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Plant IQ

Tart and Tangy Fruits

Lemonade ... oh, yes!

Lemon trees have lush greenery, fragrant flowers, and tangy (one might even say "sour") fruits throughout the year. The trees grow best in USDA Plant Zones 9-10; in any other area, the Lemon should be grown in pots where it can easily be brought indoors during the cold months.

Lemons grow on medium sized 20' tall & wide trees with handsome shiny, evergreen leaves and enticingly fragrant flowers. Many varieties also come in dwarf sizes, obtaining only 4-10 ft tall. The quick growing trees bear their first fruits at a young age.

Lemons produce the most fruits when sited in full sun, except in desert regions where some shade is beneficial. Many varieties keep well on the tree so there is no need to rush the Lemon harvest. Their yellow skins look decorative among the green leaves. Eventually, though, fruits left on the tree develop drier pulp and thicker skins. For long-term storage, harvest the fruits when slightly green, then place in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator where they will ripen to a bright yellow color.

Lemons may produce deformed fruits if unusual and extreme weather occurs, most notably cold snaps. Sudden or extreme temperature changes can interrupt the normal pollination process, causing irregular fruits. Trees should produce normal fruits later in the season or the following year. To form juicy fruits, lemons need regular watering. Without enough water, trees will produce undesirable fruits with thicker skins and drier pulps. Spread fertilizer in winter beneath the tree as far out as the branches spread.

If the tree becomes too large or unproductive, revitalize it with drastic pruning. Saw limbs back to stubs 2 in. in diameter. Shoots will soon appear from the dormant buds. The trees require good draining soil to avoid problems with trunk and root diseases.

Lemons are versatile fruits used for tangy flavoring in refreshing drinks and dishes. There are almost always ripe fruits on the tree. To harvest, clip fruit with a pair of sharp pruning shears and handle gently.

A tough, dependable, year round shrub needing little more than well drained soil to quickly provide a neat, deep green hedge, Boxwoods have evergreen, disease resistant foliage.

Boxwood is a compact shrub, most notable for its thick, uniform, green leaves. It also offers tiny, white flowers in spring, but most gardeners use Boxwoods for hedges or as specimen plants. Some of the more popular varieties:

Buxus sempervirens (Common or English Boxwood) is most often used in large hedges.

Buxus microphylla (Japanese Boxwood) is easily clipped into topiary shapes, such as globes, tiers or pyramids. It is also perfect for growing in containers.

Buxus microphylla koreana (Korean Boxwood) is a tough and hardy plant that can do well in temperatures as low as 18 deg. below zero. Its lush green leaves are smaller, and the shrubs grow slower and lower than other types of Boxwood, making them ideal for edging hedges.

Boxwoods are well suited to full or part sun sites as privacy screen, evergreen hedges, low borders, or as trimmed specimen plants planted all by themselves.

Hide a storage area of garbage cans with a row of tall Boxwoods. The thick foliage will replace an unattractive view with subtle, year round greenery.

Line a walkway to the front door with a dwarf Boxwood hedge. The uniform shape and growth of these shrubs makes them ideal for leading a visitor to a welcome doorway.

Create a lush foundation planting beneath windows with several Boxwoods planted close together. Shape them to fit the particular style of your home.

Flowering plants look even more lush and colorful against a Boxwood backdrop, and other shrubs can be used to contrast or complement the dense Boxwood foliage.

Behind a perennial bed of tall, wiry, single colored flowers, such as white Shasta daisy, yellow daylily, and red peony, plant a dark colored variety.

Line a Rose bed of elegant Hybrid Tea Roses with a low growing cultivar. The shrubs can be clipped to a formal shape, in keeping with the sophisticated Rose blooms.

Add color in front of a Boxwood trimmed to shape with a planting of spring bulbs. Tuck a few bulbs in at the foot of a Boxwood hedge or plant a row of blooming Tulips just behind the low growing Boxwoods. This way the Boxwood can screen out the faded flower foliage of the Tulips.

Trim Boxwoods so that their tops are narrower than their bottoms. Wider top growth can shade lower branches and kill the plant. Keep Boxwood hedges and topiaries looking formal by trimming back the new growth in early and late spring.

