PLANT THE RIGHT PLANT IN THE RIGHT PLACE, by Larry Williams UF/IFAS Extension Agent

The mature size of plants is an important consideration when choosing plants for your landscape. It’s best to select plants that fit the size area you wish to fill.

Before selecting a plant, be sure to find out how large it will eventually get. In many cases it’s important to know the mature size in both height and width. And don’t rely on the word “dwarf” in the plant name. This term is relative and can be very misleading.

For example, a dwarf Burford holly can grow 10 feet or more in height with time and somewhat based on its location. This might not be what the homeowner had in mind when buying a “dwarf” shrub to place beneath a low window.

Many people can’t look at a plant in a gallon-size pot and imagine that in just a few years it will take over the side of the house. A common landscape mistake is to not place the plants properly when planting to allow for their mature size.

Planting a tree that will eventually reach 80 feet in height under a power line that’s 20 feet off the ground eventually creates problems for both the tree and the power lines. People often complain when such trees have to be pruned because of limbs growing into the liens. But in many cases, the power lines were there first. It’s almost as if the lines were used as a reference to place the trees in a straight row.

Another common example is placing plants such as shore junipers in narrow plant beds. Shore juniper is a poor choice for narrow beds. One shore juniper can have a mature spread of 6 to 9 feet. Pruning to force the plants to “fit” within a narrow bed results in plant decline. Eventually the entire planting becomes an eyesore as the plants begin to die.

Most of these kinds of problems happen simply because someone did not realize the plant’s mature size and space requirements. It’s certainly worth your time to find out how large a plant will be at maturity. Our office has this information for most plants appropriate for North Florida. A reputable nursery should be able to quickly provide this information for the plants they sell. The point is to find out before you plant so you can plant the right-sized plant in the right-sized place.

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