Florida Grades and Standards for Nursery Plants 2015At this year’s Florida Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (FLASLA) annual conference in Orlando, one issue in particular created quite the buzz. After 17 years, The Florida Grades and Standards for Nursery Plants, or simply “Grades and Standards,” has been updated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The update went into effect on September 1, 2015.

For any project subject to permitting, most localities require that landscaping must meet minimum grading standards. After installation, some localities require that the plantings are inspected and certified by a landscape architect. The update to the Grades and Standards eases the specification of plants and simplifies the certification process. There is now more flexibility for a greater variety of tree characteristics to qualify for grading. The steps for grading trees have also been reduced from ten to seven. In the past, curved palms would not meet the grades and standards because the trunk is not straight. Landscape architects can now specify a curved trunk palm, and it can pass the grading because research has shown that curvature in the trunk of a palm has no negative bearing on its strength or health.

Allowing some leniency in the specification and grading of landscape material will result in more flexibility to use plant materials that were previously considered below Number 1 grade. This will also result in more visually interesting landscapes.