AccentA plant utilized to bring attention to a certain plant characteristic with the intent to draw the eye to its area of the landscape. Examples of accent features are stunning foliage color, interesting growth habits, unique flowers, etc.
Acidic A soil composition that has a pH of less than 7.0
Aeration The amount of air present in the soil. Properly aerated soil allows for the healthy growth of the plant's roots and thereby promoting the overall vigor of the plant itself.
Alkaline A soil composition that has a pH of more than 7.0
Angled Cuts The angle of the cut when pruning branches should be between 45 and 60 deg to the plane of the branch. The cut should be made slightly above a bud or branch in such a way that that the lower part of the cut terminates on the opposite site of the bud or branch.
AnnualA plant that grows, blooms, and/or sets seeds within a one year period and then dies completely. All of the plant's energy is directed towards producing flowers and/or seeds.
Attractant Some feature of the plant provides a food source for the creature, which could be butterlies, hummingbirds, polliator insects,rabbits, etc.
Bare Root The plant has no soil surrounding its roots, in essence the roots are exposed and bare. Commonly used to ship plants to states with soil shipment regulations, the plant itself cannot survive long-term in this state without specialized care and it is best to plant them as soon after delivery as possible.
Biennial A plant that completes its entire life cycle (birth to death) in two years. The first year is for growth and reproduction, then plant dies the second year.
Bolting To flower prematurely rather than producing the food crop.
Bonsai Carefully trained, dwarf plants grown in containers.
Botanical Name The scientific name of a plant, composed of at minimum, the genus and the species.
Bud The point on a plant where new stems and leaves will occur.
Bud Union The point at which the plant was grafted onto a rootstock, typically from a specific technique whereas the bud of one plant is attached to another different plant. The union point usually looks like a "bump" in the trunk.
Bulb An underground storage organ that releases the plant's energy at the appropriate seasonal time so that new growth and flowers can form, then almost immediately the plant dies back to its dormant state to begin building up energy again.
Cambian The thin membrane located just beneath the bark of a plant.
Cane The stems of a berry plant, such as raspberry or blackberry.
Canopy The canopy is the highest level of branches and foliage, which provide shade below.
Catkin A slender, drooping, flower cluster.
Chlorophyll The pigment giving green leaves their color.
Clay A soil type with very small, compact particles. Clay soil is often moist and sticky when wet while hard and compact when dry. The soil absorbs and holds water, often has drainage problems, and does not allow air to get to the roots of plants. Clay soil adversely affects healthy root and plant growth.
Cold Frame An unheated structure for growing, protecting and/or acclimating hardy and half-hardy to the outdoors.
Cold Hardiness Refers to a plant's ability to survive near-freezing and subfreezing temperatures. Many factors can determine cold hardiness, such as the overall health of the plant, the native habitat of the plant, the speed at which the temperature changes from warm to cold, etc.
Complete Fertilizer A plant food which contains all three of the primary nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
Compost Decomposed organic material that aids in plant growth.
Cones A distinguishing feature of pines and other conifers which houses the seeds.
Conifer A bush or tree that produces cones and usually has evergreen, needled foliage.
Cordon A plant intentionally trained to grow as one (or just a few) stems by removing its side shoots. Tomato plants are often pruned in this manner.
Cover Crop A crop, which is planted prior to the normal crop, to control weeds and add nutrients to the soil when it is plowed under prior to regular planting.
Crown The point of a plant where the roots join the stem. When planting, the crown of the plant should always be planted at or slightly above the soil line, as planting too deep can cause fatal rotting of the crown and roots.
Cultivar A unique plant that has distinct and uniform characteristics that differentiate it from the original species.
Cultivate The process of breaking up the soil surface, removing weeds, and preparing for planting.
Cutting A process for propagating plants in which a piece of the stem taken from the source plant is placed into a suitable growing medium.
Days to Harvest Generally refers to the number of days it takes from setting out a transplant until the first harvest can be made.
Days to Maturity Generally refers to the number of days it takes from planting a seed until the first harvest can be made.
Deadhead The act of removing spent (dead or dying) blooms on a plant to encourage more blooms or to prevent self-seeding. A simple way of pruning to continue producing flowers by discouraging a plant from producing seeds.
Deciduous A plant that sheds its leaves at the end of the growing season, remain bare through the cool winter months, and then produce a new set of leaves at the onset of the next growing season.
Deer Resistant A deer resistant plant is rarely or seldom eaten by deer. Deer often eat anything if their food is scarce so no plant is immune to deer browse.
Dioecious A plant that produces either female or male flowers, but not both, on a single plant. A male and a female plant must be planted in close proximity to each other for the female plant to produce fruit or berries, as the male provides the pollen for the female.
Direct Sow To sow seeds outdoors in their final positions, where you would like them to flower or crop
Dividing The process of separating the plant into smaller plants, usually during a dormant period, because they have become overcrowded due to continued growth.
Dormant A state of rest where the plant is temporarily inactive and is not growing.
Dormant A plant that is essentially resting, a time that the plant cannot produce growth, usually due to climatic factors.
Double Flower A flower with many overlapping petals, giving it a very full appearance.
Drip Line The measurement of the farthest branches from the plant center downward to the soil line. It is within this area that the largest concentration of feeder roots is generally located and the spot where water and fertilizer applications will be most effective.
Dwarf A smaller version of a full-sized counterpart.
Earth Up To place soil up around a plant's stem to exclude light, protect from frost, or to encourage additional roots to develop from the stem. This is commonly done when growing potatoes.
Ericaceous Plants that like acid soil and do not grow in alkaline soils, such as blueberries.
Erosion The wearing away, washing away, or removal of soil by wind, water, or man.
Espalier The process of training a tree or shrub so that its branches grow in a flattened, exposed pattern by tying, pinching, and pruning the branches.
