KC Gardens

Top 10 plants

Viburnum - A Top 10 plant.

Tip of the Week

We all pretty much know about The Late Show with David Letterman’s Top Ten. Of course, top ten lists have been around for years: Top ten football teams, movies, songs; the list goes on and on. But have you ever thought about the top ten plants? Well, never fear because at the National Green Centre trade show this week I learned that an industry group has, and so without any further fanfare, the Top Ten plants purchased at garden centers around the country are:

Number Ten: Knock Out Rose Not surprising, as this single plant has forever changed our view of the rose. It also has led the charge for many other changes in the landscape, and that is the desire for more color from spring to fall. No other plant can deliver this except a rose. Who would have thought that 20 or 30 years ago? Something else interesting to note as you go through this top ten, no other single variety is listed. Instead, all the others plants are grouped. It could be said that the ‘Knock Out’ rose might just be the most well-known cultivar in production.

Number 9: Dogwood Who doesn’t love this plant? Most of us know and love the plant as a small tree, but there are a number of shrub varieties. The genus Cornus (dogwood) really does comprise a wide range of plant materials, some of which thrive in Kansas City, while others struggle to find a home.

Number 8: Juniper Okay, who doesn’t have a juniper in the landscape? It is our most common evergreen because it is as tough as nails. Apparently, it is prized in many other parts of the country.

Number 7: Maple Red, silver, sugar, Japanese and the list goes on and on of all the wonderful maples for the landscape. Unfortunately, its popularity might also be its downfall. The reason is we have planted too many red maples. Many neighborhoods have created a monoculture of red maples. Remember when Dutch elm disease wiped out tens of millions of elm trees in Europe and North America? The take home message is, don’t plant any more red or red maple crosses!

Number 6: Azaleas Much like the tulip this group of plants is a welcome sign of spring. Wonderful pastel hues light up the landscape. They can be and are a challenge here in KC. But if they find the right spot and soil then few other plants are as pleasing to the eye.

Number 5: Spirea This is another rock solid landscape plant prized for its flowering and, in most cases, small size, which makes it so very versatile in the landscape. The old fashioned large and rangy plants have lost favor, but the newer dwarf varieties have a way of fitting into many tight spots for a splash of color while being so easy care.

Number 4: Holly Another evergreen makes the list, which is not surprising. Hollies are more popular in other parts of the country where they prefer and receive better growing conditions. Hollies in KC can be hit or miss. Keep in mind the deciduous hollies are really the best for us.

Number 3: Hydrangea Another poster child for beautiful flowers, as the big blue or pink blossom exudes southern charm. Obtaining that look here is a little more of a challenge. But I must admit, I am really falling for other species of this popular plant, but those unfortunately bloom only in shades of white.

Number 2: Viburnum This might just be one of the most versatile of all plants, with its range of leaf shapes, flowers, fruiting and habit. Michael Dirr, the nation’s leading plant guru, has stated a garden without a viburnum is akin to life with no music.

Number 1: Boxwood At first, this plants top sales rating was a surprise. But when I stopped and thought it through I realized boxwood is probably a hands down winner. This evergreen grows in just about every corner of the country and has a nice growth habit, lending itself to the formal and informal garden. It has very few insect and disease problems, and can tolerate sun and light shade, and even some drier conditions.

So how many of the leading plants do you have in your garden? I will fess up; I currently have eight, but have tried all ten in my landscape. I guess I am not a perfect ten — sorry to disappoint — but eight out of ten is not bad. If you have not tried these, then start planning, as spring is coming, I promise.


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