Choosing and Planting Your Woody Landscape Plants

So you've made up your mind to truly enjoy your garden, to make your little bit

So you've made up your mind to truly enjoy your garden, to make your little bit of ground come alive with landscape plants. You dream of the natural allure of vivid color, of shapes that shift with the breeze. You can't go wrong with woody plants! Nothing beats their hardy, brazen bloom.

Hundreds to Choose From

Most landscapers and gardeners are familiar with the genuses below, and will advise on long-term care. There are literally hundreds of species of trees, shrubs and vines. Start with one of these, and add, as your garden grows!

Speak to the nursery owner about whether the plant should be placed in direct sunlight, or moved to the shade. Observe where plants do well, in your habitat, and you'll soon earn the enviable status of a Master Gardner.

Here are some common woody types to help punctuate your foliage.

Looking for a quick grower? Try a Japanese Beautyberry, a deciduous (or shedding) shrub of the Callicarpa japonica family. It grows quickly to 4 to 6 feet high, and its branches, which are arching, extend as wide or wider. The flowers are pink or white in mid-summer. The fruit of this plant is of a violet to metallic color and arrives in loose clusters. These plants are native to Japan, but grow very successfully in the U.S.

Want simple, perfect, non-fragrant flowers with many different forms? Camellia (Camellia japonica) sprout mostly evergreen shrubs in a variety of shapes. The flowers are two to three, grown together: white, red, pink or multicolored. This plant prefers mulched roots, since the roots are not deep. Camellias need a well-drained soil.

Or choose a plant with something of a legend behind it to add panache to your garden. An Osmanthus (Osmanthus fragrans), Fragrant Tea Olive, is associated with lunar legend in China, which means it is symbolic at the time of the moon festival. It is generously steeped in leathery, lustrous leaves - green above, yellow, below. Bearing small, white, fragrant flowers, it grows quite high. This species likes sunny to partial shade and a moist, well-drained soil.


If the function of your woody plant is to look pretty, to draw the eye to the site where it is blooming, you might consider placing, say, a magnolia, at the entrance to, or at the side of your home.

Or, if you wish to obscure something that is not so aesthetically pleasing, why not plant vines to screen the view? Vines only need narrow spaces to grow or maintain. Or divide areas into play areas, gardening, and yard maintenance (composting, heeling in, etc. if you do that on your land.)


Improperly planted plants are a major reason that shrubs don't grow well. The most common mistake is planting too deeply. The flare at the base of the trunk should be just above the soil level.

Plant in spring/late summer and early fall. If your nursery owner tells you the plant you are taking home is difficult to transplant, do so only in the spring. Spring planting provides a longer establishment season. Woody plants that should be planted in the spring include birches, dogwoods, hawthorns, magnolias, oaks, flowering pears, sourwoods and poplars.

The majority of the trees and shrubs, however - remember, there are hundreds! - can be planted in the fall. The plant will naturally require less moisture, at that time of year, and shoot growth is minimal and becoming dormant. Stored carbohydrates will be at a maximum.

According to the Master Gardener, the Ohio State University Extension site, the hole should be dug so the plant will sit on a cone of undisturbed soil. Dig a hole that is 12 inches deep and extends twice the length of the roots.

Watering will be made easier if soil is piled around the planting hole to create a saucer to hold water. During the first year after transplanting, irrigation is important. Apply enough water to thoroughly wet the root ball.

If properly planted, woody plants will let you experience a low-maintenance asset to your lovely landscape. And what could be more enjoyable?

Eva R. Marienchild is an accomplished communicator: an author, editor, poet, artist, speaker, and life and career coach. Eva's specialties are health, home, nutrition, environment and spirituality.