Author: Nancy Erdmann – Phoenix Home & Garden – April 2011 – Top 10 Landscape Mistakes

1.) Not understanding your plants’ needs: There is a tendency to purchase a plant that looks good at the nursery without a basic understanding
of its ultimate size, frost sensitivity, and exposure and soil requirements. Do your homework, and in the end it will save you time and money.

2.) Buying plants without considering their size at maturity: People forget how big plants will get when they see them at the nursery. Be sure to determine the space that established plants will need so that they can grow to their full potential.

3.) Lack of plant continuity: I call these “dog’s lunch” landscapes, where there is a little of everything thrown in with no composition. Plant nuts can be the worst offenders. But it is easy to solve by selecting a few theme plants to repeat throughout the garden to pull it all together.

4.) Planting too deeply: People tend to plant too deeply, which often results in the demise of vegetation. This holds especially true for trees and often seems to manifest after a plant has matured, making replacement expensive.

5.) Planting in poor-draining soil: Well-blended soils provide great drainage and encourage amazing root growth. Poor-draining soils lead to root rot. Amend soil with organic matter for non-natives and sand/pumice for native plants. Blend amendments into the soil to avoid creating a compacted layer that will limit root growth.

6.) Over-watering plant material: Watering more than is necessary invites rot, fungus and disease, on top of wasting our most precious resource. A simple solution is to turn the irrigation controller off when it rains (don’t forget to reprogram it each season). Also, check for leaks and breaks in the system annually.

7.) Using one drip system for everything: Trees, turf, cacti and pots all have different watering needs. Ideally, an irrigation system should be set up by watering zones so that your plants get exactly what they need.

8.) Improper pruning of trees and shrubs: Pruning shrubs into balls, stripping off a plant’s lower leaves (pineappling), or creating big puffs of foliage at the ends of branches (liontailing)—all look hideous and will weaken plants. You can maintain a clean look with healthy pruning practices

9.) Mistaking dormant plants for dead ones: Ash trees, ornamental grasses, red bird of paradise and lantana are example of plants that can appear to be dead when they actually are dormant. If a branch snaps off easily and is dry, it’s dead; if pliable and difficult to break, it’s alive.

10.) Trying to re-create a “Back East” garden: Choosing plants that flourish in the Midwest or on the East Coast is sure to lead to disappointment. These plants do not stand a chance in the low desert. You are better off going to the nursery and finding substitute plants that look similar but will thrive in our arid climate.