Preparing Landscape for Hurricanes: How to Minimize the Damage

Preparing landscape for hurricanes Florida

Hurricane preparedness is basic knowledge for every Florida resident. Weather is something that must be taken seriously, and the potential for hurricanes is a given, from Key West to Pensacola, St. Augustine to Miami. Landscape hurricane damage can be as devastating as the destruction caused to buildings, but you can take some steps to minimize the effects of hurricane-force winds, protracted heavy rainfall and storm surge. That’s not to say that other types of weather don’t have an effect on your landscape, but dealing with a tropical storm that might reach hurricane force is an event that requires special preparations.

Preparing Landscape for Hurricanes

Landscape hurricane damage Tampa BayThere are some simple steps that an owner or building manager can employ to prepare a landscape for the onslaught of severe weather, although there is no magic formula to prevent all damage. Any good landscape plan will provide for routine drainage through swales or ponding areas. Prior to a hurricane, it is wise to check that no debris or impediments exist and that excess water will drain off as planned and as quickly as possible.

In addition, be aware that hurricane-force winds can send potted plants, benches and garden art flying. Preparing landscape for hurricanes should include moving potted plants to shelter, along with storing lawn and patio furniture, umbrellas and awnings in secured areas. By using established safety precautions for hurricane-prone regions, you will ensure that you have done everything possible to protect property and life. It is better to use mulch instead of pea gravel, lava rock or small stones in the landscape. Blowing mulch might create a mess if tossed about by the wind, but it will cause less damage than a spray of pebbles!

Plan Ahead for Tropical Weather Patterns

The best preparation for minimizing potential hurricane damage to your landscape begins with the initial landscape plan. Work with professionals to take advantage of their knowledge of local plants as well as local weather patterns. An experienced landscape designer will consider prevailing wind patterns, soil conditions, seasonal weather, and surrounding buildings and obstacles before turning a single spadeful of dirt.

It’s important not only to plan for a mix of materials, but also to choose materials and plants that can withstand wind, water, salt spray if you’re in a coastal area, and perhaps the standing water of semi-flood conditions. Preparing landscape for hurricanes is not an exact science, and no landscape is completely stormproof, but good advice is available. Take advantage of it. Large-scale site-specific landscape design is a specialty of ASI Landscape. Our experienced design teams serve the entire state and will work with you to design and install a landscape that can withstand serious Florida weather conditions.

Hurricane season comes every year, and although hurricanes will never be considered “normal,” in Florida, the possibility always exists that one will make landfall in our state. There are some basic principles at play.

Plant the Right Trees in the Right Place

When planning your landscape, it’s prudent to select plants and trees that are well-suited for the area and for possible severe weather. Some landscapers talk about “sacrificers” and “endurers.” Royal palms, as an example, will shed some fronds before winds become strong enough to rip them off. After a hurricane, a still-standing tree will grow new fronds. Cypress trees, on the other hand, are known for their ability to bend with high winds and spring upright afterwards. Typically, they shed only a few leaves. Other trees good for Florida landscapes include the mango, sapodilla, live oak, mahogany and tamarind.

Consider the tree’s root system as well as its mature height. Dig a deep hole and backfill with good soil; give the roots room to spread and become strong. Do not plant a tree too close to a wall or sidewalk or in spots where they might interfere with power lines or structures as they grow.

Choose Shrubs and Grasses Carefully; Plant Strategically

Use similar good judgment and common sense when planning low shrubbery and flowering plants. Select background greenery, flowering shrubs and grasses that can handle heavy rain and thrive in moist conditions, as well as tolerate occasional drought. Sea spray and salt can be problematic in coastal areas. Flooding and prolonged standing water are sure to accompany severe storms.

Good plants for landscapes in most parts of the state include holly and Indian hawthorn, ligustrum, camellia, aucuba or Japanese laurel and pittosporum. These are just a few suggestions, and the landscape design specialists at ASI Landscape Management will also have valuable ideas about how to integrate effective hardscape features into a green landscape to withstand potential hurricane damage.

With proper turfgrass to promote necessary drainage, your landscape will be better able to survive Florida’s unusual weather, even a hurricane.

Minimize Landscape Hurricane Damage

The three major threats of a hurricane are the extreme winds, storm surge and inland flooding, according to the National Weather Service. By working with a professional designer to mitigate the effects of wind and water on your plants and hardscape, it’s possible to minimize potential damage from devastating storms. A well-planned landscape should be relatively easy to clean up following a storm, and hardy plants will recover quickly.

Maintaining the landscape in top condition during normal times is key to surviving a serious storm. Again, it all starts with planning, and it depends, at least partially, on the quality of ongoing care and maintenance.

Trim and Prune Properly When Preparing Landscape for Hurricanes

Every landscape requires routine care and maintenance to look its best, including periodic trimming and pruning. In most cases, there is little need to perform additional specific work to prepare for a coming hurricane. It is wise, however, to check for dead branches, hanging palm fronds, or other landscape elements that could become airborne projectiles in hurricane-force winds.

The best method of preparing landscape for hurricanes is to keep it well-maintained and healthy year-round. Healthy trees and shrubs are better able to withstand potential damage and will recover more quickly than neglected plants. An annual maintenance contract with a respected company like ASI Landscape Management offers the best insurance possible to minimize landscape hurricane damage.

ASI Landscape Management offers a comprehensive approach to all your landscape planning, installation and maintenance needs. With offices in both Tampa and Orlando, our team is well-equipped to work throughout the state, and we have experienced landscape designers, arborists and horticulturists who will work with you to assure that your finished landscape is exactly what you wanted.

Why not contact us now to schedule a consultation? It’s the perfect time to discuss how to minimize hurricane landscape damage.

Mark Almeda

As the VP of Operations at ASI Landscape Management, Mark Almeda holds the company's horticulture license and is consistently focused on continuing education. He regularly attends classes to maintain the most current industry standards, along with overseeing crews, fleet, equipment, and contracts. He has 20 years of experience, from crew member to management to company partner.