UMass Extension Landscape, Nursery and Urban Forestry Program

“Right Plant, Right Place” - A Plant Selection Guide for Managed Landscapes

Fact Sheet Category: 
Plant Materials: General

Choosing the “right plant for the right place” is an important consideration for all types of landscaping. Ignoring this guideline may lead to increased maintenance, a failure of plants to thrive, and sometimes the death of installed plant material. Careful planning and site evaluation are the first steps in applying this concept. Trees and shrubs vary considerably in their ability to tolerate different site conditions and it is critical to select plants to match the existing growing conditions of the site in addition to their ornamental value. Even the best planting practices will not help a plant to thrive if it is poorly suited for a particular site. It is also important to know the mature height and width of selected plants so that they will not outgrow the space allotted to them.

Some site conditions to keep in mind when selecting landscape plants include:

  • light availability, intensity and duration (full sun to deep shade)
  • water availability, both quantity and quality
  • exposure to wind and temperature extremes
  • soil type, drainage, compaction
  • hardiness zone
  • competition from existing vegetation
  • below ground conditions in urban sites
  • above ground wires or obstructions

A major factor to consider when selecting woody ornamentals is insect and disease resistance. If two plants have similar form, function, and aesthetic qualities but one has an insect or disease problem and the other has none, it makes sense to choose the resistant species. For example, European birch (Betula pendula) is often used as a landscape tree but the bronze birch borer significantly impacts it. River birch (Betula nigra) offers the same form and function but is resistant to this pest. The cultivar Heritage™ has the desired lighter colored, exfoliating bark and is the preferred species to use in the landscape.

Aesthetic considerations for plant selection include:

  • growth habit, i.e. pyramidal, columnar, spreading, etc.
  • season and color of bloom
  • foliage color, texture, and shape
  • winter interest of bark, fruit, or structure
  • benefits to wildlife
  • fall color
  • longevity

Low-maintenance landscaping does not mean that no maintenance will be required, as all plants will require some routine care in order to succeed. In addition to plant selection, proper planting practices and the grouping of trees and shrubs according to their needs for water, fertilizer, and maintenance will go a long way to ensure good plant health. With good site evaluation and plant selection, woody ornamentals will thrive and enhance the landscape for many years. The following lists of plants have no significant disease or insect problems. Plants native to North America are indicated by an *.

Small shade trees (< 35’)
  • Acer buergerianum – Trident maple
  • Acer campestre – Hedge maple
  • Acer ginnala – Amur maple
  • Acer griseum – Paperbark maple
  • Acer japonicum – Fullmoon maple
  • Acer palmatum – Japanese maple
  • Acer tartaricum – Tartarian maple
  • Acer triflorum – Three-flower maple
  • Acer truncatum – Shantung maple
  • Asimina trilobum * – Paw Paw
  • Betula nigra ‘Little King’ * – Fox Valley™ River birch
  • Carpinus caroliniana * – American hornbeam
  • Cotinus obovatus * – American Smoke tree
  • Ostrya virginiana * – Hophornbeam
  • Parrotia persica – Persian Parrotia

 

Medium shade trees (35’ – 45’)
  • Acer x freemanii – Freeman hybrid maple cultivars
  • Acer rubrum * – Red maple cultivars
  • Aesculus carnea – Red horsechestnut
  • Carpinus betulus – European hornbeam
  • Cercidiphyllum japonicum f. pendula – Weeping katsura
  • Corylus colurna – Turkish filbert
  • Sassafrass albidum * - Sassafrass
  • Sorbus alnifolia – Korean mountain ash
  • Ulmus parvifolia ‘Athena’ – Athena™ lacebark elm

 

