plan a nighttime gathering by your pond and wish to show off its clarity. Pair it with the Rapid Clear Fine Filter Pad for optimum results. Stop by to learn more about this and other pond problem solutions.

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Earth Works Gardens | earthworksjax.com |996-0712 | 12501 Beach Blvd.