The cold weather months are an excellent time to install trees, shrubs, and perennials. The plants’ top parts grow very little, but the roots continue to expand, allowing the plants to become established.

They will have better resistance to the heat and drought conditions of the following summer. When choosing new plant material for your landscape, the most critical component is to ensure it can tolerate the site conditions of where it is planted.

Plants vary in their requirements for sunlight. Some prefer full sun such as junipers, roses, and daylilies. If they do not receive adequate light, the plants will be at increased risk for pest issues. An example is junipers, which are more susceptible to spider mites in the shade.

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On the contrary, many plants need shade to prosper. Azaleas, common dogwoods, and hosta lilies require shady sites and will suffer in full sun. Azaleas are frequently troubled by lace bugs, which are small insects that suck plant fluids out of the leaves, leaving them discolored. When growing in full sun, the pests are more problematic. Some can tolerate both shade and sun, such as the groundcover lirope.

The ability of the soil to drain is another essential factor in plant selection. Many suffer if the soil stays waterlogged. Junipers, azaleas, holies, turfgrasses, and many others will deteriorate if the soil stays too wet. However, other plants prosper in wet conditions. Examples include bald cypress, red maples, Virginia sweetspire, and several species of irises.

Take the climate into consideration. Any citrus plants will not tolerate freezing temperatures. Some will do well in South Georgia, but not in our area. Other plants have a better tolerance to the cold, but hard freezes can injure or kill them. Examples include oleanders, Indian hawthorns, and pittosporums. The heat is problematic to many types of plants such as spruces or firs, white pines, cherry trees, and Kentucky bluegrass.

Be aware of the size plants reach maturity and that they fit the site. If a tree naturally grows to a height of 50 feet, such as most oaks, river birches, and loblolly pines, then try to prune to stay 15 feet high is useless. Use smaller ones, including redbuds, fringe trees, and dogwoods. Space the plants apart at the appropriate length to ensure they do not grow into each other.

Leyland cypress trees can reach a height of 50 feet and spread 15 to 20 feet. They have often planted six or fewer feet apart, causing them to compete for space, light, and nutrients. Thus they are more likely to suffer from fungal diseases and insects. In time the trees perish.

Some trees continually drop leaves, branches, fruits, and seedpods. Examples include river birches, sycamores, sweet gums, and crabapples. If used, locate them in areas that will not be problematic such as natural areas and large beds.

Many plants are problematic because they suffer from disease and insect issues or have a poor growth structure. Indian hawthorns and red tip photinias have problems with a leaf spot fungus. It causes them to shed their leaves, and in time, the plants die.

Certain species of euonymus suffer from a heavy infestation of scale insects and powdery mildew fungus. The well-known Bradford pear has soft rapid-growing wood. Combines with the branches growing at a sharp angle from the main trunk, sections to the tree can break off and cause property damage. Avoid planting these problem plants in the first place and remove them from your property if they are growing on it.

Proper selection of plant material that tolerates the site’s conditions will go a long way to ensure their success in the home landscape. The 2021 Annual UGA Extension Gwinnett Plant Sale is underway. We are offering numerous ornamental plants and fruit trees this year. To download an order form, go to the Extension website at Or you can contact the Extension office and have it mailed to you.

On Jan. 13 from 6 to 7 p.m., the UGA Extension Gwinnett will be offering a program called” The Right Plant for the Right Place.” It will cover how to select plants that tolerate site conditions and our climate. To register, please contact the Extension office at 678.377/4011 or

Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with UGA Extension Gwinnett.


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