Evaporation The process by which water returns to air. High temperatures speed up the evaporation process.
EverbearingA type of strawberry variety that yield a small crop in early summer and a heavier crop later in early autumn.
Evergreen A plant that retains its foliage throughout the entire year.
Fertilization The process of making soil more conducive to plant growth, usually by the addition of nitrogen, potassium, and/or phosphorus.
Fertilizer Organic or inorganic plant foods which may be either liequid or granular used to amend the soil in order to improve the quality or quantity of the plant's growth.
Fibrous Root A clump of very fine root branches.
Floricane Refers to raspberry and blackberry stems that grow for one year before bearing fruit.
Flower A blossom, often charactistically having an outer envelope of petals.
Flowering A plant that bears beautiful displays of colorful blooms. Utilize varieties with different bloom times to brighten the landscape all season long. Flowering plants should be sited in highly visible areas where their blooms can be enjoyed.
Foliage The many leaves of a plant, considered as a group. A cluster of leaves.
Foliar Feeding Fertilizer applied in liquid form to the plants foliage via a fine spray mist.
Forcing The process of hastening a plant's growth to maturity or bloom.
Foundation Plants that soften the harsh edges associated with buildings.
Frond The branch and leaf structure of a fern or members of the palm family.
Fruit Any fleshy part of a plant that supports the seeds. Not all fruits are edible!
Germination Refers to the point where a seed undergoes physical changes and begins to grow into a plant.
Girdling The choking of a branch by a wire or other material, most often in the case of woody plants that have been tied too tightly to a stake or support.
Graft Artifically adjoining a plant stem to the rootstock of another plant so that eventually the creation functions as one plant.
Ground Cover Low growing plants that are used to cover large areas of ground, to fill in spaces between stepping stones, for erosion control on slopes or banks, or as lawn substitutes. Ground covers usually create a uniform appearance.
Growing Season The number of days between the average date of the last killing frost in spring and the first killing frost in fall. Vegetables and certain other plants require a minmum number of days to reach maturity, so it is important that the growing season is long enough.
Growth Rate How fast a plant typically grows given typical normal conditions. Fast-growing has the quickest maturity time. Slow growing has the slowest rate.
Harden Off The process of moving plants outdoors for a portion of the day to gradually introduce them to the direct sunlight, dry air, and other outdoor growing conditions.
Hardiness The ability of the plant to withstand low temperatures or frost without artificial protection.
Hedge Plants used to create barriers and increase privacy
Heeling In Temporarily setting a plant into a shallow trench and covering the roots with soil to provide protection until it is ready to be permanently planted.
Herbaceous A plant with no woody stems
Humus The brown or black organic part of the soil resulting from the partial decay of leaves and other natural ingredients.
Hybrid The offspring of two plants, resulting in a new plant altogether.
Hydroponics The science of growing plants in mineral solutions or liquids, instead of in soil.
Invasive Invasive plants spread agressively, are usually difficult to remove, and can quickly grow out-of-control.
Layering A method of propagation by which a branch is rooted while still attached to the plant by securing it to the soil with a piece of wire or other means.
Leaching The removal or loss of excess salts or nutrients from the soil.
Leaf The principal lateral appendage of the stem. The leaves and stem together form a shoot.
Lime Calcium compounds used to lower the soil pH, to make it more alkaline
Loam A fertile soil consisting of roughly equal portions of sand, silt, and clay. Loamy soil also contains organic matter.
Manure Organic matter, excreted by animals, which is used as a soil amendment and fertilizer.
Micro Nutrients Mineral elements which are needed by some plants in very small quantities. Aka, trace elements.
Microclimate Variations of the normal climate within a given area, usually influenced by hills, hollows, structures, or proximity to bodies of water.
Monoecious A plant that produces both female and male flowers a single plant. It does not need a pollinator plant nearby to produce berries or fruit.
Mounding Plants that grow in such a way that their growth is both vertical and horizontal, creating a rather rounded appearance. Mounding plants can be used as a transition between taller upright varieties and low growing cultivars.
Mulch Layer of organic material placed on the ground around the plant to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and improve soil structure.
Native Plant Any plant that occurs and grows naturally in a specific region or locality.
Naturalize To plant randomly, without pattern, with the intent to create an effect that the plants grew in that space without man's help.
Nitrogen An essential nutrient for plant growth, development and reproduction.
Organic Gardening The method of gardening utilzing only materials derived from living things.
Organic Material A natural substance derived from plants or animals, such as compost, leaves, or manure, that is used to improve the soil structure and aids in supplying nutrients to the plants.
Panicle A loose, airy, multi-branched cluster of flowers.
Peat A soil type with high organic matter and the ability to hold water. Peat soil is spongy to the touch.
Peat Moss A good, water retentive, soil additive comprised of partially decomposed remains.
Perennial A plant that lives for more than two years and is fully hardy to typical outdoor conditions.
Perlite A natural substance used to amend soil to increase its water holding capacity and prevent compaction, in turn allowing good drainage.
Pest Any insect or animal which is detrimental to the health and well-being of the plant.
Petal The part of a flower that is usually brightly colored and attracts pollinators.
pH A measurement of the amount of lime contained in the soil. A soil with a pH lower than 7.0 is acidic, a soil with a pH that is higher than 7.0 is alkaline.
Phosphorus A chemical element that plants remove from the soil and is essential to their growth and development.
Photosynthesis The process used by plants to convert sunlight into growing energy. Photosynthesis maintains atmospheric oxygen levels necessary for life on Earth.
Pinching The strategic process of removing new growth of a young plant to encourage a bushy habit and more flowering stems
Pollen A fine to coarse powder containing the cells necessary for the plant to bear fruit.
Pollination The transfer of pollen between flowers by the wind, insects, animals, or by hand
Pollinator The means by which pollen is transported to accomplish the act of pollination. Bees are common pollinators.
