What is the difference between trees and shrubs?
Trees and shrubs are considered woody plants. Trees and shrubs are the main components of most planned landscapes. Because of their structural importance and longevity in the landscape, it is essential to select these plants carefully, basing decisions on the site.
Trees grow with one or a few main trunks and are usually over 15 feet tall. Shrubs are typically less than 15 feet tall. For example, large multi-stemmed shrubs, such as nannyberry viburnum, may grow taller.
Some sites also have single-trunked trees that grow taller than 15 feet. Single-trunked trees produce less than 15 feet tall, such as the Sargent crabapple, which extends to about 10 feet tall.
How to select the right site for planting your trees and shrubs?
Selecting the right tree or shrubs for your garden can be overwhelming. Adding the right tree or shrub is an excellent addition to the fauna of your space. However, purchasing the tree and shrub requires significant time and effort.
Before purchasing the tree or shrub for your space, consider the labor in planting your tree. Careful selection, proper planting, and good follow-up maintenance will ensure that your plant purchases add long-term value and enjoyment to your landscape.
Determining and defining the purpose of the tree and shrubs should be the first step before planting.
- Provide a sense of scale/transition: plants can help to connect small and large elements. Trees, with their larger size, often give us a visual sense of scale in our landscape. Shrubs, with their vast array of sizes, often are used as connections between larger and smaller elements in the landscape.
2. Provide shade and a sense of enclosure: Shade from trees make outdoor living areas more inviting in hot weather and, when strategically placed, can reduce the energy needed to cool homes.
Large shade trees provide large areas, but medium or small trees may give enough shade for a spot such as a patio or a deck. Also, consider whether too much shade could be a detriment; for example, vegetable gardens and fruit trees will not thrive in the shade.
3. Provide visual screening: Dense evergreens can be used when screening is year-round. Deciduous trees or shrubs are appropriate when screening is needed from late spring through early fall.
A common mistake is planting trees and scrubs too close to other plants and structures. These often result in plants intruding on pedestrian walkways, interfering with power lines, and blocking window views.
Here are several tips for avoiding these mistakes:
Analyze the site: Measure how much space you have for plants as you survey planting locations for future plants. Plan to keep plants far enough away from buildings so that there will be open space between mature plants and the building. This will provide air circulation and space for the plant and building maintenance.
According to maturity, space plants will not crowd against or into neighboring plants. Don’t forget to look up; plants that grow too close to power lines may be radically pruned and removed.
Know the plant’s maturity height and width before planting: Small shrubs and trees that you purchase will grow much larger within a few years. The maturity height and width of the species you want to plant can usually be found on labels on new plants you purchase, in trusted references, and on reliable websites.
You may find slightly different size ranges among these sources of information, but you should be able to determine a reasonable estimate of mature size.
Know the plant’s growth rate: A shrub with a mature height of 10 feet might reach that height in five years if it has a rapid growth rate, or it might take 20 years if it is very slow growing. Slow-growing plants may be spaced more closely if desired since it will take them longer to reach mature size.
How do you prepare the soil for planting trees and shrubs?
Most trees and shrubs grow well in a broad range of soil types. Other plants are very particular about soil types. The ideal soil for most trees and shrubs is loam. Loamy soils provide physical space between soil particles for roots to grow.
Many trees and shrubs grow well in soils with a pH range between 5.5 to 7.0 because most plant nutrients are readily available between these pH levels. A lot of trees will tolerate somewhat alkaline soils.
When selecting trees and shrubs for your space, it is critical to know the planting sites’ soil characteristics and choose plants that will grow well in those soil conditions.
Trees and shrubs well-matched to the soil will flourish and grow for decades when their daily requirements of nutrients, oxygen, and water are met. A tree planted in the wrong soil is a starved and stressed plant that will grow poorly, decline, and have a shortened life span.