Large shade trees for landscapes and public grounds (> 45’)
  • Acer saccharum * – Sugar maple cultivars
  • Betula nigra * ‘Cully’ - Heritage™ River birch
  • Betula nigra * ‘BNMTF” - Dura-heat™ River birch
  • Cercidiphyllum japonicum – Katsura
  • Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Morioka Weeping –
  • Weeping katsura
  • Ginkgo biloba - Ginkgo
  • Liquidambar styraciflua * – Sweet gum
  • Liriodendron tulipifera * – Tulip tree
  • Nyssa sylvatica * – Black gum
  • Platinus x acerifolia – London planetree
  • Quercus bicolor* – Swamp white oak
  • Quercus palustris* – Pin oak
  • Quercus phellos – Willow oak
  • Quercus robar – English oak
  • Ulmus americana * ‘New Harmony’
  • Ulmus parvifolia – Lacebark elm cultivars
  • Zelkova serrata - Zelkova

 

Small flowering trees (> 25’)
  • Amelanchier arborea * – Juneberry
  • Amelanchier laevis * – Allegheny serviceberry
  • Amelanchier x grandiflora * – Apple serviceberry
  • Cercis canadensis * – Redbud
  • Cornus alternifolia * – Pagoda dogwood
  • Cornus florida* ‘Appalachian Spring’ – Flowering dogwood (anthracnose resistant)
  • Cornus kousa – Kousa dogwood
  • Cornus mas – Corneliancherry dogwood
  • Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’
  • Magnolia stellata – Star magnolia
  • Malus cultivars – Crabapple (disease resistant)
  • Styrax japonica – Japanese snowbell
  • Syringa reticulata – Tree lilac
  • Viburnum sieboldii- Siebold viburnum

 

Medium flowering trees (25’ – 35’)
  • Cladrastis kentuckea * – Yellowwood
  • Evodia daniellii – Korean evodia
  • Halesia tetraptera * – Silverbells
  • Koelreuteria paniculata – Goldenrain tree
  • Magnolia virginiana * – Sweetbay magnolia
  • Oxydendrum arboretum * – Sourwood, Sorreltree
  • Stewartia monodelpha – Tall stewartia
  • Stewartia pseudocamellia – Japanese stewartia

 

Large flowering trees (< 35’)
  • Magnolia acuminata * – Cucumber magnolia
  • Prunus sargentii – Sargent cherry
  • Styphnolobium japonicum – Japanese pagoda tree (formerly Sophora japonica)

 

Trees/shrubs tolerant of moist/wet soils
  • Acer rubrum * – Red maple
  • Amelanchier spp. * – Shadbush, Juneberry
  • Betula nigra * – River birch
  • Calycanthus florida * – Carolina allspice
  • Cephalanthus occidentalis * - Buttonbush
  • Chamaecyparis thyoides * – Atlantic white cedar
  • Cornus alba – Tatarian dogwood
  • Clethra alnifolia * – Sweet pepperbush
  • Cornus sericea * – Redosier dogwood
  • Cornus amomum * – Silky dogwood
  • Ilex glabra * - Inkberry
  • Ilex verticillata * - Winterberry
  • Itea virginica * – Virginia sweetspire
  • Lindera benzoin * - Spicebush
  • Liquidambar styraciflua * - Sweetgum
  • Magnolia virginiana * – Sweetbay magnolia
  • Metasequoia glyptostroboides – Dawn redwood
  • Nyssa sylvatica * - Tupelo
  • Quercus bicolor * – Swamp white oak
  • Rhododendron vaseyi * – Pinkshell azalea
  • Rhododendron viscosum * – Swamp azalea
  • Sambucus canadensis * - Elderberry
  • Taxodium distichum * – Bald cypress
  • Thuja occidentalis* – Eastern arborvitae
  • Thuja plicata * - Western arborvitae
  • Vaccinium angustifolium* - Blueberry
  • Viburnum cassinoides * – Witherod viburnum

 

Dry soil

The plants listed below will tolerate dry soils and short periods of drought. They may perform better when planted in more moisture retentive soils. However, any plant, regardless of how drought tolerant it may be, will requiresupplemental watering during its period of establishment in the landscape.

