When choosing plants for new sustainable landscapes, it’s important to account for the height and the width of each plant species when it matures. This allows you to properly space plants in the landscape without having them feel crowded.
Proper plant placement, taking into account the mature plant’s size, also should limit the need for future pruning, and reduce the amount of maintenance required in the long run.
Natural plant shapes and sizes maximize habitat value, but wildfire prevention requires regular pruning and removal of dead plant materials.
The spacing chart below helps to judge how many plants are needed per square foot, based on the mature size of the plants.
Scale your plants at maturity
On your landscaping plan, use circles to note the size of every plant at maturity using a scale in which one inch equals four feet. Use colored pencils to note different water needs of the plants selected. It will make it easier to group plants into their proper irrigation zones (hydrozones).
Wide canopy trees that grow to 20 or 30 feet in diameter will significantly change the landscaping over time. Consider whether a tree will cover a large section of landscaping with shade that is currently getting full sun. If plants that thrive in full sun are eventually covered in shade, the landscaping may need to be revised in the future.
Small but mighty
Select the smallest, healthiest plants possible, especially when choosing native plants. Once they are planted in properly prepared soil and watered wisely, small plants establish themselves more vigorously than plants raised in larger containers. Do not plant more than the space allows when the plants mature.
Root depth matters
Take note of the root depth of plants when they are placed into the landscaping. Note root depths on your landscape plan. Trees will be irrigated less frequently, but for a longer period of time. Groundcovers with shallower roots require more frequent, shorter periods of irrigation. Keep these types of plants in separate hydrozones.
This article was inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.