Picking the right plants for a commercial landscape can rely on a lot of factors. Primarily, the location matters most. Here in Houston, we are in a subtropical latitude. Houston’s climate is interesting because we have a convergence of so many different local bio regions. Planting the right things based on where you live is crucial for so many reasons. Planting the wrong thing can cause several things can happen. You will end up replacing those plants more often, applying more plant healthcare methods, more water, etc. versus planting something that’s native or at least adapted to the environment that is designed to thrive in this climate. The right plant selection saves you time and money while requiring less care. Overall, a native plant selection does a lot more with less and it’s better for the soil. Here in Houston, we have a very high clay content and that is often referred to as black gumbo. This type of soil is often associate with not being good for planting but that’s not true if you use plants that are well adapted.
What are some of the plants for this area that thrive and require the least intervention to survive?
Let’s start with trees. The Nuttall Oak is a great choice for a commercial property looking to add trees to the landscape. It is endemic or native to this area around Harris County. It grows fast, looks similar to Shumard Oak, or Red Oaks and does very well here. We end up planting a lot of things like Chinese Elms and Bradford pears here, trees that don’t necessarily belong here. They can survive, they’re just not likely to do as well.
Shrub options that are adapted to Houston’s soils and weather include things like Turk’s Cap. It’s a beautiful shrub, a relative of hibiscus, that does very well in all kinds of soil and is very shade tolerant. It can bloom almost all year round since we have such a short winter. These plants don’t require all the fertilizers and pest sprays non-native plant selections do and don’t need much more water, if any, than what natural rainfall provides because they’re adapted to this latitude in our climate here. It comes in a variety of colors, reds, pinks, even white.
What about ground covers and our applications to turf? We have pretty simplistic ideas of grass or sod in the area. St. Augustine is what most people think about when discussing grass for a lawn. St. Augustine is a very water needy sod grass that is planted all over. It can look nice but doesn’t accomplish a lot environmentally. There are a variety of sod choices that do great here, and can be utilized, with minimal input also made into turfs. Like frog fruit or turkey tangle, and horse herb for example. Horse herb has little yellow flowers and light green leaves. People regard it as a weed, but the term weed itself is subjective, it’s just about what people have been trained to see as a weed. But if these plant selections are applied in the right combination, you only need to mow a few times a year. They stay naturally low. They don’t need much more water than the rainfalls provides just because they belong here. They are designed to thrive in the environment in which they’re being planted.
Plant selection in the new commercial landscape is important because it is the best opportunity for your plants to do well on your commercial property. The right plant selection is going to save you money because you’re not going to have to replace them and the maintenance is lower, because you don’t need fertilizers, tons of irrigation, and all kinds of interventions to help the plants survive.