Deciduous trees:

  • Acer griseum - Paperbark maple
  • Carpinus caroliniana * - American hornbeam
  • Cornus kousa - Kousa dogwood
  • Cotinus obovatus * - American smoke tree
  • Ginkgo biloba – Ginkgo
  • Halesia tetraptera * - Silverbells
  • Koelreuteria paniculata – Goldenrain tree
  • Liquidambar styraciflua * - American sweetgum
  • Magnolia x loebneri - Loebner hybrid magnolia
  • Malus spp. - Crabapple
  • Platanus x acerifolia - London planetree
  • Quercus spp. * - Oak, many species
  • Styphnolobium japonica - Japanese pagoda tree (formerly Sophora japonica)
  • Syringa reticulata - Japanese tree lilac
  • Ulmus parvifolia - Lacebark elm
  • Zelkova serrata - Japanese zelkova

Shrubs:

  • Aesculus parvifolia * - Bottlebrush buckey
  • Arctostaphylos uva-ursi* - Bearberry
  • Aronia spp *. - Chokeberry
  • Calluna spp. - Heather
  • Chaenomeles x superba - Japanese flowering quince
  • Clethra alnifolia * - Sweet pepperbush
  • Comptonia peregrina* – Sweetfern
  • Cornus mas - Corneliancherry dogwood
  • Physocarpus opulifolius * - Ninebark
  • Potentilla fruticosa - Bush cinquefoil
  • Rhus aromatica * - Fragrant sumac
  • Rhus copallina * - Flameleaf sumac
  • Rhus typhina * - Staghorn Sumac
  • Rosa rugosa - Saltspray rose
  • Rosa virginiana * - Virginia rose
  • Spirea spp. - Spirea, many species
  • Syringa spp. - Lilac
  • Vaccinium angustifolium * - Lowbush blueberry
  • Viburnum dentatum * – Arrowwood

Needled Evergreens:

  • Abies concolor * - White fir
  • Cedrus atlantica - Atlas cedar
  • Cephalotaxus harringtonia - Japanese plum yew
  • Chamaecyparis pisifera - Sawara false cypress
  • Juniperus spp. - Junipers, most species
  • Picea spp. - Spruce, most species
  • Pinus spp. - Pine, most species
  • Taxus spp. - Yew, most species
  • Thuja occidentalis * - Eastern arborvitae

Broadleaf Evergreens:

  • Ilex crenata - Japanese holly
  • Ilex glabra * - Inkberry
  • Ilex x meserveae - Meserve holly
  • Ilex opaca * - American holly

 

Trees/shrubs for partial shade
  • Abelia grandiflora – Glossy abelia
  • Acer buergerianum – Trident maple
  • Acer campestre – Hedge maple
  • Acer ginnala – Amur maple
  • Acer griseum – Paperbark maple
  • Acer japonicum – Fullmoon maple
  • Acer palmatum – Japanese maple
  • Acer triflorum – Three-flower maple
  • Aesculus pavia – Red buckeye
  • Amelanchier spp *. – Juneberry, shadbush
  • Carpinus caroliniana * – American hornbeam
  • Cercis canadensis * - Redbud
  • Chionanthus retusus – Chinese fringetree
  • Chionanthus virginiana * - Fringetree
  • Cornus alba – Tartarian dogwood
  • Cornus alternifolia * – Alternate leaf dogwood
  • Cornus florida * – Flowering dogwood
  • Cornus mas – Corneliancherry dogwood
  • C. sericea * – Red twig dogwood
  • Corylopsis paucifolia – Buttercup winterhazel
  • Corylopsis spicata – Spike winterhazel
  • Clethra alnifolia * – Sweet pepperbush
  • Fothergilla gardenii *– Dwarf fothergilla
  • Fothergilla major * - Fothergilla
  • Hamamelis spp. - Witchhazel
  • Hydrangea spp. - Hydrangeas
  • Ilex opaca * – American holly
  • Kalmia latifolia * – Mountain laurel
  • Pieris floribunda * – Mountain pieris
  • Rhododendron spp. - Rhododendron
  • Sambucus spp. - Elderberry
  • Stewartia spp. - Stewartia
  • Taxus spp. – Taxus
  • Thuja occidentalis* – Eastern arborvitae
  • Thuja plicata *– Western arborvitae
  • Vaccinium spp. * - Blueberry
  • Viburnum spp. - Viburnum

