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What Right Plant/Right Place Really Means

Green industry professionals have been throwing the mantra “Right Plant/Right Place” around quite liberally for the last few years. Ever wonder what it really means? When so many different people, all with different agendas, have jumped on the bandwagon, the true meaning can become rather clouded.

The original meaning, and the one to which Birchcrest subscribes, is to analyze the growing conditions of the space in which you would like to install a plant and to select a plant that will grow happily in those conditions. The plant can be changed but the site can’t.

Native plant advocates believe the only right plants in these parts are those native to our area. Others define the term to mean any plant that is suited to the growing conditions the site provides. That gives you the choice of native, exotic, introduced, nativar, even volunteer, as long as they are suited to the growing conditions. Remember, you can change the plant you select but you can’t change the growing conditions without a lot of work and dubious success.

Plants at a garden center have tags on the plants or stuck in the container. They list the growing conditions that the plants require, including the amount and duration of light each day, the amount of water it needs and the amount of wind it can tolerate.

Tags also list the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) hardiness zone for the coldest temperature the plants can tolerate. Knowing the temperature extreme is important because of microclimates. Although the Rochester, New York area is generally Zone 5 (-20 to -10), there are pockets that are Zone 5B (-15 to -10), Zone 6A (-10 to -5) and even Zone 6 (-10 to 0). Your yard may have microclimates caused by your house’s shape, positioning on the property or other factors.

A major consideration when buying a tree is its ultimate height and width. These, too, are on the tag. If you want to plant the tree under electric wires, its maximum height, when fully grown, shouldn’t be more than 20 feet. If you’re planting near structures or the edge of your yard, the tree should be placed so that the crown doesn’t overhang a right-of-way or a neighbor’s property when fully grown.

You’ll also need to contact a utility locating service before you begin digging the hole for a tree. They will come out and place flags where underground utilities are located so you can avoid them. Be sure the service also flags water and sewer pipes, especially if you’re on septic tanks. Tree roots can interfere with these pipes.

You should also be aware of insects and diseases that are active in the area where you want to plant. For example, it’s not wise to plant an ash tree since the emerald ash borer is active in our area.

What if you plant a wrong plant in a wrong place? The results can range from failure to extra maintenance work. Some plants, especially those exposed to light, water and wind conditions they don’t like, will not thrive and may die. Trees and shrubs that are too big for the site will require constant pruning to keep them in check.

If you have our professionals design and plant your landscape, you won’t have to worry about the right plant being in the right place. This is a mantra for professionals as well property owners.

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2 comments on “What Right Plant/Right Place Really Means

  1. Yahh Great Post about Tree Care – You may be fine tackling daily maintenance and smaller projects on your Tree maintainace, but when it comes to the big projects, hire an arborist or professional tree care company.

  2. I like how you mentioned that you can choose the plants you grow, but you can’t choose the growing conditions. My husband and I just moved into a new area, and one of my favorite kinds of plant won’t grow here. I’m sad about that, but I’ll definitely choose something that will flourish here since I can’t change the climate.

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