Autumn is the best time of the year to plant trees and shrubs. They will have a higher chance of survival because the weather is cooler.
The lower temperatures allow the roots to continue to grow since they are insulated from the cold by the soil resulting in a robust and healthy root system. In the following summer, they will have a higher tolerance for the hot, dry conditions. However, some plants by their nature are troublesome and should be not be planted; instead, choose alternatives with similar desirable characteristics.
Japanese euonymus is an upright shrub that can reach seven feet in height. It has green leaves that are frequently variegated. The shrub suffers from a heavy infestation of scale, a hard-shelled insect with piercing-sucking mouthparts. Also, the Japanese euonymus is troubled by powdery mildew, a fungal disease that is characterized by a white powdery substance on the leaves.
Pesticides can be used for control, but their effectiveness is limited due to the severity of the infestations. Instead, choose plants such as Burford hollies, and loropetalums that are not plagued with these insects and diseases.
The Red tip photinia was a favorite for hedges and for screening out unwanted views. The plant has red to green leaves and was heavily planted throughout our area in the 1970s and 80s. Then a fungal leaf spot disease began attacking them. Usually leaf spot diseases do not cause plant death, but with red tips is there is an exception. When I worked in commercial landscape maintenance years ago, I had to cut down and remove large numbers of these plants. Instead of red tips, plant ligustrums, Nellie R. Stevens hollies or arborvitaes.
Bradford pears have attractive white flowers in the early spring and red to purple leaves in the fall. Like the red tips, they have been planted extensively over the years. The trees have a rapid growth rate, weak wood, and poor branch structure which becomes apparent when they are 10-20 years old.
The angle of the Bradford Pear’s branches is quite narrow. As they increase in size, the tree begins to push itself apart. Large sections of the canopy will collapse under its weight or parts of the tree will break off as a result of wind, rain or ice. The broken branches can potentially fall on someone’s house or car.
Other flowering pear trees, such as “Aristocrat” or “Chanticleer” can be planted, but they are susceptible to a bacterial disease called fire blight, which causes the ends of the stems and leaves to turn black, become crisp, and curl. There are also a wide variety of other attractive and durable trees for the landscape. For fast-growing alternatives, consider using Chinese pistache or Japanese zelkova since both are sturdy, can grow in stressful situations, are pest resistant, and have excellent fall color. For spring-flowering trees, consider planting crabapples or fringe trees.
Bearberry cotoneasters are used for ground covers and are often planted on slopes. The plant is troubled by infestations of lace bugs and spider mites. These pests have pierce-sucking mouthparts that suck the fluids out of the leaves, causing a yellow to the white mottled appearance. Like the Japanese euonymus, controlling them is difficult and challenging — instead, plant groundcovers with fewer problems such as liriope, wintercreeper euonymus, or Confederate jasmine.
Certain plants are troublesome in the home landscape and should be avoided. You should select plants with similar characteristics that perform better and are easier to maintain.
Fall is a great time to install new plant material. If you would like to learn more, UGA Extension Gwinnett is offering the class Fall is for Planting on Sept. 17 from, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Dacula Library located at 265 Dacula Rd. in Dacula. To register, contact the Gwinnett County Public Libraries at email@example.com.