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Right Plant - Right Place

Fall is a great time for planting, and we recently had one of our Master Gardeners, Carol Fitzpatrick, give a garden talk on Transplanting Trees and Shrubs. Now that you know HOW to transplant, it is important to understand WHERE to plant your tree or shrub. One of the keys to having a successful garden is placing the right plant in the right place. We hear this over and over, but HOW do we do that?

There are several factors to consider before adding plants to the landscape.

Does the plant prefer full sun (6 or more hours per day of direct sunlight) or shade (less than 4 hours of direct sunlight per day)?

Shade-loving plants need to be shaded from the hot afternoon sun by a building, or planted as an understory plant where they get filtered shade throughout the day. On the other hand, sun-loving plants perform poorly in shade or partial shade. The amount of sun a plant receives may change as nearby trees and plants grow and shade out plants. In deeply shaded areas, such as under trees, it may be beneficial to consider a moss garden or simply mulching the area to protect the tree roots. In areas with more filtered shade, plants such as hostas or lenten roses may thrive.

Does water stand or move across the site? Water draining from gutters or running across driveways and sidewalks will affect growing conditions. Poor drainage is a leading cause of plant problems in the landscape.

Do deer, rabbits or other wildlife frequent the garden? Some plants are known as deer-resistant, but a hungry deer is not always choosey about a food source. The answer may lie in using repellents, fencing or simply choosing different plants.

What size will the plant be when it is mature? A small seedling in a 4-inch pot can grow to a height of 6 feet and a width of 3 feet. Planting a tree too close to a building leads to roof or siding damage by rubbing branches or rodent problems. By knowing the mature height, branch spread, and trunk size, problems can be avoided.

Will the plant grow to interfere with any utility lines or septic fields as it matures? A smaller tree or shrub may be suitable for use near right-of-way and utilities. Choose non-aggressive plants that are unlikely to invade the drain lines. Herbaceous plants can be planted closest to the drainfield, turf can be planted over the drainfield, and shallow-rooted perennials and annuals can be planted nearby. Avoid compaction, crushing or damage to the drainfield during installation.

What are the watering needs of the plant and are they similar to nearby plants? Is there a water source nearby or will it be a problem to water the plant?

Is the plant susceptible to pests or disease? Pest- and disease-resistant plants require fewer pesticides and fungicides. Native plants can thrive in an environment similar to their natural habitat and are less susceptible to insects and diseases. Less than 3 percent of the world’s insects are pests; the rest are neutral or are beneficial pollinators or predators of other insects. Preserve all the beneficial insects you can. Since beneficial insect populations rebound slower than pest populations, killing all insects may leave more severe problems than before.

As you can see, taking the time to think about WHERE to plant is important. Careful consideration of the tree's function, form, requirements, and personal preferences ensure that it not only provides beauty, but will thrive in its location. With a little research and planning, you can produce a landscape that will cool your home in summer, tame the winds in winter, and benefit the environment all year long.

For further information, contact the Walton County Master Gardeners at or by phone 770-267-1324. Happy Planting!


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