Many plant problems in the landscape could be avoided by choosing the right plant for the purpose and the site. Many insects and diseases are opportunists, taking advantage of plants that are stressed and aren’t healthy enough to fight back.
Whether your landscape plants are having issues with insects, diseases, lack of blooming, or just overall poor performance, chances are that they were not suited for the location in the first place. Improper planting practices or other non-biological factors can contribute to problems and will be addressed in another blog post.
Plant Selection Is the Key
What function do you want the plants to do in your landscape AND what are the site conditions? Answer these two questions to help resolve existing problems and help select the best plants for the job. Plants that are appropriate for the site require a lot less maintenance. Consider the following conditions of your site when choosing plants:
- Available space
- Available sunlight
- Plant hardiness zone
- Soil conditions and soil test results
Visit your local garden center to see what is available. Then search your library or the internet to find or confirm the plant’s basic requirements and mature size.
|When possible, select plants that are native to the planting region. Natives adapt better, require less maintenance, support native pollinators, and look more natural in their native region.|
It is best to evaluate your entire property instead of reacting to problems on a plant by plant basis. Mark up a copy of your plat plan with your landscaping ideas. (Read How to Avoid 5 Landscaping Blunders: tips for new and experienced gardeners.) Your plan will be a combination of existing features in your landscape, plants to be retained, and new features and plants to incorporate.
Mature plant size is one of the most important factors to consider when evaluating an existing landscape or selecting plants for a new site. Always consider the full grown height and width of a plant when making your selection. The full grown plant should fit well within your property line. It should not extend over sidewalks or driveways or touch structures like houses or sheds.
Oh the good intentions! This lovely specimen holly (in the photo above) was planted too close to the house with the intention to replant it in the appropriate location before it got too large.
When an existing plant has grown too big for the location and continuous pruning makes it look less than desirable, what should you do? Remove it and replant with something more appropriate for the location.
These 35 year old hollies (in the photo above) have outgrown their planting bed. The view from inside the home is obstructed and a potential security issue has been created. The trees look very healthy, but it would be very difficult to transplant these specimens successfully. Both of them should be removed.
Select replacement plants for this area that grow to a maximum of 4 feet in height. If a taller specimen tree is desired for the corner of the house, the distance of the planting hole from the house should be at least 1 foot greater than the radius of the expected mature width of the plant. If the plant can grow to 25 feet wide, dig the hole at least 13.5 feet away from the house.
If you are having a hard time deciding what to plant, send a picture of the area in question and a list of the plants you are considering to the Home & Garden Information Center’s Ask an Expert service. We can help you make a decision.
Plant selection information and references can be found on our website.
In my next blog post, I’ll address the question: What job(s) do you want your plants to perform? I’ll cover plant functions and purposes to consider, such as screening, shading, and more.
By Ria Malloy, Assistant Program Director, Home & Garden Information Center. This is the second in a series of articles on landscaping. Look for future posts on plant selection, planting practices, and plant maintenance.