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Right Plant, Right Place… We can’t say it enough. Who is making the decision to plant the wrong plant for the site, or shall we say the ‘right plant,’ just in the wrong place?  Here are a few considerations to discuss with your landscape professional before planting:

  • Mature size: is there enough space for the plant to grow, both in width, height and below ground? Or will it need excessive pruning to fit the space? Check plant resources like the Western Garden book or local resources like the AMWUA website ( which lists mature sizes for many of our low-water use plants. Always research your plant before planting.
  • Growth habit: does it grow tall and upright or have a sprawling growth characteristic?  Will you be forced to shear one side of the to get it to ‘fit’ into the space? Just because it appears upright when you buy it doesn’t mean it will continue to grow in this manner.
  • Environmental factors influence the ultimate size of a plant.  Watering more than necessary leads to fast, weak growth and increases the need to prune to fit the space.  Exposure may also cause a plant to grow abnormally: a sun-loving plant growing in the shade may reach towards the sun, affecting its size and shape.  This often creates a lopsided shrub if planted too close to a structure or wall.
  • Varieties & cultivars: watch for plant varieties (naturally occurring plant variations) and cultivars (nursery-bred or hybridized) with unique characteristics. When buying plants, know the cultivar’s growth habit and ultimate size. Example: you want Tecoma x ‘Sierra Apricot,’ a shrub which grows 3-4 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide, but mistakenly purchase yellow bells (Tecoma stans). The ultimate size of the latter can reach up to twenty feet tall and about fifteen feet wide if not cut back annually. This is a significant size difference in two plants with similar names.

The right plant in the wrong place can become a maintenance nightmare. It requires the landscape maintenance company to prune plants to fit into the allotted space. This becomes problematic for shrubs, reducing bloom and even plant vigor.  Plus, the plant will demand more water when in a constant state of stress due to excessive pruning, which doesn’t help the water conservation efforts in our state. A knowledgeable landscape professional will help determine the best plants for the space, exposure and microclimate.