Think of adding trees and shrubs to your landscape as adding “bones to your garden.” These should be the first plants to be planted once the hardscapes (walls, walkways, etc.) have been added.


Although they may be pricier than annuals and perennials, these plants are considered a good investment because they make a greater impact on the landscape, not to mention the fact that a properly placed tree can lower utility bills in the summer and winter and increase your property value.

Wouldn’t you rather buy a house with accents like this rather than one without?

Another advantage is that you can create “rooms” throughout the garden just by adding plants like hydrangeas and evergreens that block views from the rest of the garden, or cause visitors to want to go around the corner to see what’s next.

This creates more interest for you and your visitors. That’s what we did in the picture at the top of this page. They also provide colorful flowers, fruits, berries, and leaves throughout the year.

Especially here in the Mid-South with our long growing season. Plants with interesting shapes or bark are wonderful additions to the winter landscape.

A deciduous plant like hydranges (scroll further down for some planting tips) and especially the endless summer hydrangea make beautiful backdrops to your annuals and perennials. With so many types of trees to chose from, there is one for every situation.

You may need fast growing specimens, or a tree for a wet site (more info further down), or perhaps you love to decorate inside during the holidays or want to provide a wildlife habitat outdoors for you furry friends with berries and pods.

When considering what to plant, the book Southeast American Horticultural Society Smartgarden Regional Garden Guide has these great suggestions.

Southeast American Horticultural Society Smartgarden Regional Garden Guide book

Keep in mind the eventual size, hardiness and heat tolerance, foliage color and density, and flowering time of the plants you are considering. I will agree with them on that.

I have had neighbors buy 5 or 10 plants just because they are on sale and then wonder where to put them. It’s not a bargain if it’s not the right plant for area.

You need to be sure you know whether the woody plant has top roots (sometimes called shallow roots which means their roots grow on the surface of the soil and compete with other plants for moisture), or if they have bark and leaves that falls of the tree making a mess of your deck most of the year.

For instance, you don’t want to plant a large shade tree like ash or maple, that will require major pruning to let any light in, in a tiny backyard. For this situation, smaller flowering specimens such as a redbud or silverbell would work better.

Check with your local extension service or local landscape contractor for help in picking the right plant for you area. Even evergreens like the boxwoods range from small to medium, and now you can even find columnar boxwoods that work beautifully in the front of the house next to the steps.

Broadleaf evergreens such as magnolias are grown mainly for their foliage. Below you can see how gorgeous the look of oak leaf hydrangeas in masses. I enjoy drying the hydrangea blooms for my dried arrangements. A nice added bonus!

oak leaf hydrangeas in masses

And pictured below is a weeping blue atlas cedar. You know, evergreens look really sweet in the winter with snow on them.


Trees For Wet Sites

Many of the trees for wet sites that do well in the Mid-South are native to your area and thrive on river banks or close to other sources of water. If you have an area that drains slowly after a rain, or if you have a pond or stream, the trees in the following list will grow very quickly.

Bob McCartney, who helped assemble this list of trees in the book The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists by Lois Trigg Chaplin, had these comments to add:

The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists by Lois Trigg Chaplin

“Most species of trees native to bottomlands (floodplains) don’t mind inundation and are often under water for months during the winter and spring seasons. Some like the Atlantic white cedar, dahoon holly, loblolly bay and sweet bay magnolia, like moisture but not flooding, but bald cypress does not adapt to long periods of inundation.”

Special Note: The roots of larger trees grow rapidly and some can grow out up to 60 feet from the base of the tree, so be sure not to put them near a septic tank.

The following list of sites is especially suited for the Mid-South

Sycamore (Plantanus occidentalis)

American hornbeam (Carpinus corolinaiana)

Overcup oak (Quercus lyrata)

Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)

River birch (Betula nigra)

London plane tree (Plataus xacerifolia)

Cherrybark oak (Quercus falcata var. pagodifolia)

Mayhaw (Crataegus aestivalis)

Water tupelo (Nyssa aquatica)

Sweet bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)

Laural oak (Quercus laurifolia)

Nutall oak (Quercus Nutallii)

If you have a low spot in your yard, where your feet get wet just walking through the area, these are the trees for you!

Hydrangea Planting Tips

Hydrangea planting is best for those of us who live in milder climates because their buds, which are formed on last year’s growth, can be easily damaged by winter warming and later frosts.

some real sweet looking lacecap hydrangeas

Buy from a reputable online source, or your local garden center. Be sure the plant is blooming so that you know you are getting a plant that has been labeled correctly. Sometimes they are mislabeled in garden centers.

Plant after the last freeze date in order to be sure the plant won’t be zapped by the cold. If it is zapped, you will not get any blooms.

Try not to plant during the summer, but if you do, give it plenty of water until it’s established.

If you love to craft from your garden, especially if you enjoy drying hydrangeas for arrangements, centerpieces, and wreaths. Be sure and plant some of these beauties.

Some of the ones we love the best for crafting are the:

Oakleaf Hydrangeas:

Do well in sun or shade and are especially good in extremely hot areas. Giving them a little more sun helps them to turn a nice reddish shade which I love to use for drying.


We love these “Mopheads” and so do our deer. These emerge with large white heads and then turn green. That’s when I dry them. You can spray paint these any color to match your interior. They also come in pink and blue.

Grandiflora also called “Peegee”:

These can take the most sun and heat as long as you water, water, water!

Blue-flowering varieties:

Try the “niko blue” variety. We love it.

Hydrangea Care

1) Keep will watered. When they start to droop, you know it’s time to water.

2) Transplant from one spot to another when plants are dormant.

3) Fertilize with a slow release fertilizer in the spring

4) Prune Mopheads, Lacecaps, and Oakleafs in the summer before the month of August, before they begin setting their bloom buds.

5) Prune Annabelles and PeeGee hydrangeas anytime except in the spring or summer when they are getting ready to bloom.