Planting by Height

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It's easy to overlook the growth potential of plants as you plan a garden or attempt to landscape a yard. In order to accomplish the look you want, you will want to study the area you are planting in, your desired effect, and the plant's growth expectations.

Plan for the height

As you project what you want your garden to look like, consider these tips when evaluating the height of your plants to achieve your desired results:

  1. Consider what you want the future to look like with that plant. For instance, if you want a shade tree then you may want to consider a fast-growing tree. Your bottom line is the long term result you want to achieve with your gardening, and how soon you want to get your results.
  2. Take into account how long the plant will live. If the height won’t matter in the long run, then it doesn’t matter as much in your plan. But if the plant will be around for many years, consider how long its life in your yard could be.
  3. Consider the foliage type and how much maintenance the plant will need. If you are planting a bush that will grow very tall, and the branches are going to reach into the house, that has to be accounted for.
  4. Think through your weather and the plants that will thrive or the ones that might not. This is critical because you don’t want to put time and money into a plant that won’t live in your climate. Make sure you are planting in a season conducive for the plant.

After you have determined what look you want, now you can pick the plants that are going to give you that look. Here are a few options, categorized by height.

Tall Plant Options

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The obvious choice for tall plants are trees, but there are other options including bamboo and large shrubs. Evergreen trees are a common border plant, and great for locations that don’t get a lot of rain because they don’t need much watering. Italian Cypress is a traditional selection as they can grow up to 60 feet high. At about 1-2 feet wide, they are even suitable for narrow planting areas. They are easy to care for, but don’t grow very fast until after their first year. Bamboo plants come in a variety of sizes, but also make a great privacy plant. Mandake bamboo average 50 feet in height, but can reach as tall as 72 feet. It is not suitable for geographical areas that drop below 5 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don't want plants of that extreme height, Shiroshima bamboo only grows to about 16 feet tall. Consider, however, that this plant needs a good amount of sun. Two other tall plant options that grow to heights between 8 and 10 feet are the Japanese Barberry and Forsythia. Both of these plants are flowering shrubs that will lose their leaves in the fall. They are fairly low maintenance but will need some periodic shaping to keep them under control.

Medium-Sized Plants

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There is a lot of variety in the mid-range sized plants, with the opportunity to create different textures in your garden or yard. Rodger’s flower, hostas, bear’s breeches, and leopard plants all have leaves with strong characteristics. They also have fluffy looking flowers which can provide a softer look or divide up any redundant design areas. Using plants that bloom not only add great color but texture to your garden. Shrubs are great for achieving your medium height needs. Wall germanders, hebes, evergreen candytuft, and hairy canary clover lotus all make great plants to line your garden. Low-level shrubs such as rock roses mix well with ground flowers. Rose bushes are a classic favorite, and will bring some elegance to your garden. Perennials are a general category of medium sized flower plants that make a great border and live for two years or more. Greek yarrow have beautiful yellow flowers that bloom in summer and fall, reaching 18 inches wide and 24 inches tall. There are many color options in the columbine plant, which grow from 18 to 36 inches in height. Johnson’s blue cranesbill and thrift flower are some more popular perennials to consider.

Ground Cover Plants

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Low-lying plants can cover bare space in a yard and add dimension from the ground up. Small shrubs such as periwinkle, common juniper, lavender, and mountain pine make great plants for small areas and provide options for shaping your garden. Vine plants make a unique option as they grow and spread throughout the garden. Popular vine plants are kudzu, common or English ivy, morning glory, and bougainvillea. If you don’t want a plant the blooms flowers or grows like a vine, you can plant a variety of mosses. They grow low to the ground, are soft, and have small simple leaves. Examples of these plants are wall screw moss, dawsonia superba, and red moss capsules.

So that covers Planting by Height. Also be sure to check out Planting by Color and Planting by Shape.