The Plant Man column
for publication week of 08/29/04 - 09/04/04
The Plant Man
by Steve Jones
“Easy care” plants for the horticulturally challenged!
“I have a brown thumb,” a reader of this column recently moaned.
She meant that she had the opposite of a “green thumb,” a description
we often apply to people who seem to have a knack of growing just
about anything successfully. Our “brown thumb” reader went on to say
that she seemed to have no luck at all when it comes to keeping plants
alive and thriving.
This luckless lady was one of several who have asked me for some tips
on foolproof trees, shrubs and plants that even THEY are unlikely to
kill! Today, I’ll tell you about some of my favorites that are easy
to plant and easy care for.
But first, a quick note about natural snake repellents. Sometimes, a
newspaper editor has to cut part of a column when space is tight or a
major news story is breaking. I heard from several readers who said
that their newspaper had had to cut part of a recent column referring
to the use of marigolds as a natural snake repellent. You can find
the entire column archived at my web site
here:http://www.landsteward.org/page.cfm/18923 or you can send me an
e-mail and I will reply with a “hot link” to the story you can click
on!Now on to those easy-care trees and shrubs...
First of all, I have to say that no plant is truly foolproof (or
kill-proof) and you definitely put the odds in your favor when you
select plants that are most likely to thrive in the conditions they
will find in your landscape. So determine if you will be planting in
the shade or direct sunlight, in sandy or clay soil, and so on. When
you pick plants that prefer those conditions, you’re already ahead of
Having said that, there are a number of trees and shrubs that are
tolerant of different climates, soil types and conditions, and are not
particularly demanding of your time or skill-level when it comes to
caring for them. Here are a few you might want to consider if you are
somewhat “horticulturally challenged”...
Cedar Green Giant
Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of this one. It’s one of the
toughest and fastest-growing of all the conifers. If you want to
screen your landscape from neighbors or the highway, this is an
excellent choice. It needs no shearing or pruning. It is able to
withstand drought well, exhibiting no significant pest or disease
problems, and is highly deer and bagworm resistant. Although Green
Giant prefers direct sun, it works well in shady areas too.
Sometimes called “the living fence,” this one is fairly husky and
extremely disease resistant. It does well in just about any soil and
is winter-hardy all the way to Zone 2. (If you’re not sure of your
Plant Hardiness Zone, send me an e-mail telling me where you live and
I can help you.) The fragrant blossoms are followed by very large
orange-red hips in late summer and last all winter.
Aristocrat Flowering Pear (Pyrus calleryana)
I like all the flowering pears, but Aristocrat is one of my favorites.
Why? Because the word “adaptable” describes it perfectly! It is pest
resistant and tolerates drought, poor drainage and just about any
soil. It can thrive despite the effects of moderate winds, smog, and
extreme temperatures. See what I mean about adaptable? And because
its branch angles are wider than other pears, the Aristocrat is more
resistant to storm damage.
Hybrid Lemon Yellow Daylilies
These guys come back year after year, growing larger and displaying
more blooms. In fact most daylilies are fairly undemanding when it
comes to ongoing care, but you might want to start with this one. As
long as they are pretty much exposed to full sun, they can do well in
almost any soil type.
Rose of Sharon Hibiscus
This one does well in either full sun or partial shade and will be
very tolerant of your soil conditions! You don’t have to prune it if
you don’t care to. Leave it alone and you’ll get a larger number of
small flowers, or prune it back for fewer but larger flowers. The
single or double flowers are in shades of red, pink, white and purple,
depending on the cultivar, and another nice feature is that it blooms
in mid to late summer when few other shrubs are in bloom.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, including archived columns, visit