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Prepare Your Plants for Winter

December isn’t the coldest month of the year for South Florida, but it is a good time to begin preparing your plants. You typically won’t have to contend with extreme cold or snow – unless there’s a freak storm – but there are precautions you need to observe with some of your landscape plants.


A good layer of mulch is beneficial at any time of the year. It aids in preserving moisture and provides protection for hardier plants.

Sensitive Plants

For those that are highly sensitive to temperature changes, be prepared to make room for them in your house. Depending on the plant, a garage may also provide sufficient protection. This is easy to do if they’re in containers. If bringing them in to a warmer environment isn’t feasible, temporarily cover them with a tarp if you experience a cold snap. Be sure to weigh it down at the bottom in case there’s a stiff breeze and uncover the plant the next day or when the temperature warms enough.


Pruning during the “cold” time of the year when trees and shrubs are dormant is the best practice. For flowering trees and bushes that don’t bloom in the spring, January is the best time for pruning. It’s also a good time to prune deciduous fruit trees such as Asian pears, peach and plum.


If you’ve managed to successfully cultivate roses, the early months of the year is best for trimming and pruning. After trimming, a light application of fertilizer is a good idea and be sure to mulch. The mulch will help keep fertilizer in place and retain moisture.

Flower Beds

You can plant cold tolerant annuals such as pansy, petunia, snapdragons, and dianthus during this time. If you decide to enter plants that have bulbs, be sure to add a layer of mulch. Be aware that bulbous plants will require routine watering to help them get established.

Vegetable Gardening

You can still enjoy fresh veggies during the winter. Many cold hardy vegetables can be grown such as carrots, cabbage and cauliflower, along with some potato varieties. Be prepared to cover them if there’s a cold snap.

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Fruita author and landscaper renowned for work on crevice gardens

Grassless Lawns

A lush, green lawn is a point of pride for many South Florida residents. However, everyone isn’t a fan of the constant rounds of mowing, fertilizing and watering. You can still have a stunning landscape without the grass. Depending on the type of design you choose, it can conserve water, reduce your water bill, and utilize a variety of materials.

Artificial Turf

This is an elegant solution if you want to eliminate mowing, fertilizing and watering. The turf remains green year-round and won’t die. There’s a lower cost for upkeep and it’s much more tolerant of wear and tear than traditional grass.

Low Moisture Groundcovers

With groundcovers, the plants are free to roam throughout a traditional lawn area. They don’t have to be mowed, many groundcover plants produce a bounty of colorful blooms, and they have very low water requirements. They fill spaces between trees and can provide habitat for native pollinators.

Rock and Glass

An increasing number of people are choosing to landscape their environments with natural stone, lave rocks, and colored class – or a combination of all 3. Most designs feature beds with miniature junipers or similar evergreens, surrounded by rock or glass. There are dozens of sizes and colors from which to choose. The designs are often complemented by colorful pavers to minimize grassy areas.

Gravel Gardens

Designs that feature gravel gardens are becoming more popular. Different sizes, shapes, colors, and textures of gravel take the place of grass. They’re often accompanied by hardscapes of fountains, statuary, pergolas and arbors.

Desert Oasis

This type of landscape can utilize the strategic planting of decorative grasses, and succulents that require little moisture, interspersed within the rocks.

Cottage Garden

Instead of grass, some are choosing to create yard-sized cottage gardens. They have a wild look and combine a variety of different types of plants in varying heights and textures. Mulch plays an integral role in these designs.

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TCU Facilities Keeps the Campus Grounds Beautiful … Through Drought and Storm

Lawn Care in Winter

The winter months provide a respite from the tasks of lawn care. However, a healthy spring lawn begins with the proper preparation in the autumn. That means having your irrigation system inspected, leaving lawns longer, and ceasing fertilizing at the proper time.

Let it Grow

You won’t need to mow nearly as often. It’s recommended that you leave your lawn slightly longer than usual during the winter months. It will help protect roots if there’s a cold snap. Cold weather isn’t normally a problem, but it has occurred in the past. A large portion of South Florida lawns are Bahia or St. Austine grass. The best height is 3.5 to 4 inches. Other grasses should be maintained at a height of 2 to 2.5 inches.

Water Sparingly

Your lawn’s growth slows during the winter months and a healthy spring lawn depends on the care you give it now. You don’t have to worry about scorching due to heat, but your lawn will still require some moisture every 1 to 2 weeks. Be careful not to overwater. A good rule of thumb is to look for grass that retains your footprints. If you see your footprints, it’s time to water if you don’t have a programmable irrigation system.

