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QUESTION: We have a 8' x 11' area to the right of our front entrance that is surrounded by three 5' walls.  When it rains the water comes pouring into that area.  I tried wood mulch-it got mildew/mold and floated out, grass-it died, rocks-it got mildew/mold and now I'm thinking of rubber mulch or lava rock.  I picked up some fabulous bromeliads that I would like to use in this area, but not sure what I should do regarding which mulch to use.  I live in South Florida and this area does get a fair amount of sun.  

We called a landscaper and he suggested river rock, but it didn't work before and I told him that, so why would it would work now.

I would really appreciate any help you could give me.  Thanks in advance for your suggestions.  Also, plants in pictures to be removed and replaced.

ANSWER: Hey, Pam.

Sounds like it gets too wet to use bromeliads. If I had a corner like that -- wet and sun -- in South Florida, I think I would probably plant tropic plants there. Two of my favorites, courtesy of my grandmother in South Texas, are elephant ears (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alocasia) and philodendrons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philodendron). Another option would be to install a water feature (fountain or pond) with some smaller tropical plants, maybe ivy like golden pothos (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_ivy).

If you created a water feature, you could install those bromeliads around it, just as long as they are up off the ground so that their roots don't remain wet.

Whatever you do, be sure to leave four to six inches of clearance between whatever you install and the exterior wall of your house. It looks like you have stucco walls, which might not be the best material to use in a tropical climate like South Florida, so that air circulation can really help prevent deterioration of the stucco. You don't want the stucco to stay wet.

Hope that helps.

Russel

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks so much for your response and I really like the idea of a fountain, then I could get some great pots to put around it.  You're right about the stucco, so thanks for the info about leaving enough space between the plant and the wall.

Do you have preference as to the ground covering, rubber mulch, lava rock or river rock as landscaper suggested.  I used larger rocks before and they got mildew/mold, I'm assuming that the small river rock would do the same, but maybe I'm wrong.

Thanks again.

Pam

Answer
Hey, Pam.

They key to anything in that corner is to either get rid of the water or use the water. You could use it with phildendrons and elephant ears, or create a natural water feature that would use whatever water flowed into that area. I've even installed gutters and downspouts on roofs that drain roof water into a pond.

If you are planning on using a ground covering, I'm thinking that you might want to install a French drain there to get as much water as possible out of that area. If you don't get the water out, the standing water is going to keep the rocks wet, at which point they'll get algae growing on them (what you are calling mildew/mold was probably algae). After you do that, you could install whatever kind of ground covering you want and you shouldn't have any problems. Finding a good landscaper who knows how to install French drains properly, especially if you need a large one or a long one, might be the issue.

I've installed some large and long French drains in my days, so anything's possible there. Do you have some more pictures of the surrounding area where the water is coming from, or is most of it just rain falling from the sky?

Russel

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Russel Ray

Expertise

I can answer questions about water-wise landscaping, xeriscaping, and using native vegetation, cactus, and succulents to create a home paradise that won't increase your water bill.

Experience

My wise ol' grandmother got me started with cactus and succulents 42 years ago. The rest, as they say, is history.

Organizations
National Association of Certified Home Inspectors, Better Business Bureau of San Diego

Education/Credentials
After graduating from Texas A&M University, I started a plant-sitting business in Houston to take care of the house plants when people went on vacation. That went on for five years before I moved back to College Station and started several businesses, one of which was a landscaping business specializing in "dry" landscaping.

Awards and Honors
The privilege of working with people.

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