Fall is here, and for the gardening enthusiast, now is the ideal time to make additions to your landscape — in particular, hardy perennials, ornamental shrubs and trees.
While many of us are familiar with “spring fever,” fall is actually the best time for planting woodies. Trees and shrubs planted now have the entire fall and winter to set down roots and get established before the heat of spring and summer arrives.
More and more, gardeners are looking for tough, low-maintenance plants that are also functional and attractive. This search often leads to native plants, and while natives are accustomed to our environment, they are not bulletproof.
When gardeners hear the term “native,” they often assume these plants can be planted anywhere simply because they are native. This is simply not the case. Just like other plants, native plants have specific light and water requirements.
Before planting any plant, remember this golden rule: right plant in the right place.
For example, if you plant the non-native lace cap hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) in a dry and sunny location, it will certainly struggle. Likewise, if you plant a native oak leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) in a dry and sunny location, it will also struggle.
The native can, however, withstand drier soils than its non-native cousin.
Here are a few native suggestions for shady sites that don’t get too dry: native azaleas (hundreds of cultivars), Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), redbud (Cercis canadensis) and anise (Illicium floridatum).
Here are a few suggestions for sunny, dry sites: wax myrtle (Morella cerifera), Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), fringe tree (Chiocanthus virginicus) and beautyberry (Callicarpa americana).
If you’re looking for a tough shrub that also attracts wildlife, consider inkberry (Ilex glabra), winterberry (Ilex verticillata), or one of the many native viburnums, including arrowwood (V. dentatum), swamp-haw (V. nudum) or blackhaw (V. prunifolium).
While there is nothing wrong with using non-natives, why not take a step back in time to the pre-antebellum days when landscapes were predominantly filled with native plants?
There are attractive native species that will fit just about any growing environment or landscape setting.
Thanks to Matthew Chappell, UGA Extension Horticulturist, for contributing to this article.
Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.