Right size, right spacing: Are you planting shrubs too close together?

April 11, 2017 | By Roundtree Landscaping

It's easy to underestimate the reality of the mature size of plants. Often in an attempt at instant gratification, you might be tempted to cram too many plants into a space that they will soon outgrow. Plants grow more quickly than we realize, especially as they establish stronger roots. Rosemary that is purchased as a little four inch herb can expand into a four foot shrub in just a few years. A one gallon Photinia can become a 30 foot wall in a decade. Though it can sometimes take years to get a plant established and growing at its regular pace, it is still difficult to believe ten years go by more quickly than we realize. All too often, we fall into the trap of trying to maintain their size with pruning. So many older homes have a long rectangular hedge in front that was once a row of small cute balls of boxwood. It is much easier to choose wisely than to rip out an old hedgerow.

BEFORE: Does it seem like there’s too much empty space in this newly planted bed? Not all all! In fact, these plants need this much space to spread, and will grow in over time, creating a lush mixture of foliage and blooms that fit the space.

Working with a plant's mature size in mind is crucial in saving you from future headaches. Because we have a long growing season in Texas, you can almost guarantee that a shrub or tree will reach the top of the height and width range stated in its description. Shrubs and trees that outgrow their space often have trouble getting the nutrients they need and therefore become more susceptible to pest and disease problems. Some of these overgrown giants crowd and shade out others around them, causing those plants unfortunate enough to be planted too close to be more vulnerable to health problems.

After: Two-three years later, the plants have grown in and filled up all the empty space. While the space looks full, each plant has grown to its full potential with breathing room to keep air flow constant.

If you do it right, newly planted shrubs and perennials might look a little too far apart. But they’ll need that space so that they don’t become overcrowded once mature. This is a great time to utilize annuals to temporarily fill in the bare spaces while the more permanent plants grow into their places. Of course, it is also important to mulch the area in between to control weeds from sprouting.

Choosing plants you love that can be allowed to grow as much as they need to without causing problems down the line is just one element to growing not just a beautiful landscape, but a healthy one, too.


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