 

Trees/shrubs for narrow areas/ vertical interest (fastigiate)
  • Acer x freemanii ‘Armstrong’
  • Acer saccharum ‘Newton Sentry’ *
  • Carpinus betula ‘Columnaris’
  • Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Fastigiata’
  • Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck’
  • Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck Purple’
  • Ginkgo biloba ‘Princeton Sentry’
  • Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’
  • Juniperus scopulorum ‘Sky Rocket’ *
  • Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Slender Silhouette’*
  • Pinus strobus ‘Fastigiata’*
  • Quercus palustris ‘Green Pillar’ *
  • Quercus robar ‘Fastigiata’
  • Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’
  • Xanthocyparis nootkatensis ‘Green Arrow’* (formerly Chamaecyparis nootkatensis)

 

Trees/shrubs for hedges and screening
  • Abies spp. - Fir
  • Acer campestre – Hedge maple
  • Acer ginnala – Amur maple
  • Carpinus betula – European hornbeam
  • Hibiscus syriacus – Rose of Sharon
  • Ilex x meserveae – Meserve hybrid holly
  • Ilex opaca * – American holly
  • Metasequoia glyptostroboides – Dawn redwood
  • Picea spp. – Spruce
  • Rhododendron spp. - Rhododendron
  • Taxus spp. – Yew
  • Thuja occidentalis * – Eastern arborvitae
  • Thuja plicata * – Western arborvitae
  • Cupressocyparis leylandii – Leyland cypress

 

Trees/shrubs with interesting bark/stem color (winter interest)
  • Acer griseum – Paperbark maple
  • Acer triflorum – Three flower maple
  • Acer triflorum – Three flower maple
  • Cornus kousa – Kousa dogwood
  • Cornus sericea *, C. alba – Red twig dogwood
  • Kerria japonica - Kerria
  • Heptacodium miconioides – Seven-son flower
  • Salix alba ‘Flame’ – red twig willow
  • Stewartia monodelpha – Tall stewartia
  • Stewartia pseudocamellia – Japanese stewartia

 

Woody shrubs for ground cover
  • Arctostaphylos uva-ursi* - Bearberry
  • Comptonia perigrina * – Sweet fern
  • Deutzia gracilis ‘Nikko’ – ‘Nikko’ Deutzia
  • Hypericum spp. – St. John’s wort
  • Itea virginica ‘Little Henry’ * – ‘Little Henry’ sweetispire
  • Juniperus conferta – Shore juniper
  • Juniperus horizontalis * - Creeping juniper
  • Juniperus procumbens – Japanese garden juniper
  • Microbiota decussata – Russian arborvitae
  • Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-low’ * – ‘Gro-low’ fragrant sumaci
  • Spirea spp. - Spirea
  • Stephanandra incisa ‘Crispa’ – Cut leaf Stephanandra
  • Weigela florida ‘Midnight Wine’ – ‘Midnight Wine’ weigela
  • Xanthorhiza simplicissama * - Yellowroot

 

