My Favorite Landscape Performance Plants

my favorite plantsI’m constantly evaluating new plants…

I’ve grown and killed more plants than I care to admit, but I’ve learned what’s easy and performs.

So, save a bunch of time and energy and stick to this list for the best of the best.

When you’re just starting your landscape, design with trees first because they take up the most space.

  • Shade Trees : Use These on Your Southern and Western Exposure to save on your A/C bill

Willow Oak – Quercus phellos – My personal favorite; fast growing, strong central leader

White Oak – Quercus alba – This tree will live hundreds of years. Slow growing, elegant

Nuttall Oak – Quercus nuttalli – Great fall color, fast grower

Swamp White Oak Quercus bicolor – Big leaf, cool exfoliating bark, slow grower

Bald Cypress Taxodium distichum Deciduous conifer, fast grower, tolerates standing water

Tulip Poplar Liriodendron tulipifera – TN state tree, tulip blooms in May, huge leaf, fast grower

Red Maple Acer rubrum – Red Fall color, fast grower

Sugar Maple Acer saccharum – Spectacular yellow-orange Fall color, slow grower

Blackgum Nyssa sylvatica – Very consistent red fall color, fast grower

Exclamation Plane tree Platanus acerifolia ‘Morton’s Circle’ – Very fast grower, white winter bark

  • Large Evergreen Trees: Large Open Spaces

Norway Spruce – Picea abies – This needle evergreen has a cool droopy shape and large pinecombs

Cryptomeria – Cryptomeria japonica – Pyramidal shape, unique needle texture

Green Giant Arborvitae Thuja plicata ‘Green Giant’

  • Evergreen Trees for Privacy Screening

Emerald Green Arborvitae Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’ – 4 ft. wide x 20 ft. tall

Degroot’s Spire Arborvitae Thuja occidentalis ‘Degroot’s Spire – more narrow than Emerald Green

Eastern Redbud – Cercis canadensis – Spring blooms, fast grower

Serviceberry – Amelanchier laevis – Edible fruit, white blooms

Flowering Dogwood – Cornus florida – White (or pink) flower bracts, red fruit

Kousa Dogwood – Cornus kousa – White bracts, colorful bark

Japanese Stewartia – Stewartia pseudocamellia – Summer bloom, colorful bark

Crapemyrtle – Lagerstroemia sp. – Summer blooms, many great varieties

Katsura tree Cercidiphyllum japonicum – Fast grower, lollipop shape

Japanese Maple Acer palmatum – Slow grower, numerous varieties

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Once you get the trees figured out, it’s time to think about shrubs…

  • Large Evergreens – Install for Tall Hedge or Privacy

Prague Viburnum Viburnum x pragense – 10 ft. wide x 10 ft. tall, blooms white in May

Leatherleaf Viburnum Viburnum rhyt. ‘Allegheny’ – 25 ft. wide x 25 ft. tall, deer will not eat leaves

American Boxwood – Buxus sempervirens – Tolerates shady location very well, dark green color

  • Dwarf Evergreens – Foundation Planting or Short Hedge

Compacta Japanese Holly – Ilex crenata ‘Compacta’ – dark green color, 6 ft. mature height

Dwarf Yaupon Holly – Ilex vomitoria ‘Nana’ – great hedge plant, replacement for dwarf English boxwood

Green Velvet Boxwood – Buxus ‘Green Velvet’ – grows slowly, small leaf shape and texture

Korean Boxwood – Buxus microphylla – Easy to grow, grows much faster than American Boxwood

Phantom Hydrangea – Hydrangea paniculata ‘Phantom’ – fast grower, huge blooms

Limelight Hydranga – Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ – my favorite, best hydrangea available

Rose of Sharon – Hibiscus moscheutos – Summer blooms, many colorful varieties

  • Small Mature Size Flowering Shrubs

Winterberry – Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’ – red holly berries at Christmas, needs ‘Southern Gent’ nearby

Bobo Hydrangea – Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’ – very small mature size

Little Lime Hydrangea – Hydrangea paniculata ‘Jane’ – little sister to Limelight, bigger than Bobo