Pot Up Placing the plant into a larger container so it can become a larger plant
Potassium An essential nutrient for proper growth and development of the plant.
Potting Soil A soil mixture designed specifically for potted plants.
Propagation Starting new plants from seed or other vegetative means.
Pruning The cutting and trimming of plants to remove dead or injured wood, or to control and direct the new growth of a plant.
Rhizome A horizontal fleshy stem which grows at or below ground level.
Root The underground part of the plant
Root Ball The network of roots along with the attached soil. The root ball must remain intact during the planting process, as the tiny roots responsible for the plant's nutritional needs are contained within the root ball.
Rooting Hormone A power or liquid growth hormone, used to stimulate a plant cutting to send out new roots.
Rootstock The root structure below the crown of a grafted specimen.
Runner A trailing stem growing above ground and forming roots as it crawls along
Saline Soil A soil type with a very high salt content, and usually, is easily identified by a white layer coating the surface of the soil. Found in extremely dry regions saline soil, the high salt content prevents water uptake, leading to drought stress.
Sandy A soil type with large particles, the exact opposite of clay soil, and of which water and nutrients quickly drain away from the plant root's zone. Sandy soil is dry and gritty to the touch.
Screen Plants with a dense growth habit and a significant mature height which allows them to provide privacy, to function as a windbreak, or to draw the eye upward for vertical effect.
Seed A mature plant ovule containing an embryo. Under proper conditions, the seed can sprout and grow into a plant.
Self-Fertile A plant that does not need pollen from a second same variety to set fruit
Self-Sowing Self-sowing plants will sprout new plants on their own.
Semi-Dwarf A shorter version of a parent plant which allows the plant to be grown in a smaller space than its full-sized counterpart.
Semi-Evergreen A plant that retains most or some of its foliage all year
Shearing To cut the tips of the branches of a shrub, either by hand or by machine, to achieve a desired shape.
Shrub A woody plant of a relatively low height, having several stems arising from the base and lacking a single trunk.
Silt A soil type with fine particles, a cross between sandy and clay soils. Silty soil is soapy slick and easily compacts.
Single Flower A flower having only one set of petals.
Soil A natural substance covering the Earth and composed of a mixture of minerals, organic matter, gases, liquids, and countless organisms. These are some main soil types: Clay, Loam, Peat, Saline, Sand, and Silt. Knowing the type of soil in your yard will help to ensure gardening success.
Specimen A plant that is grown in a prominent location so that its unique features can capture attention and be admired. Specimens are usually stand-alone plants in the landscaping settings.
Sphagnum A bog moss that is sold in a fresh state and is used for lining hanging basket and air layering.
Staking When a plant is artificially supported, normally by driving a stake into the ground next to the plant, to assist in its upright growth or to guide for a particular purpose. Young trees are often staked to prevent swaying in high winds.
Standard A plant that has been grafted or trimmed to a certain height with a long bare trunk and foliage only at the top
Stem The main ascending part of a plant, also known as a stalk or trunk.
Succulent A type of plant with thick, fleshy, water-storing leaves or stems.
Sucker A growth originating from the rootstock of a grafted plant, below the graft bud. The sucker growth should be removed so it does not draw energy from the plant.
Systemic A chemical which is absorbed directly into the plant's vascular system to kill feeding insects on the plant or to kill the plant itself.
Taproot The largest, most central, and most dominant root from which other roots sprout laterally. Typically, a taproot is somewhat straight, very thick, and grows directly downward.
Tender Perennial A plant that lives for more than two years but cannot tolerate any frost and must be kept above 32 deg. all year. Often, tender perennials can be overwintered indoors.
Tendrils A twisting, slender part of a plant of which is used by a climbing or vining plant, such as a grape vine, to grab onto a suitable structure to twine around and often climb up on.
Texture The surface quality of the plant that can be seen or felt. Pleasing landscapes provide a variety of contrasting plant textures.
Thin To remove a number of buds, flowers, seedlings or shoots to improve the growth and quality of those remaining.
Top Dress To evenly spread fertilizers or other soil amendments over the soil's surface.
Topiary A shrub or tree that has been carefully pruned and/or trained to give it a unique shape, such as an animal, other than how it would naturally grow if left unpruned.
Topsoil The top layer of soil in the yeard, or a good quality soil sold commercially.
Trailing Those plants which produce primarily horizontal growth, often used for ground cover as they crawl along the ground.
Transplanting The process of digging up a plant and moving it to another location.
Tropical Those plants which originate from a region where freezing temperatures never occur, thus allowing the plant to grow all year.
Trunk The main stem of a plant, often covered with bark. It is important to protect the trunk from injury as it is the transport vessel for carrying nutrients up to the branches and down to the roots.
Tuber Swollen root or underground stem with storage tissue, ie potato.
Upright Plants with vertical branches which grow longer than its horizontal branches.
USDA Hardiness Zone The US Department of Agriculture has divided the United States into "Zones" which are based on each particular area's average annual minimum temperature. The zones are numbered: Zone 1 has the coldest average annual minimum temperature and the higher numbers (Zone 2, Zone 3, etc.) progressively get warmer. Plants are categorized according to their ability to withstand these average annual minimum temperatures. Determining the Zone for your yard and subsequently choosing plants that grow in that particular Zone will help to ensure gardening success.
Variegated Leaves which are marked with multiple colors, commonly white and green.
Vegatative Growing or having the ability to grow.
Vermiculite A hydrous substance mixed into the soil to create air channels, thus allowing the soil mix to breathe. Mixing vermiculite into sandy soil will also allow the soil to retain water.
Vine A plant that will grow to an indefinite height or width, often with tendrils to grasp onto a support structure. The support structure can be a fence, arbor, a trellis, the ground, a wall, a tree, a rock, etc.
Water Wise An environmental friendly landscape designed with plants, that once established, can survive periods of limited water availability.
Woody Usually trees or shrubs, woody plants have a main stem, larger branches, and roots that are normally covered by a layer of bark.

