Every grass, plant, tree, and shrub has characteristics that best suit it to one environment or another. The charts beginning on page 265, coded to appropriate climatic zone maps, highlight important factors to consider when deciding what to plant. Consult the checklist on the opposite page to schedule planting and landscape maintenance throughout the year.
A landscaped yard requires constant attention to stay healthy and beautiful, and each season calls for its own set of chores. Because climates vary widely in the United States, the calendar is an unreliable guide to the seasons. Changes in temperature, soil conditions, and plant appearance are more trustworthy indicators. The last hard frost marks the beginning of spring, when bulbs begin to put out shoots and perennials unfurl new leaves and stems. Rising soil temperature is a signal for preemptive weed control. Agricultural extension agencies monitor soil temperatures and can tell you other ways they affect landscaping in your area. Many flowering shrubs bloom in mid-spring, but rosebuds announce the arrival of summer. In northern climes, cooler nighttime temperatures and falling leaves signal the start of autumn. The first few killing frosts are a prelude to winter, when most plants are dormant and require little more than protection from ice and snow.
This chart divides grasses into northern (cool season) and southern (warm season) varieties, each listed by common English name followed by botanical name. Details in the chart include: areas in which each grass grows best, keyed to the map on page 266; the optimal range of soil pH; the planting methods and preferred planting seasons; the amount of seed in pounds needed to sow an area of 1,000 square feet; and the ideal mowing height. The last column lists important attributes and the maintenance requirements of each variety.
Where grasses grow best
For the purpose of choosing a grass for a lawn, the United States is divided into six climatic zones. The boundaries of these regions are drawn according to environmental factors that are critical to grass health, primarily minimum winter and maximum summer temperatures and annual rainfall. Northern grasses generally do well in Zones 1 through 4; southern grasses generally prefer Zones 4, 5, and 6.
This chart lists more than three dozen common ground covers by their English and Latin names, grouped according to foliage type—evergreen, deciduous, or semievergreen (plants that keep their leaves only where winters are mild). The zones in which each plant thrives, listed in the second column, are keyed to the map that appears on page 282. Semievergreen plants flourish widely but are green year round only in Zones 8 to 11. Plant height and methods of propagation are listed in the third and fourth columns. The last column notes a variety of special characteristics, such as ground covers that are well suited to slopes or rock gardens and any special light or soil requirements. All of the plants have green foliage and all flower or fruit, unless otherwise noted.
Trailing African Daisy
Silver Mound Artemesia
This chart lists 79 small and medium-sized ornamental trees suitable for a garden, patio, or yard; 50 are deciduous, 14 are narrow-leafed evergreens, and 15 are broad-leafed evergreens. The first column gives the common English names of each tree in alphabetical order, followed by the botanical name; the second lists the geographical zone or zones in which each tree grows best (map, page 282). The third column gives the approximate height of a mature tree. Growth rates for trees vary, from less than 12 inches annually (slow), to 1 to 2 feet per year (moderate), to 3 feet or more a year (fast). Tree shapes sometimes differ within a single species, as listed in the Shape column. The Special Characteristics column includes other qualities, such as striking leaf color or unusual bark, which make trees distinctive; here, too, variations exist within a species. Also noted in this column are soil and sun requirements, and whether a tree produces flowers, fruit, or seeds. Inquire at a local nursery about trees that are native to your area; these species will flourish, because they have adapted to local conditions.
European Mountain Ash
Red Jade Crab Apple
California Black Oak
False Moss Sawara Cypress
Japanese Black Pine
This chart lists 58 flowering shrubs by their common English names, followed by their botanical names. The numbered zones in which each shrub can be grown are keyed to the map on page 282. In the chart’s third column the approximate height for each variety is listed. Colored circles in the fourth column indicate the range of flower colors usually produced by each shrub or its relatives. To the right of the colors is the shrub’s blooming season. The Special Characteristics column contains uses to which the plant is well suited—a hedge or a ground cover, for example; its soil and sun preferences; and the presence of fruit, attractive foliage, or a pleasant fragrance.
Exbury Hybrid Azalea
Lemoine Mock Orange
Hybrid Flowering Quince
Marie’s Double File Viburnum
Chinese Witch Hazel
This chart lists 20 evergreen shrubs by their common names, then by their botanical names. The numbered zones in which each shrub can be grown refer to the map on page 282. Special characteristics and growing conditions are mentioned in the last column; these include specific uses, such as a lawn specimen, hedge, screen, or ground cover; soil requirement; and whether the plant produces fruit, berries, or flowers.
Laland Fire Thorn
Gold Coast Juniper
Dwarf Alberta Spruce
In the chart below, plants are listed by their most common English names, followed by their scientific Latin names. The second column indicates the climatic zone or zones in which each plant can be grown, keyed by number to the map on page 282. All of the plants flower, and a few plants have additional special traits. Bishop’s hat, fringed bleeding heart, and leadwort have distinctive foliage, while common thrift is an evergreen. Plant heights, listed in the next column, include the height of the flowers, and the fourth column indicates the blossoms’ range of colors. The Growth Habit column shows that most of these plants grow upright, but some grow either by spreading or by trailing from a central stem. Special soil and light conditions in which specific plants thrive appear in the last column.
European Wood Anemone
Dwarf Bearded Iris
Plants and winter cold
Successful landscaping depends upon a choice of plants that thrive on the land they adorn. Since soil conditions and moisture levels can usually be altered artificially, limitations on where plants will flourish depend largely upon the severity of winter cold. This map devised by the U.S. Department of Agriculture divides the United States into 11 numbered and colored zones, each distinguished by an average minimum winter temperature. Use the charts of ground covers (pages 267-269), flowering shrubs (pages 275-278), and rock-garden plants (page 280) with this map to select plants that will grow best in your area.