Q: I know I can’t take my landscape with me during a hurricane evacuation, but I want to do everything I can to prevent my plants from being destroyed. Where do I start?
A: Well, to be honest, you need to start WAY ahead of the storm, when your landscape is being put in the ground. Plant choice means everything, including choosing trees and shrubs with low centers of gravity and deep-penetrating root systems. For instance, native cabbage and thatch palms can withstand strong winds, and species such as even-branched sea grape and gumbo limbo tend to remain intact (although they do shed their leaves in hurricane-force winds). But since most of us move into already-landscaped homes, you can at least do an inventory check and see if native, wind-tolerant species might be a better choice in selected areas of your yard. Also consider flood-tolerant species, such as paurotis palms and cocoplum.
Another planning essential is performing proper maintenance before hurricane season starts. Your landscape is more likely to survive a storm if it’s maintained year round. You should regularly thin foliage so wind can flow through the branches of your trees and shrubs, decreasing the chance that they’ll be uprooted. And don’t forget to check your swales and drainage system for blockages that can impede water from flowing away from your property.
If a storm is actually in the forecast, you need to step it up. Mow your yard if you can. Remove brown fronds and seed pods on palms. Stake your small trees with sturdy stakes at least 8 inches into the ground. Remove items of value in areas where water accumulates and bring your potted plants inside.
Don’t blow off the benefits of being prepared for hurricane season.
Resource: University of Florida IFAS Extension Services