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ASK THE EXPERTS

Tips for choosing plants

POSTED: March 10, 2010 4:00 a.m.

During the past few nice weather days, your thoughts may have been on planting. Buying landscape plants can be confusing. Most garden centers offer about any size, color and shape of landscape plants. But which plant is right for your own landscape?

  

Every landscape plant should have a tag, which tells some basic information. An example is the name of the plant.

  

Other information is most important, and if not found on the tag you should ask a knowledgeable garden center employee before you buy. Is the plant an annual or perennial, does it like sun or shade, and how tall does it grow?

  

Without this basic information you may make a landscape mistake that you end up looking at for years.

  

Landscape ornamental plants are generally divided into annuals, biennials, herbaceous perennial and woody ornamentals. The following may help you understand the plant’s tag:

  

Annuals complete their life cycles in a single growing season.

  

They sprout, flower and die in one season. They must be planted again the following growing season. Common annuals are pansies and zinnias. Also included among the annuals are the tender perennials that are killed by the frost if left outdoors. These include begonias, impatiens and geraniums.

  

Biennials, such as foxglove, normally complete their life cycles in two growing seasons. They grow vegetatively the first season and flower the second season. After flowering, they die and must be replanted.

  

Herbaceous perennials live from year to year and have varying blooming times.

  

These plants produce comparatively soft tissues that often die back to ground level at the end of the growing season.

  

Common herbaceous perennials are yarrow, hostas and bulbs.

  

Woody ornamentals are typically perennial plants that produce woody, aboveground stems and branches. Woody ornamentals include trees, shrubs and vines.

  

Ornamental plants in the landscape vary in their environmental and cultural requirements, as well as their adaptability to climate, soils and other conditions.

  

Always:

  

Select plants adapted to Georgia’s climate.

  

Select plants adapted to the site, including soil conditions, light and moisture.

  

Group plants in the landscape according to these criteria and their maintenance requirements.

  

Consider drought tolerant plants for areas that cannot be irrigated or that require little supplemental watering.

  

Select and purchase pest-tolerant plants.  This will reduce the need for pesticide applications to control diseases and insect pests.

  

Select plants that can be maintained within the resources of the person caring for the landscape.

  

With basic knowledge of plants and by asking a few questions, you can select the plant best for your landscape.

  

Clark Beusse is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706) 265-2442.

 

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