Fertilize in February

Don’t fertilize your lawn unless it’s actively growing. Stop fertilizing in Sept. to Oct. Wait until spring to resume fertilizing, 2 weeks after you observe new growth, typically in February. Bear in mind that climate change can affect growth patterns.


It’s very possible that your lawn will begin to brown during the winter. The best solution is to overseed your lawn with a grass variety that does well during cooler months. It will provide the lush, green appearance you desire during the winter. Cooler weather grass will die off in time for the heat and humidity of summer when your normal lawn grass begins growing again.

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Work Around The Base

Plants That Can Survive a Cold Snap

South Florida rarely experiences cold temperatures, but cold snaps do occur. For instance, temperatures dropped to -2°F in 2009-2010. Since then, there’s been a move toward plants that are cold hardy. Bear in mind that even though many plants can tolerate lower temperatures, they may only be able to do so for a short period of time. That doesn’t mean they won’t sustain some damage below 30°F. Mulching will significantly help them survive. Bear in mind that “cold” is a relative term in your location.


The deciduous variety of the bush can easily withstand temperatures as low as -35°F.


The maximum low temperature a bougainvillea can survive is 40°F.

Crepe Myrtle

Most are hardy to temperatures of 0° to 10°F

Florida Maple

A deciduous tree, it’s able to withstand temperatures of -15°F without being mulched.


Some magnolia varieties can survive temperatures of 20°F to -10°F.

Perennial Morning Glory

They can sometimes survive a frost, depending on where they’re planted. Otherwise, they’re typically rated for maximum cold temps of 45°F.


Also known as lead wort, it can sustain temps of -20°F. An added bonus is that it typically blooms during autumn months.

Red Fountain Grass

The lowest minimum temperature that the grass is able to tolerate is 20°F


Masters of cold temperatures, the shrubs can easily survive temperatures of -35°F.


Also known as wild petunia, leaves will typically die back to the ground when temperatures drop into the 20s.


Depending on the species, sycamores can survive temps up to -30°F

Variegated Asiatic Jasmine

They’ve been known to survive temperatures of 0°F, but will die in temperatures lower than that.

Palms and Evergreens

There are a great number of palms that will survive colder temperatures than you might think. The same is true of evergreens. When purchasing plants, pay attention to the tags inserted in the pots. They’ll provide the information you need to know before buying a plant that’s destined to die if the weather turns frigid.

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Safe Ways to Discourage Defecating Dogs

Dogs have to be walked, but when the feces can ruin your lawn. Defecating dogs and inconsiderate humans continue to plague South Florida homeowners. It’s an ongoing problem and one that can discolor lawns, kill grass, and damage expensive landscapes. There are some safe and simple measures that you can take to aid in alleviating the problem.

How Dog Feces Affect Your Lawn

South Florida residents are proud of their lush, green lawns and work hard to maintain them. The nitrogen in dog feces causes lawn discoloration. Dogs will return to where they’ve previously relieved themselves. Feces in the same spot kills grass.

Fungi and Disease

Multiple types of fungi can grow where a dog relieves themselves. Some of those fungi are capable of spreading throughout the lawn. The fungi flourishes in environments rich in nitrogen and moisture from rain or high humidity levels. Dog waste can also carry bacteria, fungal, viral, and parasitic organisms that can be transmitted to humans.

Ways to Discourage Dogs

If you know who the culprit is, try speaking to them. Be calm and respectful. They may not realize or understand the damage being done. If that doesn’t yield results, you can try the following:

  • Use a scent repellent along your border such as vinegar, citrus or citronella- lavender plants are also a good repellent
  • Activate the sprinkler system
  • Keep the yard clean
  • Install signs and a motion sensor camera
  • Create a barrier by installing a fence

Bags and Receptacles

Many neighborhoods have installed pet waste disposal stations that provide bags for people to clean up after their canine, along with a receptacle to dispose of the waste. It eliminates the “I forgot a bag” excuse.

Be Prepared for Pushback

Pet owners are intensely loyal to their animals and will often defend against their activities, even when they know cleaning up after their canine is the right thing to do. If you can’t come to an equitable arrangement with your neighbor, the solution of last resort is to seek legal intervention.

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Outdoor Decorating and Etiquette for the Holidays

Tis the season for holiday decorating and that extends to outside plantings. There are some dos and don’ts of decorating plants that should be observed, along with etiquette that won’t start a feud with your neighbors.

Lights On Plants

Holiday lighting that remains cool to the touch is generally safe for plantings, whether it a tree or bush, but don’t use lights designated for indoor use outside. For delicate plants, try to limit the amount of light they receive. It’s never a good idea to string heavy lights on a young tree as it can damage limbs and buds.