Flowering shrubs
Spring:
  • Calycanthus florida *– Carolina allspice
  • Chionanthus virginicus * – Fringetree
  • Corylopsis paucifolia – Buttercup winterhazel
  • Deutzia gracilis ‘Nikko’ – ‘Nikko’ Deutzia
  • Enkianthus campanulatus – Redveined enkianthus
  • Exochorda racemosa – Pearlbush
  • Forsythia suspensa – Forsythia
  • Fothergilla gardenii * – Dwarf fothergilla
  • Fothergilla major *– Fothergilla
  • Hydrangea arborescens * – Smooth hydrangea
  • Pieris floribunda *– Mountain pieris
  • Rhododendron atlanticum * – Coast azalea
  • Rhododendron calendulaceum – Flame azalea
  • Rhododendron schlippenbachii – Royal azalea
  • Rhododendron vaseyi * – Pinkshell azalea
  • Rhododendron spp. - Rhododendron
  • Syringa meyeri – Meyer lilac
  • Syringa microphylla – Little leaf lilac
  • Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’ – ‘Miss Kim’ Korean lilac
  • Syringa vulgaris – Common lilac
  • Viburnum x burkwoodii – Burkwood viburnum
  • Viburnum carlesii – Koreanspice viburnum
  • Viburnum dentatum * - Arrowwood
  • Viburnum sargentii – Sargent viburnum
  • Viburnum sargentii – Sargent viburnum
  • Viburnum trilobum * – American cranberrybush
  • Weigela florida – Weigela
Summer:
  • Aesculus parviflora * – Bottlebrush buckeye
  • Caryopteris x clandonensis – Bluemist shrub
  • Clethra alnifolia * – Sweet pepperbush
  • Cotinus coggygria – Smokebush
  • Hibiscus syriacus – Rose of Sharon
  • Hydrangea macrophylla – Bigleaf hydrangea
  • Hydrangea paniculata – Panicle hydrangea
  • Hydrangea quercifolia * – Oakleaf hydrangea
  • Physocarpus opulifolius * – Ninebark
  • Rhus coppalina * – Flameleaf (Shining) sumac
  • Rhus typhina * – Staghorn sumac
  • Rosa spp. – Landscape roses
  • Sambucus spp. - Elderberry
  • Spirea spp. – Spirea
  • Viburnum cassinoides * – Witherod viburnum
  • Viburnum cassinoides * – Witherod viburnum
  • Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum – Doublefile viburnum
Fall:
  • Abelia grandiflora – Glossy abelia
  • Heptacodium miconioides – Seven-son flower
  • Hamamelis virginiana * - Witchhazel
Winter:
  • Hamamelis vernalis * – Vernal witchhazel
  • Hamamelis x intermedia – Hybrid witchhazel
  • Lonicera fragrantissima – Winter honeysuckle

 

Fruiting trees/shrubs for winter interest/wildlife
  • Amelanchier arborea * - Juneberry
  • Amelanchier canadensis * - Shadbush
  • Arctostaphylos uva-ursi *- Bearberry
  • Aronia arbutifolia * – Red Chokeberry
  • Aronia melanocarpa * – Black Chokeberry
  • Betula nigra * cultivars – River birch
  • Cornus alternifolia * – Alternate leaf dogwood
  • Cornus amomum * – Silky dogwood
  • Cornus florida * – Flowering dogwood
  • Cornus kousa – Kousa dogwood
  • Cornus mas – Corneliancherry dogwood
  • Cornus sericea * – Red twig dogwood
  • Cornus racemosa * – Grey dogwood
  • Ilex glabra * – Inkberry
  • Ilex x meserveae – Meserve hybrid holly
  • Ilex opaca * – American holly
  • Ilex verticillata * – Winterberry holly
  • Juniperus virginiana * – Eastern red cedar
  • Lindera benzoin * - Spicebush
  • Liquidambar styraciflua * – Sweet gum
  • Malus spp. – Crabapple (disease resistant)
  • Morella pensylvanica * - Bayberry (formerly Myrica)
  • Nyssa sylvatica * - Tupelo
  • Picea glauca * – White spruce
  • Pinus strobus * – White pine
  • Quercus spp. – Oak species
  • Sassafrass albidum * – Sassafrass
  • Symphoricarpos orbiculatus – Coralberry
  • Rhus aromatica * – Fragrant sumac
  • Rhus coppalina * – Flameleaf (Shining) sumac
  • Rhus glabra * – Smooth sumac
  • Rhus typhina * – Staghorn sumac
  • Vaccinium spp. * - Blueberry species
  • Viburnum dentatum * – Arrowwood
  • Viburnum dilatatum – Linden viburnum
  • Viburnum lentago * - Nannyberry
  • Viburnum triflorum * – American cranberrybush
  • Viburnum setigerum – Tea viburnum

