Drake Elm Tree questions in central Florida

peabody1March 10, 2013

I have a question about Drake Elm trees in central Florida (50 miles north of Orlando). We have a problem with the cold weather killing our grass. So we told the landscaper a few years ago what we were trying to avoid. He planted a couple of Drake Elm trees. The problem is that they lose their leaves every year so there is no canopy of leaves to offer protection to our grass. Are Drake Elm trees in our area supposed to lose their leaves going into winter? Did our landscaper make a mistake with the type of tree he planted?

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Yes, the Drake Elm does lose all of its leaves every winter, then comes back.
So your landscaper planted Drake Elms as his response to the cold weather killing your grass? I'd say that was probably the wrong choice for your situation.
I don't know what your site looks like, nor the availability, but Live Oaks would be a better choice since they hold their leaves until spring.
The Drake Elms are pretty, though! (Just not helpful with the grass situation)

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 11:24AM
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There is a row of 15 Drake Elms near the stadium. All but one is leafless. One is fully leaved. It is also the largest of the bunch.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 4:25PM
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KaraLynn(z9 FL, Inverness, Citrus)

What type of grass do you have that cold weather is killing it? If you have to replace your grass maybe you should change what type you plant. I have bahia and while it does go dormant in the winter it pops right back up every spring and it's pretty drought tolerant.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 4:55PM
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It is St. Augustine grass. Some people are converting over to Zoysia (spelling?) But the people who have converted over are having problems with theirs. We live in a development so we can't plant just any type of grass.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 11:15AM
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KaraLynn(z9 FL, Inverness, Citrus)

We are a bit north of Orlando as well, in Citrus county, and my parents have St. Augustine grass that is growing quite well in the shade of some mid-sized live oaks. The lawn that is away from the oaks doesn't seem to have any issues with the cold and we have gotten down into the upper teens in past winters. Do you water it in the winter? I know that my parents have to water their lawn year round if they want to keep it healthy. I think it's wrong that developements require people to plant lawns like St. Augustine that require so much more high maintenance!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 4:24PM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

I just want to be clear. Is the cold weather 'killing' your grass or just turning it brown? My yard is... well... a mix of different grasses. Not by choice either, it was like that when we moved in and I haven't bothered to homogenize the turf. But I do have St. Augustine on the north and west side of the house. So far each winter it has gone dormant and turned brown, probably largely due to me not watering it. But it always comes back with the first spring rains (It's starting to green-up now as a matter of fact). My In-Laws live about 10 minutes away in The Villages and they pay a lawn company to come out and repeatedly fertilize and 'force' their St. Augustine lawn to stay green through the winter, though I don't think they necessarily have to. They also have the benefit of their front lawn being on the east side of their house with huge Water Oaks in the back 'yard'. So their front lawn is pretty well protected from the biting westerly winds. Their back 'lawn' is another story... brown and dead-looking. But will likely be coming back soon.

I don't think communities can legally force anyone to maintain a healthy, green lawn year-round. Thanks to a law passed by the state of Florida back in... '06 (?) HOA's and other community governments are not allowed to force water intensive lawns and furthermore are not allowed to prevent residents from installing more Florida-friendly yards. They are allowed to require a certain percentage of the yard to be turf, but they can't enforce a 100% turf rule nor that it must stay green.

In the case of the nearby Villages, there are quite a few lawns that are kept green year-round, like my In-Laws' yard. And of those that stay green, most, to my observation, are kept that way by lawn companies. But there are also a lot of brown yards where the residents just don't want to waste the money and do it themselves. I have not heard that any of these people are getting nasty-grams from councils saying, "Green it or leave!" I have also seen some of the smaller yards in the Northern Villages that have been almost completely Xeriscaped, so I don't know what kind of lawn requirement there is, if any... I should take a look at the by-laws sometime.

But as to the question at hand. If you wanted trees that would trap heat and help protect your turf, then yes, your landscaper made a mistake putting in Drake Elms. He should have put in something evergreen like Live Oaks. But then again, just what were your requests for your landscaper? You said you told him what you were trying to avoid, but what did that entail? Did you just want to avoid brown grass or did you have other things you were trying to avoid, like having to constantly rake up leaves or pick up branches and twigs? A live oak would definitely trap heat, but you would be dealing with leaf litter almost year round... which to me personally means year-round compost fodder! But I can see how some people might not want to deal with this.

This post was edited by Leekle2ManE on Tue, Mar 19, 13 at 20:55

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 8:51PM
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