No doubt about it, plant tags can be confusing! All tags are different, some give a lot of data, some give a little ... they all are helpful and essential to making good plant choices. The positive news? They are easy to read and understand...keep reading, we'll walk you through the most pertinent information.

Most plant tags include the plant's Common Name and the plant's Botanical Name along with optimal habitat information, such as Light and Soil Recommendations, a photo of the plant (perhaps, in bloom which is quite useful when trying to pair with other landscape specimens), Hardiness Zone, and a general description of its growth habit. Follow us ... as we explain the typical sections of the tag:

Common Name

All plants have a Latin name, also known as a "Botanical Name" (we'll get to that part in the next section)... and, one or more Common Names. Often, the Common Name is a regional reference given to the plant. Different regions call the same plant different names and there is no universally accepted nomenclature for Common Names. That's confusing! Problem is, we all grew up on Common Names. Take the American Hornbeam tree, for example: Depending upon the locale, the Hornbeam could be called Blue Beech, Ironwood, or Musclewood. But it's the same identical tree! Now wait, please don't quit on us yet, we suggest looking at the Common Name as a good starting point to finding the plant you are searching for. Just keep in the back of your mind that the best way to find the exact plant you need is to utilize the plant's Botanical Name.

Botanical Name

Wasn't that a great segue into the great big world of Latin Names? Traditionally, the Botanical Name is written in italics, but it doesn't have to be done that way. Usually, the first word or two indicate the species, then there's a single quotation mark followed by the variety (aka, the cultivar). For example, take the Old Fashioned Common Lilac, a popular flowering shrub:
Syringa vulgaris is the species name. That would be the typical light purple, spring blooming plant that was in our grandparent's yard. Over time, other cultivars (aka, varieties) have been developed. There are numerous varieties of Lilac now so let's pick just two:

Syringa vulgaris 'Belle de Nancy offers pink blooms. Syringa vulgaris 'Agin Court Beauty has deep purple blossoms. These are all Old Fashioned Common Lilacs (because they begin with the species name of the parent plant) but yet are unique individual varieties because they have that single quote with some words after it.
The nomenclature for Botanical Names is universal and all kinds of standards apply to ensure accurate plant classification. So, while the Common Name offers regional recognition, the Botanical Name never changes from location to location. If someone in California is searching for a particular plant that he/she grew in New York, it is definitely wise to determine its botanical name first, before stopping into the local garden center. A quick online search will provide most answers!

Photo of the Plant

Be forewarned ... the photos are usually enhanced to be overly flattering. The hues should not be considered accurate as ink, lighting, and other factors can alter the actual colors. They sure do a nice job of making the flowers pretty!

Overall Description

Similar to the Photo, descriptions are often written by marketers to "sell" the plant. Many of these narratives portray an "enhanced" version of the plant's characteristics, most often to boost up the interest in the plant, not because the plant will perform as written.

(For the record: The descriptions written for plants on OnlinePlantCenter.com....are not composed by marketers but rather by horticulturalists who receive no benefit from pumping up the performance levels of any plant. We want you to be happy with the plant, not disappointed!)

We have also prepared another Help Topic: Understanding Gardening Terms. Check it out! It is a "Glossary" of common terms, which are not-so-common to the new gardener.

Hardiness Zone

Extensive plant research has revealed the ideal temperature for which each plant grows best, except that Annuals (which only live one season) are not rated. This ideal climate is known as a Hardiness Zone.

Usually expressed in a range (such as Zones 4-7), this number indicates what the coldest area that the plant can exist in. The world has been divided into Hardiness Zones. In the USA, there are 13 different zones, starting in the most northern regions where Zone 1 begins and gradually working its way south with each subsequent Zone being 10 deg F warmer than the previous one. (In the aforementioned example, Zone 4 is 30 degrees colder than Zone 7).

Now, here is where it gets tricky: Each of the Zones 1-13 has been further divided into sub-categories known as (a) and (b). So, it is entirely possible that the plant tag will say Zone 4b to 7a. Don't fret! All this means is that each Zone itself has been divided into 5 deg F differences. For example, Zone 4a is 5 degrees cooler than Zone 4b. Easy, right?

By now, we are sure you are wondering...why do I care? Because we said so!! Haha, no, no... that reason worked for your mother. Within the plant world, we like to base our choices on science-based facts. The Hardiness Zone is SUPER IMPORTANT to a gardener's ultimate success. The Zones give the ideal temperatures that the plant thrives within. For a plant rated hardy in Zones 4a-7b, we would not want to grow this species in Zone 1 or Zone 10. The odds are not in favor of the gardener: in Zone 1, it would be way too cold for the plant to survive the winter, and in Zone 10, it would be way too warm for the plant to survive the summer.

Okay then, now you ask: How do I know what Zone my yard is in? Well, lucky for you, we subscribe to the US government's Plant Zone database and all you need to do is go back to the Home page of OnlinePlantCenter.com. Scroll down ... you'll see our Zone Finder. Enter your zip code and hit the Find Now button. There you go, wa la.... your Plant Hardiness Zone displays!

