Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Midwest Growing Conditions and Plant Choices

The amount of dead plant material this spring in the Kansas City landscape is astounding. Last winter's brutal cold spell took its toll on everything from perennials to mature trees. We have received numerous phone calls from customers asking why some of their plants have failed. The biggest factor has been the lack of moisture. Last September through the middle of December was extremely dry so the plants went to sleep without a drink. Then came the sub zero temps and high winds (aka polar vortex) to finish them off.

We have also seen a increase, or trend, with more southern climate loving plants such as  Nandina, Lagerstroemia  and Cherry Laurel being used in our area. These varieties are still at risk when exposed to extreme conditions even if they are planted in protected sites. I love different stuff just as much as everybody else does, but be cautious.  Just remember, the Midwest is in the transition zone, the most diverse climate in the country.

We are also still seeing the affects of the severe heat and drought of 2011 and 2012. A lot of the root systems on trees, conifers, and shrubs were reduced because of the stress. The summer of 2013 was better but not enough for some of the trees and shrubs to recover going into a very dry fall. There are always many other factors that can lead to the decline of trees of shrubs but lack of moisture is where most of these problems have started.

Hopefully, Mother Nature will take it easy on us for the rest of this summer and fall, but don't completely count on it.  There are plants that are tolerant to the adverse weather and growing conditions.  Ornamental grass Calamagrostis Karl Foerster and native Sporobolus heterolepis do well year after year.  Ornamental shrubs to use include Aronia Brilliantissima, Rhamnus frangula Asplenifolia, and Viburnums.  Pragense Viburnum is a stud! 

Pragense Viburnum 3gal
Viburnum Pragense 3gal

Calamagrostis acu Karl Foerster 5gal
Calamagrostis acu Karl Foerster 5gal


Rhamnus frangula Asplenifolia 5gal
Rhamnus frangula Asplenifolia 5gal

Beyond these few I have listed, there are many plants that make our tried and true list.  Give your sales representative a call for recommendations in your area.  Happy Planting!!  

By Steve Bridges, Sales Representative

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