Part 3 Plants for Different Planting Situations

29 Plants for Favorable Planting Situations

[1]Learning Objectives

  • Identify plants for favourable planting situations.

Horticulturists understand and use the climate and conditions of a given site to select and grow healthy plants. While growing conditions can be optimized by choosing the right plant for the right place, temperature will remain the least controllable of the environmental factors in exterior landscapes. Given suitable plant hardiness,  average conditions of full to part sun or part shade, and well drained, moist soils with appropriate pH will provide favourable growing conditions for many garden plants.

Species that prefer average growing conditions are found in a wide range of plant families. Some familiar plant families with members that thrive in average growing conditions include:

  • Caryophyllaceae – Arenaria verna (Irish moss)
  • Cupressaceae – Callitropsis nootkatensis ‘Pendula’ (weeping Nootka false cypress)
  • Ericaceae – Rhododendron Northern Lights Group (azalea)
  • Fabaceae – Wisteria sinensis (Chinese wisteria)
  • Lamiaceae – Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’ (beautyberry)
  • Ranunculaceae – Clematis cvs. (clematis)
  • Rosaceae – Prunus laurocerasus ‘Otto Luyken’ (Otto Luyken laurel), Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’ (flowering cherry)
  • Sapindaceae – Acer macrophyllum (bigleaf maple)
  • Pinaceae – Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’ (nest spruce), Picea abies ‘Pendula’ (weeping Norway spruce), Picea glauca (white spruce), Picea glauca ‘Conica’ (dwarf Alberta spruce), Pinus contorta var. contorta (shore pine), and Pinus nigra (Austrian pine)

In addition to shared morphological patterns in flowers and reproductive structures, family members tend to have similar growth characteristics, nutrient needs, and often the same pests. Key characteristics that distinguish members of some additional plant families are summarized below.

View the images of plant family members available at this link to the KPU Plant Database [New Tab].[2]

Adoxaceae – moschatel family

  • Mostly deciduous shrubs
  • Buds are conical
  • Leaves are opposite in arrangement, simple, with prominent pinnate venation and serrate margin
  • Inflorescence is a cyme of showy florets
  • Fruit is a drupe
  • Example: Viburnum plicatum cvs. (doublefile viburnum)

Betulaceae – birch family

  • Deciduous trees and some shrub species
  • Plant stems are mostly smooth, the genus Betula (birch) has bark peeling in layers
  • Leaves are alternate in arrangement, simple, with double serrate margin and pinnate venation
  • Inflorescence is a long pendulous catkin (male flower) and short, cone-like pendulous or erect catkin (female flower)
  • Fruit is a small, single-seeded indehiscent nut in a short-winged samara
  • Example: Betula papyrifera (paper birch)

Brassicaceae – mustard family

  • Herbaceous perennial, and annual and biennial species
  • Leaves are alternate in arrangement,  simple and pinnately lobed, without stipules
  • Inflorescence is a raceme
  • Flower structure is uniform throughout the family with 4 sepals and 4 petals in a cross-like arrangement (note the historical name ‘Cruciferae’)
  • Fruit is a silique formed by two valves joined by a thin flat membrane that often persists
  • Example: Arabis caucasica (rock cress)

Cannabaceae – hop family

  • Herbaceous perennial, climbing vine, a dioecious plant
  • Leaves are opposite in arrangement, simple and three-lobed with a serrate margin and prominent venation
  • Inflorescence is a catkin (male) and cone-like spike (female)
  • Flowers are small, without petals (wind pollinated), with aromatic glands at the base
  • Fruit is an achene subtended by a papery floral bract
  • Example: Humulus lupulus (common hop)

Caprifoliaceae – honeysuckle family

  • Deciduous and broadleaf evergreen shrubs, twining lianas, and some herbaceous perennials
  • Stems have pith inside
  • Leaves are opposite in arrangement, often simple
  • Inflorescence a panicle-like corymb in the example. Solitary flowers occur in pairs or in cymes, spikes and racemes in some species
  • Flowers are tubular, funnel-shaped, or bell-like often with five outward spreading lobes or points
  • Fruit is a capsule or berry in pairs
  • Example: Kolkwitzia amabilis (beautybush)

