Spring will soon be here, and you know what that means – getting back to work on our landscapes and perhaps even adding or replacing some of our plants. In order to have an attractive and successful landscape, it is essential that you use the right plant in the right place, (in addition of course to properly planting and maintaining them).
Before you buy any plant, ask yourself, what do I know about it? Why do I want it, will it help enhance my landscape with color, form, or fragrance, etc., will it be compatible with my existing landscape plants, and will it grow on my site, what are its cultural/maintenance requirements, and does it have any potential problems that I should know about it?
The more you know about your plants, the better they will do for you and provide more enjoyment. As I’ve said to my students numerous times, don’t buy on impulse, know what you’re getting before purchasing anything.
The following is a list of approximately 30 things you should know about each plant:
1. Name – common and botanical
2. Ultimate size (height and width)
3. Growth rate (usually best if slow) and growth habit
4. Soil requirements (including pH)
5. Type of plant (tree, shrub, ground cover, etc. )
6. Flower, fruits, nuts and berries (colors, when, fragrant, edible, distinguishing features)
7. Evergreen / deciduous
8. Type of foliage (delicate/broadleaf)
9. Human hazards/ concerns (safety, poisonous, thorns, invasive)
10. Landscape uses – shade, hedge, accent plant, etc.
11. Major problems – including pests (what kinds, when, how to control)
12. Heat, cold tolerance (hardiness)
13. Cultural needs – water, pruning, fertilizer, etc.
14. Texture (foliage) – delicate, coarse
15. Adaptability – soil wetness/drought, sun/shade, temperature extremes
16. Special features (examples – fragrance, exfoliating bark, repeat bloomer, etc.)
17. Type of root system
18. Cost/availability, including how available. If it meets your needs, buy it. Just use a smaller size.
19. Native/introduced (exotic)/cultivated
20. Where grown – should be within 100 miles from where you live
21. Do they have separate sexes
22. Is it good for wildlife – butterflies, squirrels, birds, etc.
23. Compatibility with other plants
24. Life expectancy
25. Plant form/shape
26. Salt tolerance
28. Seasons of interest
29. Wind resistance
31. Salt Tolerance 32. Vegetables and fruits – how many days until harvest?