The fall is the best time of the year to plant trees and shrubs. During the cold weather, the above ground parts of the plants grow very little. However, the roots will continue to grow, spreading out into the soil, which helps the plant to become established by spring.
It then has a greater chance of withstanding the stress of the hot, dry weather of the following summer. When choosing plants for the landscape, one of the most important considerations is making sure they are able to tolerate the site conditions where they are to be planted. A majority of plant problems result from the plant’s inability to tolerate or adapt to the growing conditions at the planting site.
Sunlight requirements differ among plants. Junipers thrive in full sun. If planted in shady locations, they will begin to thin out and die. On the other hand, azaleas, dogwoods and aucubas prefer shade. If planted in the full sun, the leaves will begin to turn yellow and the plants suffer from heat-related problems, such as leaf scorch and branch dieback. Also, they will have an increased risk of pest problems.
Most plant material, once established, requires a minimal amount of supplemental water. Indian hawthorns, Japanese hollies, barberries, junipers and many others thrive in dry conditions. Choosing these plants will help to lower water use and reduce maintenance needs. Other plants are not as tolerant of dry soils.
An example is the big leaf hydrangea, which begins to wilt if it does not receive adequate amounts of water. Prolonged periods without water will cause it to suffer. Another important consideration is drainage. If drainage is a problem, the soil will need to be modified by adding organic soil amendments, regrading the site or installing raised beds.
Another option is using plants, such as river birches, swamp hibiscus and yaupon hollies, that are better adapted to wet areas.
When selecting plants, determine their location and spacing in the landscape and consider how large they will be in five to 10 years. Select plants that will fill in the space where they are to be planted and not outgrow the space. Some trees and shrubs may have an attractive appearance when small, but can eventually grow quite large. Often they are pruned excessively to keep them at a manageable size. Over time this practice can be harmful to the plants. This can be observed in trees planted under power lines. They have to be pruned continually to keep them at a specific height. A more appropriate choice is planting lower- growing trees or shrubs in these places, or nothing at all.
Select trees that produce minimal litter. Certain trees, such as magnolias and river birches, have a tendency to drop their leaves excessively. Make sure they are planted in an area where the leaf drop will not create a problem, such as over a sundeck or by a swimming pool.
Some plants can spread out extensively and can be invasive, such as English ivy.
If you plant English ivy, be prepared to continually cut it back or it will be taking over everything. This is also true with some other invasive plant material like the groundcovers vinca and the chameleon plant.
One other important factor to consider is whether the plant has excessive pest problems. Certain types of euonymus are troubled by scale insects and powdery mildew. Red tip photinias are afflicted with a leaf spot disease. Cotoneasters are plagued with lacebugs. Over time these plants will decline and will eventually perish unless they are treated on a continual basis with pesticides. Avoid plants that have extensive pest problems.
When deciding what to plant in your landscape, take these factors into consideration so you do not end up with trouble later on. A healthy, attractive landscape with plants adapted to the environments they are growing in will require minimal maintenance and be less problematic.
Timothy Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.