Height and Spread (aka Width)

Both of these fields represent the mature size of the plant. This means the average ultimate height and width of the plant when grown in typical conditions. Yes, the plant is going to get bigger...you'd better plan for this!!! Size data is extremely important and should be utilized to site the plant accordingly. For example, if the tree achieves a maximum height of 10', we wouldn't want to plant it under wires that are 8' off the ground. Additionally, if the tree grows to a maximum width of 12', we would not want to place it right next to our walkway. You with us here?

It is very wise to "plant for the future". It may take several years for a plant to reach maturity. It is not easy to remove plants that have, unfortunately, been planted too close to structures and other obstructions.


When planting in groups or when designing a hedge, the Spacing measurement eases your calculation for the number of plants needed. Normally, this number is "on center" which means that the center of the holes should be dug this far apart.

Light Requirements or Sun Exposure

All right, we'll be honest here ... this part can be confusing, yet understanding this section is definitely important! Matter-of-fact, it rates right up there with: the hardest concept to master. Do NOT give up!! Trust us: This is SO important, WE ARE GOING TO MAKE THIS EASY:

First off, we need to remember, "all plants are not created equal". They each require differing amounts of sunlight to thrive, to photosynthesize, to grow. One MUST consider the Light Requirements to be a successful gardener. Siting a plant that thrives in "Full Sun" (we'll explain these terms momentarily) in "Full Shade" will only lead to disappointment. Okay, so let's get started:

As the sun passes through the sky, it casts its sunlight down into your yard. Your yard is probably composed of many different structures (such as a house or shed) and quite possibly has some existing landscape already (like a tall tree, a forest, or maybe a neighbor's hedge). Just like a satellite dish cannot receive a signal when obstructions are in the way, tall things interfere with sunlight getting to the plant. Those persons that live where it snows see this on the north side of their home, when in spring, the snow doesn't melt as quickly as on the westside. Why? Because the house shades the area from the hot sunlight, it is that simple.

When speaking in terms of sun, there's usually four classes: Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, and Full Shade:

Full Sun: A symbol of a sun

These plants need at least 6 hours of direct sun daily. That means, the sun needs to be shining on the plant's foliage for no less than 6 hrs each day. Many sun-lovers will need cool soil and regular watering to ensure survival.

For the next descriptions: Sometimes, "Part Sun" and "Part Shade" are used interchangeably but they are not the same type of sun conditions: Because the scorching sun is hotter in the afternoon when it is highest in the sky, being shaded in the morning is NOT the same as being shaded in the afternoon.

Part Sun: A symbol of a sun that is half blacked out

These plants need between 4 and 6 hours of sun per day. Usually, this notation indicates that the plant prefers more afternoon sun and is more heat tolerant than "Part Shade".

Part Shade: A symbol of a sun that is half blacked out

These plants thrive with 4 to 6 hours of sun each day but will definitely need relief from the hot afternoon sun. This classification also describes conditions on the east side of a building or under tall trees where direct sun hits during the morning hours but then shade shelters the underlying area in the afternoon. Usually, this notation indicates that the plant must be protected from the hot intense afternoon sun. Some plants will be labeled as "Dappled Sun" which is similar to "Part Shade" except that the plant prefers the indirect, dappled sunlight under a tree rather than the direct morning sun of "Part Shade".

Full Shade: A symbol of a sun that is totally blacked out

These plants require less than 3 hours of direct sun per day with filtered sunlight for the rest of the day, basically lightly shaded conditions. These conditions occur along the north side of a house or in a bed beneath a tree where the sun peeps lightly through its leaves at some point throughout the day. "Full Shade" does not mean "no sun at all". Very few plants, except mushrooms(!), will tolerate dark, almost "pitch black", always deeply shaded areas.

To truly understand the sun and how its light passes through your yard, it may be necessary to chart the sun's progress as it moves throughout the day. Taking a day or two throughout the different seasons (we know, we know, none of us have extra time!) to create this methodical plotting is inconvenient but the results could be surprising and will provide valuable insight to the type of landscape that will thrive in each area of the yard. You may find that full sun in April when the trees have no leaves will change to dappled shade once the foliage has returned to cover the area in summer.

Regardless of the pot label, the amount of sun each plant truly needs depends on the intensity of the sun and how much moisture is in the soil (that's another subject, for later!). There will always be variables, such as cloudy days or extreme weather years or microclimates, to take into consideration.


Habit refers to the natural shape of the mature plant. The shape is important to overall landscape design. Most habit terms are self-explanatory: mounding (wider than tall), rounded, upright, prostrate (horizontally spreading), fountain (weeping downward), climbing, columnar, arching, cascading, and weeping. Good landscaping principals incorporate a variety of shapes, which provide flow along with visual and textural interests.


Maintenance recommendations about how the keep the plant looking its best is the primary goal of the Care section. Pruning, fertilizing, mulching, and watering could be addressed in this section.

Well, that's it ... the basic explanation of the plant tag! Be sure to save the tag for future reference.

Bare root plants are only sent to destination addresses in Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington. State and federal soil shipment regulations mandate that soil be removed prior to shipment. So, even though the plant is currently growing in a pot, by law, the plant must be removed from its pot and ship as a bare root plant. That's the rules, and of course, we adhere to the regulations. No exceptions.