A popular adornment is net lighting that can be draped over a bush.

Some ornamentation can be difficult to install and you may be tempted to leave it up year-round to avoid the hassle next year. Don’t given in to temptation. The cords on light strands can result in girdling on tree trunks that expand in size each year.

Decorating Etiquette

Holiday decorating has moved from the realm of restraint to productions worthy of a large budget Hollywood spectaculars. Dozens of people are featured on social media each year for their elaborate designs, lighting synchronized to music, and range of inflatables.

Illumination and Traffic

The glow from that many lights can be extremely annoying to neighbors, especially those of school age children. It can also result in an unwelcome and unsafe increase in traffic as people come to view the presentation.

Observe the Rules

Some homeowner’s association (HOAs) have very strict rules about the types of decoration that can be installed. All homeowners are well advised to check local ordinances to see if there are any restrictions.

Even more important, if you intend to have an elaborate holiday display, it’s a good idea to talk with neighbors first. Even if there are no ordinances against the display of your dreams, your neighbors may not appreciate it or be understanding. Be sure and turn it off at a reasonable time.

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Differentiating Shade Levels

Shade is a relative term for people. Plants take their shade requirements a little more seriously. Everyone has taken home a plant that required some form of shade, only they had miscalculated the level of shade in their landscape. The amount of shade must be determined accurately.

Doing so will guarantee that the plant flourishes as a unique specimen or fills in any areas where nothing seems to want to grow. You’ll be the recipient of distinctly colored and patterned foliage or brightly colored blossoms. It’s also important to remember that some plants will tolerate shady conditions that overlap one another.

Filtered Shade

In filtered shade, sunlight reaches the ground after being filtered through a canopy of tree leaves. It’s sometimes referred to as dappled sunlight. The pattern of light shifts throughout the day and doesn’t remain the same. Astilbe, fuchsia, impatiens, begonias and bleeding heart are good choices.

Partial Shade

A partial shade situation occurs when an area receives 2 to 4 hours of sun each day. Caladiums, coleus, hostas, primrose, hardy cyclamen, and lily of the valley will grow in these conditions.

Full Shade

You have full shade when an area receives less than 4 hours of direct sunlight per day due to dense tree canopies or building overhangs. Hostas like shade.

Deep/Dense Shade

This occurs when plants don’t receive any direct sun. The light they do receive is reflected or indirect. Primroses, lily of the valley, trilliums, coral bells, and foxglove are just some of the flowering plants that will tolerate deep shade.

Annuals and Perennials

A large number of shade loving plants tend to be perennials. Just plant them once and they return every year. However, for those that like the vibrant colors of annuals, there are also choices. Bear in mind that the light and shade requirements stated on plant tags provide optimal conditions. Many plants are able to adapt to other shade conditions – if it’s not a radical difference.

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african tulip tree

What is an African Tulip Tree?

The blossoms of the African tulip tree are visually stunning, but individuals should be warned that it has the potential to be very invasive. Typically used as a specimen tree, it will grow an average of 30 to 40 ft. in height. It can also be grown in containers, which will limit its growth and aids in preventing the spread of seeds.

The yellow to orange-red blossoms attract bees, birds and butterflies, but not other types of wildlife. It’s pollinated via birds and bats. The tree is drought tolerant but has little tolerance for salt. It’s the only species of its genus and native to central and western Africa. It’s a cousin to the trumpet vine.

The African tulip tree can be highly invasive and the woody fruit has a poisonous center. The World Conservation Union (IUCU) placed it on the list of the world’s 100 worst invasive species. Under optimal conditions, it can grow to 80 ft. in height, with an average growth rate of 6 ft. per year.

The tree produces an abundance of papery seeds that are easily disseminated by the wind and the seeds have the ability to ride the wind for miles. The seeds can take root virtually anywhere and the young saplings are shade tolerant. Saplings can quickly form dense thickets that stifle the growth of other species and take over an area.

In poor soil, it tends to grow straight up, has minimal branching, and is weakly rooted. The wood is soft and brittle, making it prone to damage and uprooting in the event of high winds or if flooding occurs. It also needs yearly trimming of dead branches.

The dropped blossoms can be a messy and sticky slip hazard. Surface roots have the ability to lift and break sidewalks, interfere with mowing, and can pose a hazard to foundations if planted too close to structures.

RCH Landscaping is a full-service landscape company based in Boca Raton, Florida. We design, install and maintain Commercial and Residential landscapes all around Boca Raton, Delray Beach, and The Palm Beach areas. Our team of highly skilled landscape technicians has an undisputed track record of creating and maintaining beautiful commercial and residential landscapes all over South Florida.

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When Should You Hire a Professional Tree Service?

