With spring in full bloom, garden centers have many plants available. The multitude of trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, vegetables, and other plants can enhance the home landscape.

When choosing what to plant, take into consideration the cost, mature plant size, location of planting, maintenance needs and personal tastes. Most plants that perform poorly in the landscape are a result of the plant’s inability to adapt to or tolerate its environment.

Consider how large the plant will be at maturity. It needs to fill the space allotted to it but not overgrow its site. Consideration must be given to the tree’s roots so that they eventually do not damage sidewalks, foundations, and septic systems. Shrubs that are used as foundation plants should be slow growing so pruning every week is not required.

Do not plan on keeping the size of a plant that grows taller than you would like at a lower height by constant pruning. Often you see trees planted under power lines that should not be there in the first place. They continuously need to be pruned back heavily, or “topped” as the practice is known, and this is very detrimental to the tree.

The location where the plant is to be sited must be thoroughly examined before choosing a plant. Some plants need well-drained soil and would not do well in a site that remains moist for too long. The amount of sun the location gets per day is essential in establishing what plants are needed.

You would not want full sun plants in the shade and vice versa. Junipers need full sun and well-drained soil. However, azaleas prefer shadier locations and do not perform as well in full sun. Also, remember to make sure the plant is adapted to our climate so that it can handle our temperature extremes.

Does it tolerate our climate? Gwinnett County is in USDA Hardiness Zone 7b, meaning our lowest temperatures can reach 5 to 15 degrees. Some plants cannot tolerate our winters, such as citrus trees. Others are marginally hardy such as oleanders, Japanese pittosporums, and St. Augustinegrass. The heat of our summers is another factor. Many plants have difficulty handling the hot temperatures we have. Examples include most firs and spruces, cherry trees, white pines, and Kentucky bluegrass.

One of the most critical factors in choosing the right plant is the relative ease to keep it maintained. Native plants are among the best since they are acclimated to growing in our climate and are relatively simple to establish and maintain.

However, just because the plant is native does not mean it will do well in all landscape situations. Most native ferns, for example, prefer shady areas with fertile, organic, moist soil. They will suffer if planted in the full sun.

Some people would suggest you use natives solely but choose the plant that is right for you whether it is native or not. If you happen to choose exotic plant material, check to be sure it is not invasive, such as certain species of wisteria, elaeagnus, English ivy, and others.

Make sure you take all these factors into account when purchasing plants, which will save you from much heartache later and ensure you have healthy attractive plants for your garden.

If you would like to learn more about using the proper plant materials for sites, UGA Extension Gwinnett in collaboration with the Gwinnett County Public Libraries will be offering a program “Right Plant for the Right Place” on May 7 from 6:30 p.m.to 7:30 p.m. at the Collins Hill Public Library, 455 Camp Perrin Rd in Lawrenceville. To register, contact the Gwinnett County Public Libraries at events@gwinnettpl.org.

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Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with UGA Extension Gwinnett. He can be contacted at 678-377-4011or tdaly@uga.edu.

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