A bare root plant is just that: A plant with no soil covering its roots. Hence, "bare root". No worries, bare root plants are just as hardy as the potted equivalent. We have taken tremendous care in the processing system to ensure the roots are packed in such a way that transplantation will be successful. They are a tad bit harder to plant because the plant will not stand up in the hole without human support; a friend may be needed to assist. The key to successful transplantation is to keep the roots cool and wet, do not let the roots dry out. If not planting on day of arrival, it is VERY IMPORTANT that the plant be removed from the shipping box and be kept in a cool, shaded location. It is not necessary to remove the plastic bag, as the bag is containing the newspaper that is holding the moisture around the roots.

To hold a plant long-term, remove the bag and newspaper and temporarily "plant" in the ground or in a pot in a shaded location (dappled shade is best), using mulch or dirt to cover the roots completely. The roots must not get hot or dry out, so it may be necessary to water every day until they are planted in a permanent location. The longer the plants are out of the ground and not covered with soil, the more stress placed on their survival systems.

PREPARE HOLE: Dig saucer-shaped hole. The depth is determined by measuring the height of the root ball from root flare to bottom. The width is 2-3 times the root ball width.

PREPARE PLANT: This bare root plant has been sent with some moisture-retention gel on its roots. Just prior to planting, remove from plastic bag. Expose root flare and determine previous soil line.

PLANTING: Spread out root mass and place on unamended, undisturbed base of hole. Level and check for aesthetics. Backfill with up to 20% organically amended soil. Do not mix fertilizer with the backfill dirt. (If fertilizer is desired, apply after the plant is planted but before watering. Use approximately 1 cup of 5-10-5 fertilizer or as per package instructions, but the best recommendation comes from the soil test results above. Spread fertilizer around plant but do not let fertilizer touch the plant's main stem or any foliage.) Firm lightly until soil is level with ground and flare is even with soil level. Create 2" soil berm just beyond root ball. Slowly soak with water to prevent runoff and try to avoid wetting the flare zone. Stake tree only if it cannot support itself in the wind. Mulch evenly to a total depth of 2-3" being sure to start 6" away from trunk. Water again immediately after mulching.

STAKING: Stake only if the tree cannot support itself in the wind. Attach a rubber hose covered wire around the lower half of the trunk. Attach wire to a stake that has been driven into compact, undisturbed, undug soil (angled towards the root ball, but not in danger of striking the plant or its root system). Remove wires after one year.

When trying to decide what plants will grow best in your garden, it is important to understand Plant Hardiness Zones and the role the map plays in guiding gardeners toward successful plant selection.

The USDA has created a map that divides America & Canada into 11 Plant Hardiness Zones. These Zones are based on the average lowest winter temperature for each area. Zone 1 is the coldest, where winter temps can drop below -50 deg F., whereas Zone 11 is the warmest, where it is rare to get winter temps below 40 deg F.

In the description of each individual plant on this site, we have indicated the Zone ranges so it is easy to determine if the plant will typically survive the average winter temperature of each area. For example, if the description states the plant is hardy in Zones 5-9, this means the plant is known to be hardy in Zones 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. If one were to plant this particular plant in Zone 2, then most likely the plant will perish during the winter months.

Let's say you were considering planting the popular Palm Tree, which is known to grow outside year round in Zone 10 (southern Florida). Take this same Palm Tree and plant it in northern Minnesota and it will soon succumb to the cold weather. This same concept applies to the Zone ranges.

The map and Zone recommendations are a guide. Many other factors influence which plants will thrive in a given location. Local variations of elevation, soil and air moistures, soil type, winds, etc. will all factor into whether or not a plant will thrive in a particular area. In the descriptions of each individual plant, ideal growing conditions are provided, such as full sun or moist soil.

By analyzing all the plant's needs and the Zone information you can find those plants that are well suited to your particular locale. Selecting plants that will thrive is the easiest way to garden, keeping in mind that even with the best laid plans, there is always a chance that Mother Nature will throw an occasional temperature extreme your way.

There are a handful of perennials that will grow in less-than-ideal conditions and provide color throughout the season. They will thrive in imperfect soils, are deer, pest or rabbit resistant, tolerate extreme heat or cold, need no support in windy sites, and stand up to heavy rains.

Tough as nails, these low maintenance, high color performers will make a splash for many weeks. They are staples of many perennial gardens.

Agastache (Hyssop)
Blooms midsummer through fall. One tough blooming machine with nonstop, tiny, hummingbird-magnet flowers on tall bottlebrush spikes, this heat-tolerant plant prefers full sun and extremely well drained soil. Agastache rupestris prefers a drier environment and leaner soils. Agastache cana needs better soils and more water and has a beautiful cultivar 'Heather Queen' with rose colored blooms. 'Desert Sunrise' is a hybrid of both types offering a luscious bloom color that combines orange, pink, and lavender. Another hybrid is 'Blue Fortune' with lavender hued spires.

Coreopsis (Tickseed)
Blooms early summer to fall. Light and airy flowers decorate the delicate foliage. Drought tolerant once established, this perennial grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. There are many varieties of this perennial offering dainty, daisy-like flowers in white, pink, magenta, yellow, and orange: 'Moonbeam' has butter yellow flowers and is an "oldie but goodie" and the 1992 Perennial Plant of the Year. 'Sienna Sunset' has unique burnt sienna blooms. 'Jethro Tull' has unique double yellow petals on each flower. The Big Bang Coreopsis series is notable for large blooms with no need to deadhead: 'Full Moon' (soft yellow), 'Galaxy'(canary yellow with double row of petals) and 'Redshift' is a unique cultivar featuring blooms that emerge as pale yellow, then mature to ruby red

Gaillardia (Blanketflower)
Blooms early summer to early fall. Blanketing the native prairie, this butterfly attractor is tough yet attractive with daisy-like flowers in bright yellows, reds, and oranges. Remove spent blooms to promote additional flowering. Available in a variety of bloom styles: 'Arizona Sun' has red and orange flowers. 'Burgundy' has deep red blooms. 'Fanfare' resembles tiny scarlet and yellow trumpets blaring upward. 'Amber Wheels' has deep yellow petals that are frilled on the edges.

