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Selecting trees and shrubs to become mature, healthy, woody plants begins with finding plants suited for their site. Factors such as climate, soil, light, and residential conditions all influence a plant's ability to grow and/or tolerate its environment. Selecting the right plant for the right site and conditions is essential if you want your plant purchases to pay off for years to come.
Climate has a large role to play in a plant's ability to survive and thrive. A woody plant that is unable to overwinter or survive the heat of summer, year after year, limits its usefulness to us in the landscape.
Hardiness zones are useful for selecting plants based on their ability to overwinter at a particular average minimum temperature. The National Arboretum is quick to point out that stress factors, new plant management systems, and artificial environments often affect a plant's survivability, too.
Find your hardiness zone at:
Heat zones show the average number of days each year that a given region experiences "heat days," or temperatures over 86 degrees F. Learn more about heat stress and how it affects plants by reading:
Find the heat zone for your local ZIP code at:
Plant growth is largely influenced by its growing or site conditions. Matching a plant's cultural requirements to the site conditions helps to ensure that plant will grow successfully.
Use the following evaluation form to pick the right tree for the right site:
Tree and Shrub Selectors for Hardiness Zones 2-9
The following plant selectors are searchable databases with information and pictures to find woody plants well suited to your area:
Trees and Shrubs Selectors for Hardiness Zones 8-11
Find trees hardy to Zones 8-11 with the University of Florida's Tree Selector searchable database. Use the "Shrub Selector" lists to find shrubs hardy to Zones 8-11.
Once you've come up with a list of suitable plants for your site, select high-quality plants so you can enjoy the beauty and longevity that healthy plants bring. Purchasing a sickly tree or shrub in hopes of saving it often leads to disappointment. So, how do you know what a high-quality plant looks like?
When you get to the nursery or garden center, woody plants are sold in different ways.
After carefully selecting trees and shrubs and deciding which plants to buy and how you are going to by them, you'll be ready for planting.