Arboretum Paths: Key to planting success: Right plant, right place

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Are you one of those gardeners who proudly wears the label of “green thumb”? Do your neighbors seek you out for advice when they have gardening issues?

Some of us may have attained the reputation of “garden expert”, however, when the subject arises, many place themselves somewhere in the range of being born with a black or brown thumb to “I kill 50% of what I plant”.

But if you apply a dose of common sense to the process of installing a plant, you can move quickly to the green thumb group.

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Start with our Mississippi native plants – they are a bit easier to get a handle on than the ornamental species found in the garden center. Natives are the species seen in your field, forest, and hedgerow and here they offer you obvious examples of where they prefer to grow. Find that same habitat on your own property, and bingo!

Look around – which native trees are growing in wet areas? Perhaps bald cypress, water tupelo or black gum (also called swamp tupelo). You may see shrubs such as Virginia willow, ti ti, or chokeberry, and moisture-loving perennials such as southern blue flag Iris, crinum lily, or cardinal flower.

Look on high, dry ridges and you may spot hickory and oak trees. Scrubby, sandy areas near coastal beaches may contain wax myrtle, yaupon holly, or saw palmetto. Southern magnolia, American beech, and red star anise prefer the moist, rich, well-drained soils in shady forests.

Now, evaluate the conditions your own property offers. Get to know the degree of moisture in certain areas, and the light conditions. You will then have a good idea of the plants you can use, based on what you have observed in natural areas.

Take a walk at the Crosby Arboretum and consider which trees and shrubs growing here you may be interested in growing on your own property. The Arboretum offers excellent examples of species that flourish in wet areas. However, some of our plants are “chameleons”, like red maple, wax myrtle, and yaupon holly, and they will also do just fine growing in drier sites.

While native plants are easy to observe, in order to replicate their preferred conditions, it can be more difficult to “fit” the plants purchased in the garden center from other continents into your landscape. This challenge can come from not having a clear visualization of the conditions where that plant prefers to grow.

However, all you need to do to ensure success is look around your neighborhood to see if others are growing these same plants. What kind of conditions do they prosper in? Are they in dappled shade? Full-sun? Heavy shade? Have they been planted in moist soils found in low areas, or on dry, well-drained slopes?

When you purchase a plant in the garden center, it will often have a label with its preferred site conditions. If not, and you lack a gardening expert living next-door to you, this same information is only a few short clicks away on your computer.

The Extension website at provides you with detailed, research-based information that will contribute to your garden success. Just search by keyword, or download comprehensive publications focused on trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals, and more.

So what is the secret to planting success? Think of a plant as being similar to us – they have certain conditions they require to prosper!

Stay tuned – on February 27, Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith will present a program at the Arboretum on the importance of soil testing to help you prepare you garden for spring planting.
Join us for festive treats and holiday good cheer at the Crosby Arboretum’s annual Holiday Open House celebration thisSaturday, December 12, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Admission is free! The event will include the official opening of our winter Gallery Exhibit, nature paintings by Gail Sheasby, from 10:00 a.m. to Noon. Gail’s subjects include outdoor scenes of the bayous, oak and cypress trees, and wildlife found in South Louisiana and Mississippi.
For more information, call the Arboretum office at 601-799-2311 or see the website at Crosby Arboretum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and located in Picayune, off I-59 Exit 4.

By Patricia Drackett