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Gardening with Laurie: Consider location when buying plants

By Victoria Advocate
Dec. 15, 2011 at 6:15 a.m.

Laurie Garretson

By Laurie Garretson

When purchasing plants from a garden center, you will many times find little picture tags stuck in each pot. This little tag usually shows a picture of how the plant can look at maturity, the plant's name and growing conditions that are most favorable to that specific plant. These tags can be very helpful to gardeners if they know how to interpret them.

The back of the tags usually provides some very general planting information. Little symbols also show the amount of full sun, shade or sun/shade conditions that the plant will be happiest growing in. Many times, these symbols can confuse the buyer. For example, tags that show full-sun conditions obviously don't know how hot full-sun conditions are in our part of the world. The summer full sun in our parts will be nothing like the summer full sun that shines in Maine, Wyoming or Idaho.

The term "shade" can also be misunderstood and confusing. Does this mean all-day shade, morning shade, afternoon shade or mid-day shade? Most landscapes will have areas that are shaded by solid objects like a house or a fence, and then there's shade that's provided by trees. The shade that's provided by solid objects will not vary much, but shade produced by trees will change with time. Deciduous trees will provide shade when they are fully leafed out during the warm seasons. During the fall and winter months, deciduous tree will drop their leaves and not provide any shade. There is one thing to keep in mind when planting under or near trees. Trees will grow, and as they grow larger, they will provide more shade.

I also categorize directional areas of shade. An eastern exposure means that a flowerbed on the east side of a house will get the morning sun and have shade in the afternoon to evening hours. Just the opposite will be true for a western side of a house, morning shade and sun all afternoon to evening.

Tags that call for full sun are usually going to be plants that are tropical or native types. And even these sun lovers will usually do well with some afternoon shade. A little shade relief from our afternoon summer sun can benefit most plants.

Plant tags that show sun/shade conditions imply that the plant could be more versatile. If this is a plant you are not familiar with, I'd suggest that you keep it in a pot and try growing it in different locations to find where it's happiest.

One last tip. Many plants can grow well in different environments at different times of the year. A plant that prefers a shadier cooler location during the summer months can sometimes be happy growing in full sun during cooler months.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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