July 1, 2009 the Florida Legislature enacted a new law, Fla. Stat. 720.3075(4)(a) and (b), which makes it unlawful for any association to prohibit the implementation of Florida Friendly Landscaping. Florida Friendly landscaping is defined as any landscaping that conserves water and reduces the use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.
Despite this wonderful new law some association attorneys are still demanding owners plant St. Augustine grass, which is not Florida Friendly in most locations, especially Central Florida. These overzealous attorneys claim that while the associations cannot prohibit Florida Friendly Landscaping, they are entitled to regulate it and can still require a percentage of the lot be sod. While the statute does not address the need for owners to submit applications to their Architectural Review Boards (or committees), good common sense would suggest the application be completed and submitted. This does not, however, give the association the right to deny the landscaping and to suggest the association can regulate and require certain grasses and percentages of the lot to be sod goes against the very clear meaning and wording of the statute.
The Florida Friendly Landscaping website, which is hosted by the University of Florida and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, have an interactive database. You can select the type of plant according to the amount of sun, water, soil type and salt content of the soil.
The website also has a list of plants and their requirements for growth. For example, Bermuda grass and Bitter Panic grass on the only two grass listed for dry conditions. St. Augustine grass is listed as requiring wet soil. Other grasses, such as Zoysia, Centipede and Lopsided Indian requrie moist-dry conditions. This clearly establishes St. Augustine does not conserve water and landscaping companies recommend watering St. Augustine grass four times a week!
The problem with the association attorneys is they are counting on you not spending the money on huge legal bills to fight for your rights.