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Put the right plant in the right place

The fall and winter months are the best time of the year to plant trees and shrubs. They will have a greater chance of survival after being planted because the weather is cooler, allowing the roots, which are insulated from the cold by the soil, to continue to grow. This results in a strong, healthy root system.

These plants will have a greater tolerance for the hot, dry conditions of the following summer. 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 from the plant’s inability to adapt to or tolerate its environment.

Take into consideration the ultimate size the plant will be. 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 constantly 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. The soil consistency must be examined to know if it will drain well. 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 important 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.

One of the most important factors in choosing the right plant is the relative ease to keep it maintained. The best plants to maintain are native plants. These plants are acclimated to growing in the harsh Gwinnett County 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 rich, organic, moist soil. They will perform poorly 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, and others, or you could have a mess on your hands.

Make sure you take all these factors into account when purchasing plants. This will save you from much heartache later.

Timothy Daly, is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with Gwinnett County. He can be contacted at 678-377-4010 or