Geranium (Geranium)
Blooms early summer until frost. Perennial geraniums are different than the commonly called, annual "geranium" (the one with familiar red or white flowers frequently found in pots), which is in the genus Pelargonium. For long season color, this perennial needs well-drained soil and full sun, although it will tolerate partial shade. 'Rozanne' is the 2008 Perennial Plant of the Year with violet blue, white eyed flowers. Slender flower stems produce new blooms as the old fall off, so the growth habit may look rangy and stringy by late summer, however, pruning the plant back will promote a new flush of leaves and another round of blooms. 'Dark Reiter' has bright blue flowers and nearly black foliage. 'Dragon Heart' offers striking magenta blooms.

Leucanthemum (Shasta Daisy)
Blooms early to late summer. The commonly found, traditional daisy, this perennial grows in full sun and most soils. For continuous bloom, deadhead regularly. 'Becky' was the 2003 Perennial Plant of the Year. 'Banana Cream' has lemony yellow flowers. 'Aglaia' offers fringed, double, white blooms.

Perovskia (Russian Sage)
Blooms summer to midfall. Russian sage was the Perennial Plant of the Year in 1995 and is actually from the mountains of central Asia rather than Russia. It is deer resistant, long-lived and easy to grow in full sun. The silvery leaves and tiny pale blue flowers attract hummingbirds. 'Lacey Blue' and 'Little Spire' are shorter and more compact varieties.

Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan)
Blooms midsummer to early fall. Drought tolerant and easy to grow in sun or part shade, this familiar, long blooming beauty can flower up to three months. 'Goldsturm' was the Perennial Plant of the year in 1999 and is popular in mass plantings. The daisy-like flowers have golden yellow petals and brown eyes. Don't cut down the stems once petals fall off, as the birds are attracted to the seed containing, brown eyes. 'Early Bird Gold' does not rely on day length to begin blooming so its season begins earlier. Some annual Rudbeckia are hardy only to Zone 10 so it is wise to check the hardiness zones on other varieties. 'Indian Summer' is a beautiful cultivar with larger flower heads and will reseed itself from year to year to remain a garden favorite.

Bring the garden to life by attracting fluttering butterflies and hovering hummingbirds. Creating a landscape purposefully designed to invite these winged beauties will bring interest to the landscape while providing nutritional benefits to these intriguing creatures. Even a small space will be inviting if food, shelter and water are present.

Butterflies start life as creeping caterpillars and will require host plants for food and shelter. Food sources should be planned for in the design and insecticidal chemicals should not be used to control bugs. Feeding caterpillars will cause some damage to their host plants and gardeners should not fret about this destruction, as these small creepers need nutrition to evolve into beautiful butterflies. A traditional caterpillar food choice is butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Because gardening for butterflies is very dependent on each locale, a little research into the type of butterflies in your area along with the host plants specific to these butterflies will offer greater success in the garden.

Eye catching, fragrant, nectar-producing flowers will attract both butterflies and hummingbirds. Native grasses, such as Carex, and leafy flowering shrubs bring balance to the garden. The area should be sited in full sun and have a bit of protection from the wind. Provide a color kaleidoscope by arranging masses of the same hues close together. Instead of choosing many different single plants, plant each individual variety in mass to create a grouping. Choose a good mix of long blooming flowers with varying heights and styles.

Hummingbirds adore tubular blooms that are bright hues of red, blue, orange, pink, purple, and white colored blooms. The crimson red color of a typical hummingbird feeder will catch their eye. Butterflies also prefer bright colors and are attracted to shallow flowers that are easy to perch on.

Some perennials to incorporate are anise hyssop (Agastache), bee balm (Monarda didyma), black eyed susan (Rudbeckia), butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), cardinal flower (Lobelia), columbine (Aquilegia), coneflower (Echinacea), coral bells (Heuchera), hollyhock (Alcea), honeysuckle (Lonicera), joe pye weed (Eupatorium), lantana (Lantana), larkspur (Delphinium), lavender (Lavandula), perennial sage (Salvia), Russian sage (Perovskia), trumpet vine (Campsis), verbena (Verbena) and yarrow (Achillea).

An herb garden will also attract butterflies. Catnip, chives, dill, fennel, parsley, sage are all nectar-rich options.

Leafy shrubs will provide shade and will also provide wind protection. Flowering shrubs to include are Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), Lilac (Syringa), Sumac (Rhus) and Viburnum (Viburnum).

Trees to include are birch (Betula), dogwood (Cornus), hornbeam (Carpinus) and willow (Salix).

Incorporating a quiet, shallow, water feature into the garden is also important. A gentle mist from a fountain, a small pond, a birdbath, a shallow puddle, or even a water-filled lid will suffice.

Purposeful landscaping enhances the enjoyment of our gardens while helping the earth's creatures co-exist in our urban environments. A serene, calming aura hovers over the garden when butterflies and hummingbirds are present. Relax and enjoy with a well-placed garden bench.

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