Xeriscape Trees & Shrubs Maureen McCrackenT he motto, “right plant, right place” is good for any garden. However, it is a critical rule for a successful Xeriscape. How then do you determine the right plant in a Xeriscape?The right plant must be a healthy plant, adapted to the extremes of the Piedmont: hot, humid as well as hot, dry summers;and cool, wet as well as cool, dry winters. Ensure the plant is suited to the soil conditions. Once the right plant isidentified, encourage the growth of deep roots by preparing/amending the soil, mulching and using appropriateirrigation to help the plant get established. Most Xeriscape plants become drought-tolerant only once they are wellestablished.To find the right place, it is important to identify mini microclimates within the landscape. It is possible to have severalmini microclimates even within relatively small yards, as they are created by variations in physical and environmentalconditions. Moisture, sun, shade, air movement, heat and structures all contribute to the creation of mini microclimatesin the landscape that have different water requirements. Grouping plants with similar water-use requirements is oneimportant criterion for a successful Xeriscape. A grouping of drought-tolerant plants, once well established, may notneed irrigation at all through a normal summer. However, adding just one plant with high water requirements to thatgrouping will eliminate the drought-tolerant benefits.The following descriptions will help identify water-use zones for mini microclimates in the landscape:Very Low Water-Use Zones: Protected shade areas inhibit evaporation. They are also very low water-use zones. Inthese areas, irrigation is needed only to establish new plants. These areas offer the greatest potential for water saving.Such shaded areas not only reduce water demand, they can also lower indoor temperatures and reduce summer coolingbills.Low Water-Use Zones: Low water zones are somewhat exposed areas that must be watered occasionally to keep plantsflourishing during dry summer months. However, water can be conserved significantly by choosing drought tolerantplants, mulching and amending the soil. This will keep irrigation requirements to a minimum and almost eliminated forwell-established plants. Most Xeriscape plants will fall into this category.Moderate Water-Use Zones: Moderate water zones are exposed areas with turf or plants with higher water requirements.This zone should be kept small and should be limited to focal points, such as entrance areas and functional areas such aslawns.The following list provides some ideas for trees and shrubs that work well in a Xeriscape, located in the tough andvariable conditions of the Piedmont of North Carolina.SHRUBS FOR SUNCommon Smokebush, Cotinus coggygriaA deciduous shrub, growing 10-15 feet. The bloom provides a colorful and unusual texture. It is a good specimenplant.Scotch Broom, Cytisus scopariusA deciduous shrub, growing 5-6 feet. It has an interesting stem shape and bright yellow flowers in early summer.Forsythia, Forsythia intermediaA deciduous shrub, growing 3-8 feet. Excellent yellow flowers in early spring.Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginianaA deciduous shrub, growing 5-8 feet. Aromatic with good winter interest.
Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacusA deciduous shrub, growing 8-12 feet. Beautiful summer flowers in pink, blue and purple.Holly, IlexAn evergreen shrub. Many cultivars, forms and sizes from which to choose. Sun to shade, height up to 25 feet,depending upon the variety. Good hedge and foundation-type planting.Creeping Juniper, Juniperus horizontalisAn evergreen shrub, growing 1-2 feet. Useful on slopes. Many cultivars available.Common Juniper, Juniperus communisAn evergreen shrub, growing 5-10 feet. Many uses: foundation, screen or hedge.Southern Wax Myrtle, Myrica ceriferaAn evergreen shrub, growing to 8-15 feet. Excellent hedge or screen. Can be small tree. Will also thrive in partialshade.Nandina, Nandina domesticaAn evergreen shrub, growing 3-5 feet. Beautiful berries in winter. Good near buildings.Photinia, Photinia fraseriAn evergreen shrub, growing 8-15 feet. Excellent hedge material, which is very popular in urban areas.Indian Hawthorn, Raphiolepis umbellataAn evergreen shrub, growing 4-6 feet.Adam‟s Needle, Yucca filamentosaAn evergreen shrub, growing 3-6 feet. Coarse needle-shaped foliage and white bell shaped flowers on a tall flower spike.Interesting specimen plant.SHRUBS FOR PARTIAL SHADEAbelia, Abelia grandifloraAn evergreen shrub, growing 4-6 feet. Sun to Partial Shade. Excellent plant for hedges or slopes with attractive flowers.Butterfly Bush, Buddleia davidiiA deciduous shrub, growing 10-15 feet. Sun to Shade. Numerous cultivars available. Great butterfly attractor.Common Flowering Quince, Chaenomeles speciosaA deciduous shrub, growing 6-10 feet. Sun to Partial Shade. Good early spring flowering shrub.SHRUBS FOR SHADEJapanese Aucuba, Aucuba japonicaAn evergreen shrub, growing 6-10 feet. Often used near buildings on north or shaded side.Gray Dogwood, Cornus racemosaA deciduous shrub or small tree, growing 10-15 feet. Shade or Sun. Good Dogwood for dry soils.Winter Jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorumAn evergreen shrub, growing 3-4 feet. Sun or Shade. Will grow much taller if trellised. No serious pests.TREES FOR SUN
Red Maple, Acer rubrumA deciduous tree, growing 45 feet. Excellent tree for any medium-large space.Bradford Pear, Pyrus calleryana, „Bradford‟A deciduous tree, growing 35-50 feet. Fast-growing early-blooming medium-sized tree.Washington Hawthorn, Crataegus phaenopyrumA deciduous tree, growing 25-30 feet. Excellent specimen plant with beautiful fruit.Turkish Filbert, Corylus colurnaA deciduous tree, growing 40-50 feet. Thrives in adverse conditions.Nellie R. Steven‟s Holly, Ilex ‘Nellie R. Stevens‟An evergreen shrub, growing 15-25 feet. Excellent screening plant.Crape Myrtle, Lagerstroemia indicaA deciduous tree, growing 15-20 feet. A favorite multi-stem summer flowering small tree. Numerous cultivars available.Southern Magnolia, Magnolia grandifloraAn evergreen shrub, growing 60-70 feet. A favorite evergreen that needs plenty of room. Wonderful fragrant flowers.Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacaciaA deciduous tree, growing 30-50 feet. Survives in worst locations and conditions. Several varieties available.TREES FOR PARTIAL SHADERiver Birch, Betula nigraA deciduous tree, growing 25-40 feet. Multiple stems. Quite popular. Interesting bark in winter.Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensisA deciduous tree, growing 20-30 feet. Beautiful flowers in spring. Many cultivars available.TREES FOR SHADEAmerican Hornbeam or Ironwood, Carpinus carolinianaA deciduous tree, growing 20-30 feet. Heavy shade. Performs best in shaded areas.Carolina Cherry Laurel, Prunus carolinianaAn evergreen shrub, growing 20-30 feet. Attractive white flowers. Good medium-sized evergreen tree for shadedspaces.MM______________An Extension Master Gardener Volunteer with Mecklenburg County, NC, since 2006,Maureen McCracken is an avid gardener. She is also a Master Composter with thecounty. Maureen credits her love of flowers and horticulture to her grandmother, wholoved all plants and maintained a multi-use cottage garden with flowers, shrubs, fruitsand vegetables.