Dwarf Crapemyrtle – Lagerstroemia sp. – many varieties and colors, summer bloomer

Red Twig Dogwood – Cornus stolonifera – Red stems in Winter, Spring bloomer

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  • Groundcovers

Verbena – Verbena ‘Homestead Purple’ – covered in purple blooms in Spring, may rebloom

Creeping Ginny – Lysimachia – yellow chartreuse color in shade, green color in full sun

Periwinkle – Vinca minor – blue flower, glossy foliage, grows in shady area

  • Flowers

Iris – Iris sp. – TN state flower, blooms in April, spreads by roots, can be divided

Coneflower – Echinacea purpurea – Reseeds, blooms in late Spring-Summer

Yarrow – Achillea – reseeds, fernlike foliage, easy to grow

Beebalm – Monarda didama – will reseed, spider-like red bloomer, attracts hummingbirds

Black Eyed Susan – Rudbeckia – yellow blooms all Summer, spreads easily by seed

  • Ornamental Grasses (Need Well Drained Soil)

Feather Reed Grass – Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ – beautiful Fall plumes

Blue Fescue – Festuca ‘Elijah Blue’ – small mature size, blue grey color

Maidengrass – Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus’ – fine leaf blade

Maidengrass – Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ – very light green, almost white grass blades

Muhly Grass – Muhlenbergia capillaris – beautiful pink plumes in Fall, excellent in mass

Fountain Grass – Pennisetum alopec. ‘Hameln’ – Dwarf ornamental grass good for small spaces

  • Flowers with Color

Cockscomb – Celosia – plant it once, will reseed, beautiful unique bloom

Begonia – Begonia – My favorite is the dragon wing variety, many colors to choose from

Petunia – Petunia – great for hanging baskets and to take up a lot of space

Calibrachoa – Calibrachoa – awesome in hanging baskets, smaller bloom than Petunia

Margiold – Tagetes – great for organic garden, wards off bad insects, I love orange color

Gerber Daisy – Gerbera – classic, she loves me, she loves me not flower petals

Zinnia – Zinnia – loves hot weather, blooms till frost, many colors and double bloomers

  • Lime Yellow is a hot color that catches the eye.

    Sweet potato vine will grow all Summer long!

    Annuals for Foliage

Coleus – Coleus – Sun or shade, this annual never disappoints, many varieties

Sweet Potato Vine – Ipomoea batatas – grows all Summer long, ‘Margarite’ is chartreuse, ‘Blackie’ great too

  • Perennials (Live for Several Years)

Oregano – Origanum sp. – spreads, fast grower, evergreen

Rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis  – beautiful evergreen and herb for cooking

Blueberries – Vaccinium – need acidic soil, other edibles like neutral pH soil, blue green foliage, fall color

  • Lettuce and cabbage grow best in Spring and Fall.

    Lettuce and cabbage grow best in Spring and Fall.

    Annuals (Live for One Growing Season)

Basil – Ocimum basilicum – loves hot weather, crucial for pesto

Lettuce – Lactuca sativa – cool season veggie for Spring and Fall

Kale – Brassica oleracea – cool season, ornamental foliage and texture, great for pet bunnies

Broccoli – Brassica oleracea – cool season veggie, watch out for cabbage moth/worms!

Tomato – Solanum lycopersicum – needs hot weather, keep the leaves dry to keep away disease

Parsley – Petroselinum crispum – easy to grow, great ornamental leaves

Finally, after your ornamental plants are picked, you finish with the remaining space for turf.

Bermuda grass goes dormant in Winter.

Bermuda grass goes dormant in Winter.

Turf (Grass)
  • Cool Season (Green in Winter)

Fescue Blend Most Shade Tolerant – Creeping Red

  • Warm Season (Dormant-Brown in Winter)

Meyer’s Zoysia

Bermuda – Use caution, it spreads

  • Blue Agave must be stored in a cool, dry place for Winter. Replant next May after frost!

    Blue Agave must be stored in a cool, dry place for Winter. Replant next May after frost!

    Cacti (Kept in Garage in Winter)

Blue Agave

  • Citrus (in container, overwinter Inside)

Meyer’s Lemon

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