A professional tree service has the knowledge, expertise and highly trained specialists needed to deal with a wide variety of tree-related issues. There are multiple instances when hiring a professional tree service will save time, and money and prevent you from putting yourself and others in danger.

Time and Knowledge

It can take a significant amount of time to shepherd a young tree to maturity while maintaining its unique shape and growth habit. Even if you have the time, you may not have the knowledge required to prune it to allow for optimal sunlight, growth, or to minimize damage from storms.

Poor Performance

If one or more of your trees appears sick, the problem could be an insect infestation or disease. It could also be the result of not having the tree’s sun, soil, moisture or fertilizer requirements met. Tree professionals have the knowledge needed to identify pests and diseases, keep contagious conditions from spreading to other trees throughout neighborhoods, and promote optimal growth.

Tree Removal

Trees may be disrupting underground utilities, affecting foundations, or sustained significant damage in a storm. You might need the services of a tree professional if a tree has come down in your yard or on the property. Safely removing a tree requires special techniques to control how it falls, prevent damage to surrounding structures and plantings, and to keep people and pets safe.

Stump Removal

No one wants a dead tree stump marring their landscape. Some types of trees will sprout unattractive suckers from the stump. The solution is to have the stump removed through grinding or excavation. Professional tree services have the powerful tools required to grind tree stumps down below ground level so they can be mowed over and don’t present a problem. The professionals can also excavate the stump to completely remove it from the ground. Excavation is the best answer if you want to plant another tree in the same place.

RCH Landscaping is a full-service landscape company based in Boca Raton, Florida. We design, install and maintain Commercial and Residential landscapes all around Boca Raton, Delray Beach, and The Palm Beach areas. Our team of highly skilled landscape technicians has an undisputed track record of creating and maintaining beautiful commercial and residential landscapes all over South Florida.

Contact RCH Landscaping Today for a Free Estimate


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5 Low Maintenance Trees in Florida

Dozens of trees grow well in the South Florida landscape, but some require a considerable amount of maintenance and produce nuts or fruit that can be messy and sticky. The following are 5 low-maintenance trees for the Florida landscape that provide beauty and shade.


The dogwood tree is well-known for its spring blossoms. Highly adaptable, multiple types are available and some have variegated foliage. The Asian Kousa dogwood has a slightly different appearance than the traditional dogwood and has the advantage of being resistant to anthracnose. Kousa dogwood bloom colors are available in white, light pink and deep pink. The trees are undemanding trees, highly ornamental, and the only real “mess” they create is when they shed their leaves in the autumn.

Eastern Redbud

The tree provides a striking display of white or dark pink blooms in the spring. It’s actually a close relative of peanuts, tamarind and other types of legumes. Highly attractive to bees, birds and butterflies, it grows from 20 to 30 ft. and can be single or multi-stemmed. Breeding programs have produced varieties with leaves of yellow, lime green, purplish-red, bronze and burgundy. They’re resistant to drought once established and light pruning is all that’s needed.

Fern Pine Tree

The fern pine isn’t really a pine and is best reserved for large areas. It can grow 50 to 65 ft. tall with a trunk of 2 to 3 ft. in diameter if left alone. Professionals know how to prune it to a modest 20 to 30 ft. and it can also be espaliered. It’s a native of Eastern Africa with long, narrow leaves that can be 4 inches long when the tree is mature. Blooms are inconspicuous and the berry-like fruits are fleshy and contain a single seed. A moderately fast grower, it can live up to 150 years.

Sweetbay Magnolia

Unlike the Southern Magnolia, Sweetbay Magnolia won’t litter the lawn with spent bloom petals or seed pods. It will shed a few leaves throughout the season and it’s resistant to a variety of insect pests and diseases. The tree has highly fragrant white blooms and the glossy leaves have a frosted appearance on the underside. The seeds provide a food source for a wide variety of birds.

Shady Lady Black Olive

Desirable for shade and beauty, it can have an awkward appearance when young that’s remedied with light pruning. It features yellowish-beige flowers in the spring that many say gives the tree the appearance of being frosted with brown sugar. It’s salt-tolerant and can grow to 30 ft. The Shady Lady variety is the newest and most improved cultivar of the species, but it’s not actually related to olive trees and doesn’t produce olives.

RCH Landscaping is a full-service landscape company based in Boca Raton, Florida. We design, install and maintain Commercial and Residential landscapes all around Boca Raton, Delray Beach, and The Palm Beach areas. Our team of highly skilled landscape technicians has an undisputed track record of creating and maintaining beautiful commercial and residential landscapes all over South Florida.

Contact RCH Landscaping Today for a Free Estimate


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