University of Maryland Extension

Tree-Shrub Planting

Selection | Purchasing | Planting | Care | When to Remove a Tree

Green screen or specimen plant? What functions do you want plants to do for your landscape?

You may desperately want to screen your neighbors back yard from your new outdoor dining area. But plant several fast-growing Leyland cypress 2 feet apart to get a quick fix and you'll be cutting all of them down due to overcrowding in a few years.  Determine the best plant for the job and save yourself a lot of time and money!

overgrown dwarf Alberta spruce






Overgrown dwarf Alberta spruce blocking view from windows

Site Evaluation 

Many plant problems are due to a poor match of a plant to the site or failure to correct site problems. Listed below are several important site evaluation criteria. Numerous sources of information on plant's preferences are available on-line, in the library, and at reputable local garden centers. Get ideas from a local arboretum, botanical garden, neighbor's yard, or garden center. Take a picture of the plant and the name tag then do your research to determine where it will be happy in your landscape.


Determine if the site receives full sun or partial sun or is in full shade.

Soil conditions 

Check soil chemistry by submitting a soil sample to a soil-testing laboratory. Check the soil test results for pH and nutrient deficiencies. Most woody plants grow satisfactorily with a soil pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Plants such as andromeda, azalea, blueberry, holly, laurel, and rhododendron are exceptions. These plants grow best when the pH (acidity) is 4.5 to 5.5. Correct nutrient deficiencies by following the fertilizer and lime recommendations that accompany the soil-test results.

Soil moisture 

Some plants are very picky about the amount of moisture their roots will grow in. Succulent plants, like sedum, are adapted for dry conditions. Plant them near a downspout where the soil is constantly wet and they won't survive very long.

Soil structure

Is difficult to determine with a standard soil test. Most soil labs will provide tests to determine the soil texture. Soil textures are classified according to the relative amounts of sand, silt, and clay. Loams are soils in which neither sand, silt, or clay are dominant. Generally, loams and sandy loams provide the best soil structure for plant growth.

Existing landscape features and utilities  

Be aware of the utilities above and below ground. Large shade trees should be planted well away from power lines.  Plant roots and underground utilities are in danger of damage if they are too close.  Always contact Miss Utility (1-800-257-7777) before planting.

Maintained by the IET Department of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. © 2020. Web Accessibility