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Landscape Plants & Design Pt.2 : Podcast Episode #41

Updated: Oct 10, 2021

Stachys officinalis 'Hummelo' in front of Arborvitae

So I know this is mostly a houseplant podcast/blog but I have always LOVED learning about all plants which includes landscape plants! I’ve said this before but the main reason I started getting into houseplants was because I didn’t have my own yard to experiment with and a space to plant landscape plants. Landscape plants were what I sold and taught people about for 7 years and I still continue with my family and friends' landscape designs.

As I’m sure you also know, this episode/blog is Part 2! In the first episode/blog I went over the different categories of landscape plants, all the different things to consider when choosing plants and several varieties of plant options for the area I live in in SE Wisconsin, which is zone 5A (here is the Part 1 blog and podcase episode).

In this episode, I will dive into how to now maintain the plants you picked out, common pests and diseases, and design considerations.

Karl Foerster Grass with Coral Bells


Watering: Newly installed plants will not survive unless watered properly. It is best to water heavier and less frequently than less water and more often. For the first full season, you will need to keep up with watering. In the second and third year, you may need to provide supplemented water if there is a drought but they shouldn't need much more help.

Fertilizing: I know several people that don't use fertilizers but if you want the best potential for your plants, fertilizer is important. There is not many ways to do this wrong as long as you follow the instructions on the packaging. There are fertilizers out there to help focus on greenery, flowers or root growth which can help steer your landscape in the direction you want. There are also water soluble or granular fertilizers that are conducive to the time you can put into maintaining your plants.

Hydrangea macrophylla Cityline® Rio

Pruning & Trimming: This is dependent on the plant type, plant condition and time of year. Trimming your perennials, shrubs or annuals could encourage new growth and reblooming flowers. Pruning trees and shrubs could help with plant shaping or promoting new growth.

Weeding: In a designed landscape bed, the last thing you want is unexpected plants invading your space and getting rid of weeds is mostly aesthetic driven within landscape design. Getting rid of the weeds helps with curb appeal, allowing the focus to be on the plants you put lots of money and effort into maintaining.

Clean Up: Where I live, this mostly means fall clean up. This can prevent disease, get you ready for new spring growth and can overall increase curb appeal.

Common Pests & Disease

There are many common pests and disease in our surrounding area that I can talk about but the treatment for each could be slightly different.

Sargent Tina Crabapple


Deer & rodents: These hungry pests typical do a number on many landscapes and gardens. There are definitely ways to help deter them but if they are hungry enough they WILL eat what they want. Some common things to help are physical barriers such as a fences around your property or around the individual plants being eaten. You can also use sprays or granular repellants that you have to reapply that won't obstruct the plant material or property like a physical barrier will. Using a product that is made from a predator's urine or using something with a spicy smell or taste works well. Having a dog can actually help prevent these pests as well but it is not fool proof.

Japanese Beetles: In our area, these pests LOVE roses and Linden trees. There are more plants they like to chew on but those plants have the most common issues with these pest. There are preventative sprays that can help deter these pests but, you can also just pick off the beetles from the roses if you don't want to spray the plant. You can also set up traps near the plants they love.

Those are the most common issues that we address at the garden center but some others that came up were Emerald Ash Borer, Tent Caterpillar, Scale, Slugs, Maple Gall, Whiteflies, and more.

Obedient Plant 'Miss Manners'


Rust: You can identify these by the rust colored dots covering the leaves or needles. It can affect perennials, deciduous trees, fruit trees, and evergreen trees. Rust isn't fatal but it can cause your plant to decline much faster than it naturally happens as seasons change. Pruning leaves that are infected, completely disposing of leaves in fall, and using a product, like copper fungicide or neem oil, can help prevent rust from spreading and returning.

Powdery Mildew: This white, powder-looking fungus that loves to live on leaves with high moisture and a lack of air flow. You can follow the same step to prevent this disease as rust! Again, prune leaves that are infected, completely disposing of leaves in fall, and use a product like copper fungicide or neem oil to help prevent spreading and returning.

Tar Spot: Most commonly found on Maples, Tar Spot will not kill your tree and it looks like black dots all over the leaves throughout the tree. It is preventable but not treatable once infecting the tree. To prevent Tar Spot from coming back in the following years, it is best to get rid of the leaves completely from your yard.

Those are the most common issues that we address at the garden center but some others that came up were Dutch Elm Disease, Oak Wilt, Scab, Canker, Blight, and more. Remember to ALWAYS clean you tools after using them on an infected plant to prevent spreading to other plants. Even cleaning in-between cuttings for a single plant can help reduce spreading! Dipping your pruners in bleach can do the trick!

Patriot Hosta & Max Frei Geranium

Landscape Design

There are several factors to consider when starting your landscape design.

  • Is this for functionality or curb appeal? An example of functionality is creating a privacy screening, providing shade, a source of food, or encouraging wildlife. All of these examples will reduce your plant options and help make a easier decision. If its strictly curb appeal and aesthetic you want, then the sky's the limit! As long as your are choosing plants that fit your properties microclimates, you will be successful!

  • What level of sunlight is there? This is just part of your properties micro climate to consider. You could have all day, direct sunlight in one location and a cool dark corner in another location.

