Ask Burton: This week it’s all about the behavior of plants that are suitable to plant in our area… when the types of plants chosen do not play well together. So many landscape problems can be headed off with proper, prior planning. This article could well be titled… Plants that do NOT go together… at least, not like that!

For demonstration, a few of the plant questions we fielded just this past Monday morning.

Why is my newly planted Japanese maple burned and my corkscrew juncus grass doing poorly? My pentas right next to them look amazing! – In this case, the customer was watering well, but had two plants which need afternoon shade in North Texas planted next to a flower (pentas) that thrive in full sun and heat. This is an example of plants that do not like the same sun exposure. These can only be planted together in a near-perfect compromise spot with full morning sun, and shade after 1 p.m. This bed was getting a fair amount of afternoon sun.
Why has my newly planted Texas mountain laurel been failing? It was planted flush with the lawn (it’s sunk down just a little now though), and my St. Augustine lawn is beautifully green. – In this case, it’s a plant that generally likes to be dry (Texas mountain laurel) planted in the middle of a heavily watered lawn. Both Texas mountain laurel and St. Augustine grass thrive in North Texas, but the mountain laurel would be best placed atop a berm or in a bed of plants that like drier conditions. St. Augustine lawns like water!
Why is my newly planted oakleaf holly thinning and losing leaves from the middle? I live in Heath with water restrictions, but the Mexican feather grass planted right next to it is healthy. – In this case, the dry conditions appreciated by the Mexican feather grass are less appreciated by the holly, at least until the holly is better established. Most hollies are quite tolerant once established, but the holly needs more water each week to get through its first brutal North Texas summer.

To do better with what you have already done takes a bit of improvisation. In the case of the Japanese maple, if it’s in just a little too much sun, rig a temporary shade cloth or pop up a beach umbrella to provide some temporary shade until we get to September. Once the plants have had an additional year in the ground to root, they’ll tolerate the heat better and might be fine where they’re planted. The oakleaf holly, again with the simple answer, individual hose watering until we’re done with the heat. The Texas mountain laurel, however, was already too far gone to fix. If it had been savable, the only solution would have been to dig it up, build a berm and replant much higher above grade, or find a much drier bed elsewhere to plant in.

Plant your beds with plants that work well with the same sun and soil moisture conditions, and success will follow.