Plant Selection and Site Conditions

Proper selection of a plant for given site conditions is critical. It is more important than your ability to prune, harvest, or mulch. All too often a plant is chosen on its look or size in the nursery. Just because that Colorado Spruce looks great in the pot at the nursery doesn’t mean you should be planting 5 feet from the corner of the house . That spruce has the potential to grow to 60 feet in height and 20 feet wide, not the ideal tree for such a location.

I have often seen this mistake at the hand of the landscaper who’s only concern is to make money and not consider the future of the landscape. The initial cost of the landscape from a lowball bid contractor may seem appealing, but the eventual side effects of a poorly designed landscape will end up costing you more in the future. If you are hiring a contractor, get references, visit projects that they have designed and installed; in short do your homework.

Key to a successful landscape design is understanding the site to be landscaped. What type of soil is present? Is the soil constantly wet? What is the weather like? Does the site get sun? Is it full sun? How cold does it get in the winter? The list could go on. Take time to survey the site, if you have time to evaluate the site over time that is even better.

I did not do much to the landscape of my property for the first year after we moved into the house, but I did take time to observe how the landscape changed through the seasons. This observation has made it possible to design the landscape with an understanding of how it functions throughout the year. I was surprised to find that the north side of the property received more sun in the summer than I thought it would, encouraging me to plant an apple tree in the brightest summer sun location.

Knowledge of a ┬áplant’s growth habit and requirements make it possible to select the right plant for the space being considered. Several factors go into proper plant selection.

  • Plant Hardiness
  • Plant Habit
  • Water Requirements
  • Soil Type
  • Sun Exposure
  • Design Effect – What are you trying to do? Trying to screen the view to your neighbors unsightly side yard? An evergreen will provide year round screen where a deciduous plant would not do as well for that purpose.

Understanding a plant’s limitations or its potentials will make a difference in the success of your landscape design and future maintenance. Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing about each of these factors in more detail. I’d love to hear some of the factors you consider when planting in your landscapes.

image: citta-vita