Chicago Botanic Garden pathway
  • What is the moisture level? Make sure you are questioning whether you've seen some sitting water on your property, if there are some dry spots you've noticed, if the downspouts empty direct into a planting bed, etc

  • What is the soil like? In SE Wisconsin, we run into properties that consist of more clay. This requires a soil amendment, like compost, to help with drainage and allow for healthy root systems. You may also consider the soil's pH. For example, if you are trying to plant under a spruce tree, the soil would be much more acidic them under a deciduous tree.

  • How much an I willing to maintain? The idea of a big, beautiful planting bed with unique plants sounds great but you don't want to regret the level of complexity of your yard after it is too late. If you need a low maintenance yard, make sure you are shopping for only low maintenance plants.

  • Are there any other environment things to consider? It is good to notice whether or not there are higher winds in your planting area. If you are planting by the road, salt could affect your plants life. If you are using mulch instead of rocks those get much warmer. If you've noticed an pests you need to plan for, etc.

  • The most important (and fun) question: what do YOU like? Search plants on Pinterest or gardening websites to find an aesthetic you like, flower or foliage colors you love, varieties you would love to see in your yard, do you want certain blooming times, etc.

Here are some helpful LANDSCAPE TIPS to consider...

Russian Sage and Coreopsis at Chicago Botanic Garden
  • Note your hardiness zone. No matter were you live in the world, you should be able to find this information. For people that live in the United States, but make sure you visit the USDA's website to understand what zone you are in. Only choose plant material that includes your zone, otherwise it will not survive year to year.

  • Always look at the mature plant size. Usually you want to create a tiered effect with your landscape so the shortest plant material is not obscured by the largest plant material.

  • Consider seasonal blooming. If you want constant blooming, make sure to include plants that bloom, or have seasonal interest, constantly.

  • Odd numbers (almost) always look better. There have been times where an even number of plants looked good but 9 out of 10 times it looks much better with an odd number.

  • Choose a focal point. This doesn't necessarily mean pick "one" plant to focus on. You can have a row of Arborvitae as the focal point or you could have a large group of three shrubs as the focal point. Just make sure your eye is drawn somewhere specific.

  • Think about color! I think blooming plants are beautiful no matter what, but the most pleasing combination is complementary colors. For example, purple Russian Sage and yellow Coreopsis create an amazing color scheme in your landscape.

  • Map our your bed and lay out the plants BEFORE you make it. When/if you are creating a new landscape bed, make sure your have considered all the plants when they are their most mature. You can place the plants, while they are still in their pots, at the location you plan on planting them to visualize the design better. This will allow you to see if you need to add, subtract or make alterations to your design. You can also spray paint the approximate lines in which the bed will be created to add another visual aid.

  • Consider any obstructions in your yard. Observe your yard from every angle and make sure you are aware of roof lines, power lines, views, fences, etc.

Instagram Q&A

I asked followers if they had any specific plant questions I could address in this podcast and blog. Here are the questions and answers for Landscape Plants & Design Pt. 2:

Coneflower 'Magnus'

"Good plants for extremely rocky soil (Michigan)"

  • There are many but here are some...Sedum, Hen's & Chicks, Candytuft, Lavender, Milkweed, Columbine, Bellflower, Baptisia, Gro-Low Sumac, Butterfly Weeds, Coreopsis, Coneflower, Catmint, Black- Eyed Susan, Lamb's Ear, Yucca, Creeping Juniper, Prairie Dropseed Grass, Little Bluestem Grass, Aster, Salvia, etc.

"Pest deterring plants"

  • Plants with a stronger odor tend to help prevent insects such as Geranium, Chrysanthemums, Dill, Chives, Lemongrass, Marigolds, Thyme, Allium, Citronella Plant, Rosemary, Nasturtiums, etc.

"How do you physically create a landscape bed?"

  1. You can first layout your design or spray paint the area in which you want dug out.

  2. Dig up all grass with a shovel or sod cutter

  3. (Optional) rototill your bed to loosen up soil for planting. I don't do this for the whole bed. I usually just dig a larger hole around the plant to loosen up the soil.

  4. Place your plants in their spaces, dig holes for plants (plants should be sitting slightly above soil grade when planted) and backfill with 2/3 your own soil and 1/3 composted soil (or a soil amendment). The ratio depends on your soil.

  5. Top dress the soil after planting with mulch. Mulch is a natural weed barrier, it provides nitrogen to your plants and helps hold moisture. You can also top dress with stone but you need to install a fabric weed barrier so your stones don't sink into the soil. Stone does not provide any benefit to your plants besides an aesthetic appeal and it is less maintenance.

Bailey Red Twig Dogwood

"Now that is it becoming fall, what should I do with my plants?"

  • This is dependent on what plants you have, how old your plants are, how large they are and what kind of look you want. If you like a manicured landscape, you can shape your shrubs and cut back your perennials when they are spent.

"If I wanted to plant something in fall, what is appropriate?"

  • You can still plant trees and shrubs for a bit longer into fall. Perennials are a bit more delicate so you don't want to plant these too late. You can plant spring blooming bulbs in fall when it is colder, such as tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinth, allium, iris, etc.



Go to Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and PodBean. Search for Houseplant Homebody to hear this episode and MANY more! You can also listen directly on my website under the Podcast page!


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Always written with extreme plant passion!

Love, Holly


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