How to Improve Your Landscaping in 3 Steps

Photo courtesy of Central Lawn Care

Photo courtesy of Central Lawn Care

Warmer temperatures and sunshine are just around the corner (we can feel it!). To help you get ready for planting season, we’ve shared a few things to consider from the landscaping experts at Central Lawn Care here in Northern Kentucky before picking out your plants (NOTE: This article originally appeared in The River City News):

Before choosing new plants for your landscape, make sure they’re the perfect fit. Consider the place, the space and the plant.


Where do you want a plant and why? Are you looking for shade over a seating area? Privacy for a pool or entertaining area? To mark a boundary? To add some color? Or does a spot just look like it “needs something there”? All of these are valid reasons to add a plant, and will help you decide which plant is right. You just need to understand the conditions of that spot. They include:

  • Light. Is this area shade, full sun, morning light or afternoon light? You’ll want a plant meant for that light condition.
  • Grade of land. Is it steep? Is it in a dip? Is it on the top of a ridge? Where it sits in relation to the land around it will affect how that part of the yard retains water, drains and its exposure to wind.
  • Soil. Is it rocky? Sandy? Compact like clay? Wet? Always dry? What color is it? Becoming familiar with your soil helps when talking to a nursery about a proper plant or while researching online. Most plants offered at local nurseries will survive in our local soils, but every plant is different. If you really want a plant that’s not known to thrive in your soil, you may just have to work extra hard to keep it healthy there. Does everything you plant throughout your landscape seem to struggle? Your soil may need to be fixed and that usually takes an expert.
  • Water source. Can you get to the spot easily with water? If this area is far from a water source, you may want a more drought tolerant plant or at least plan out how you’re going to get water to this area until the plant is self sustainable.

Tip: Just not sure about your soil or other elements of your yard? You have plenty of resources. The internet is fast and easy, but often isn’t specific enough to your particular area. It’s nice to hear from an expert in your zone, like the people at your favorite nursery. Extension agents are also amazing resources. Their services are free and in Kentucky, there’s an office in every county. You can even take samples of your soil in, or samples of plants you don’t know about and they’ll find you answers.


How much space do we have for the plant to grow and thrive to maturity? That means providing enough space for a plant to grow without affecting the plant or your property. Think about space in 360 degrees – around, above and below in the ground.

Think about your other plants. Avoid planting too close at the start, to avoid crowding in the future. The best rule of thumb is knowing the mature plant size and checking to see if there will be enough at the plant’s full-grown size. Make sure to account for not just the base or trunk, but also the canopy.

Tip: To measure, use the center of your plant as the starting point. If its mature size is three feet wide, then from its center, you’ll need 1.5 feet on every side. If you plant two of these plants, three feet apart center to center, then at maturity, they will just touch.


Now that you have your parameters, select a plant that meets all of your criteria. Think about the purpose of your plant? Is it for privacy? If so, consider evergreen. For color? Consider a flowering plant ­­– maybe one that has extended bloom times. Want something that will grow large faster or do you want it to stay small and compact? Make sure to research its growth rate before purchasing. Here are a few scenarios:

  • Full sun, privacy for a pool and you have plenty of space for growing. Consider a western style arborvitae hedge. They are great in sun, grow fast, have a beautiful, elegant shape.
  • Shade for a seating area, have fertile soil and lots of overhead space. Consider a large oak like a red oak, white oak or a willow oak. They are great broad-form trees, grow quickly to get that shade you need and will stand the test of time.
  • Small urban space with a sidewalk and partial shade. Consider a larger species of Japanese maple multi-trunk. After some training through pruning over multiple seasons, they can grow over a sidewalk in a dramatic arch.
  • Small urban space about 10 feet by 20 in part shade. Look at a mix of oak leaf hydrangea (rounder) or panicle hydrangea (upright vase shape) and lower to the ground, shade-friendly perennials like ferns and hostas.

Tip: If you’re working on a budget but have a large yard, a phased plan is best. I recommend starting with your landmark plants, the trees and shrubs, which will take longer to get to mature size. Then work toward the smaller, faster growing plants. This way you don’t end up out of proportion.

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