 

Needled evergreens:
Small:
  • Cephalotaxus harringtonia – Japanese plum yew
  • Juniperus conferta – Shore juniper
  • Juniperus horizontalis * – Creeping juniper
  • Juniperus procumbens – Japanese garden juniper
  • Microbiota decussata – Russian arborvitae
  • Various dwarf conifers
Medium:
  • Chamaecyparis obtusa cultivars – Hinoki falsecypress
  • Juniperus virginiana * – Eastern red cedar
  • Pinus cembra – Swiss stone pine
  • Pinus parvifolia – Japanese white pine
  • Taxus baccata – English yew
  • Taxus cuspidata – Japanese yew
  • Taxus media – Anglojap yew
Large:
  • Abies concolor * – White/Concolor fir
  • Abies koreana – Korean fir
  • Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’ – Blue Atlas cedar
  • Chamaecyparis pisifera – Sawara falsecypress
  • Chamaecyparis thyoides * – Atlantic whitecedar
  • Cupressocyparis leylandii – Leyland cypress
  • Larix spp. – Larch
  • Metasequoia glyptostroboides – Dawn redwood
  • Picea spp. – Spruce
  • Pinus strobus * – White pine
  • Pseudolarix amabilis – Golden larch
  • Pseudotsuga menziesii * – Douglas fir
  • Sciadopitys verticillata – Japanese umbrella pine
  • Taxodium distichum * – Bald cypress
  • Thuja spp. * - Arborvitae
  • Xanthocyparis nootkatensis ‘Pendula’ * – Alaskan falsecypress (formerly Chamaecyparis nootkatensis)

 

Broadleaf evergreens:
Small:
  • Arctostaphylos uva-ursi * - Bearberry
  • Ilex crenata – Japanese holly
  • Pieris floribunda * – Mountain pieris
Medium:
  • Ilex glabra * - Inkberry
  • Ilex x meserveae – Meserve hybrid holly
  • Ilex pedunculosa – Longstalk holly
  • Kalmia latifolia * – Mountain laurel
  • Rhododendron spp. - Rhododendron
Large:
  • Ilex opaca * – American holly

 

Vines
  • Aristolochia macrophylla * – Dutchman’s pipe (formerly A. durior)
  • Campsis radicans * – Trumpet vine
  • Clematis montana – Anemone clematis
  • Hydrangea anomela subsp. petiolaris – Climbing hydrangea
  • Lonicera sempervirens * – Trumpet honeysuckle
  • Parthenocissus quinquefolia * – Virginia creeper
  • Wisteria frutescens * – American wisteria

 

Alternatives to invasive plants
Invasive species: Alternatives:
Acer platanoides – Norway maple
  • Acer x freemanii – Freeman maple cultivars
  • Acer rubrum * – Red maple
  • Acer saccharum * – Sugar maple
  • Ginkgo biloba - Ginkgo
  • Liriodendron tulipifera * – Tulip tree
  • Oxydendrum arboreum * - Sourwood
  • Styphnolobium japonicum – Japanese scholar tree (formerly Sophora japonica)
Berberis thunbergii – Japanese barberry
  • Weigela ‘Midnight Wine’
  • Fothergilla gardenii * – Dwarf fothergilla
  • Itea virginica * – Virginia sweetspire
  • Diervilla lonicera * – Dwarf bush honeysuckle
Euonymus alatus – Burning bush
  • Aronia melanocarpa * – Black chokeberry
  • Fothergilla major * – Fothergilla
  • Rhus aromatica * – Fragrant sumac
  • Rhus copallina – Flameleaf sumac
  • Vaccinium corymbosum – Blueberry
Elaeagnus umbellata – Autumn Olive
  • Baccharis halimifolia * – Groundsel
  • Morella pensylvanica * - Bayberry (formerly Myrica)

Written by: Roberta Clark & Deborah Swanson
Revised: 08/2011