Cornaceae – dogwood family

  • Mostly trees and shrubs, rarely rhizomatous perennial herbs
  • Leaves are opposite in arrangement, simple with undivided, entire margins, and 6-7 pairs of veins
  • Flower buds are flattened and globose, vegetative buds are narrow and conical
  • Inflorescence is a dense head of inconspicuous true flowers surrounded by 4-8 showy bracts
  • Fruit is a drupe, may be multiple in some species
  • Examples:
    • Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ (Eddie’s White Wonder dogwood)
    • Cornus florida (eastern flowering dogwood, pink flowering dogwood)
    • Cornus kousa var. chinensis (Chinese kousa dogwood)

Hamamelidaceae – witch hazel family

  • Deciduous shrubs and trees
  • Leaves are alternate in arrangement, simple with prominent pinnate venation, serrate margins, and a pubescent surface
  • Inflorescence are clusters of 4-parted cross-shaped florets with small triangular sepals and thin, ribbon-like petals
  • Fruit is a woody capsule
  • Example: Hamamelis mollis (Chinese witch hazel)

Hydrangeaceae – hydrangea family

  • Deciduous shrubs
  • Leaves are opposite in arrangement, whorled in some species, simple, with netted venation and serrate to toothed margins
  • Inflorescence a raceme in the genus Deutzia
  • Flowers are rotate with 5 separate petals
  • Fruit is a capsule
  • Example: Deutzia gracilis (slender deutzia)

Iridaceae – iris family

  • Herbaceous perennial monocot from a bulb, other species from bulbs, corms and rhizomes
  • Leaves are typically basal, sheathing and linear with parallel veins and entire margins
  • Inflorescence a solitary, 3-parted flower other species, may be a raceme or spike
  • Fruit is a capsule
  • Example: Crocus cvs. (Dutch crocus, crocus)

Magnoliaceae – magnolia family

  • Deciduous tree, other species are evergreen trees and shrubs
  • Leaves are alternate in arrangement, simple, with an entire margin
  • Inflorescence is a solitary flower
  • Flowers have tepals, with stamens and pistils on a conical receptacle
  • Fruit is an aggregate of woody follicles
  • Example: Magnolia stellata (star magnolia)

Rutaceae – rue or citrus family

  • Mostly trees and some shrubs
  • Leaves are opposite in arrangement and trifoliate compound in the genus Choisya. Leaves are alternate and simple in the genus Citrus. Foliage is aromatic, the leaf blade dotted with glands.
  • Inflorescence a cyme
  • Flower is rotate with 5 petals, fragrant
  • Fruit is a capsule
  • Example: Choisya ternata (Mexican mock orange)

Theaceae – tea family

  • Mostly broadleaf evergreen shrubs and trees, few deciduous.
  • Leaves are alternate and spiral in arrangement, simple, usually glossy, with serrate margin and a gland (hyathode) that excretes water at serration tips
  • Inflorescence is solitary flower
  • Flower is radially symmetric, rotate with 11 petals
  • Fruit is a capsule
  • Example: Camellia japonica (common camellia, Japanese camellia)

Tiliaceae – basswood or linden family

  • Deciduous tree, some species are shrubs
  • Leaves are alternate in arrangement, simple with a pubescent surface and hair tufts in vein axils, a serrate margin and a heart-shaped, asymmetrical base
  • Buds are alternate, oval in shape with 2 scales.
  • Inflorescence is a cyme with an elongated yellow-green bract
  • Flowers are small 5-parted, highly scented
  • Fruit is a nut-like drupe
  • Example: Tilia cordata (little leaf linden)


Identify plants for favourable planting situations.



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Red Seal Landscape Horticulturist Identify Plants and Plant Requirements Copyright © 2020 by Michelle Nakano is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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