Springtime is Planting Time in Oklahoma

The Daily Ardmoreite
Pat Neasbitt
Master Gardener

Spring has finally arrived in Oklahoma after the craziest weather imaginable this past year. Of course, we can say that every year. It's the perfect time to add new plants to your landscape or replace those lost to the heat and drought of the last two summers or the snow and freezing temperatures of the last few weeks. Here are a few helpful tips to remember when you buy plants to make sure your new plants survive and flourish in your landscape.

• Make sure the plants are well rooted but not totally root bound.

• Choose plants with lush but compact foliage. Avoid leggy and overgrown plants. The crown should be no more than three times the size of the container.

• Never buy wilted plants. Under watering and wilting, especially repeated under watering, weakens plants so much that they never fully recover.

• Avoid plants with yellow or brown foliage. They have either dried out from lack of water or have disease problems.

• If you can’t plant immediately, keep plants well-watered, in the shade, and out of the wind until you can get them in the ground.

• Buy plants that are loaded with buds, not blooms. If you want the plants to bloom in your yard and not just the nursery, look for plants with lots of buds.

• Plant a large variety of plants. For a truly healthy attractive landscape, variety is the key. Plant a little of everything – trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses, evergreens, spring and summer bulbs, annuals, perennials, and herbs. Having a large variety of plants in your landscape will also attract a large variety of butterflies, birds, and beneficial insects for you to enjoy.

• Pick the right plant for the right place. Know if the plant needs sun or shade. If it says, "may need part shade", that means that in Oklahoma it definitely needs some shade, especially in the afternoon.

• Check the mature size of the plant. That one-gallon container plant may eventually get 15' tall and wide.

• Plant correctly by digging a hole about 2 or 3 times as wide as the root ball. The hole should only be as deep as the top of the root ball. You are planting, not burying, the plant.

• Water new plants well and often – even drought tolerant varieties need more water until they are established. Don’t sprinkle – water deep so the roots go deep.

• MULCH EVERYTHING. Just a 3" to 4” layer of mulch will conserve moisture, regulate soil temperatures, smother weeds, and break down to build soil fertility and feed the plants. Mulch also makes the garden look tidier and more attractive. Do not buy cheap, dyed mulch - you don't know where it came from and it is likely ground up pallets that could contain harmful chemicals and diseased wood – besides, it’s really ugly. Plants have a hard enough time surviving summer heat without putting black mulch around them that actually absorbs more heat that is radiated back on the poor plants.

The following is a list of some really great plants for Oklahoma. These are plants that will grow easily, don’t need a lot of pruning or staking, will take the Oklahoma heat, humidity, and wind, won’t take over your whole yard, bloom for a long time, and look good when they aren’t blooming. Most of them also attract butterflies, birds, and hummingbirds and are fairly easy to find locally. That’s a lot to ask of a plant, but these won’t disappoint you. Many are OK Proven and/or Native OK Plants.

• Trees: Arizona Cypress, Bosnian Pine, Caddo Sugar Maple, Chinese Pistache, Crabapple ‘Prairiefire’, Kentucky Coffee Tree, Lacebark Elm, Red Bud ‘Oklahoma’, River Birch ‘Heritage’, Shantung Maple, Shumard Oak. You DO NOT see Bradford Pear on this list because it is a Trash Tree, and there are so many trees that are so much better!!!

• Shrubs: Abelias, Artemesia 'Powis Castle', Crepe Myrtles, Deciduous Holly/Possumhaw, Burford Hollies, Mexican Bush Sage, Dwarf Nandinas, Spireas, Vitex, Yaupon Hollies

• Perennials: Autumn Sage, Black-eyed Susans, Cannas, Catmint, Coreopsis, Daisy 'Becky', Daylilies, Gaillardias, Garden Phlox, Hardy Hibiscus, Hosta 'So Sweet' (SHADE), Lantanas, Liatris, Malvas, Mexican Feather Grass, Perovskia (Russian Sage), Purple Coneflowers, Salvias, Sedums, Veronicas, Yarrows.

• Annuals: Angelonia, Castor Bean, Celosia, Cleome (reseeds), Cosmos, Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun', Golden Crownbeard (reseeds), Larkspur (reseeds), Melampodium, Nicotiana (Flowering Tobacco - reseeds), Pentas, Purple Fountain Grass, Sun Coleus, Sweet Potato 'Margarita', Zinnias (reseed). Happy Gardening!