Plants that thrive in Cobb County
For those of you on the west side of Cobb County, Shemins Nursery is fantastic! They recently moved near McCollum Airport (1320 Lockhart Drive NW in Kennesaw) and are open on Saturday mornings during spring, summer and fall.
I just don’t see how any garden could be complete without Pieris Japonica. There are many different kinds, and some get big and a few stay 3 feet tall and wide, so choose carefully. They have so many attributes: evergreen, gorgeous flowers in spring, red and green leaves, and they thrive in shady places that get a little sun. Mine did much better when I gave it regular watering.
Pieris Japonica blossom
Emerald ‘N’ Gold Euonymus – I just love this because it has stayed small, and contrasts so beautifully with the purple loropetalum behind it. It does look better if you support it with a trellis, so it doesn’t flop around. Other than that, it doesn’t need a lot of care. I prune back stray shoots once a year in fall.
The Tea Olive is an excellent screen. It grows quickly, provides privacy, can be kept around 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide, although it does get bigger than that, and has the most beautiful fragrance in September and October! I tend to put these on the corner of a house to conceal a downspout. Mine is outside my bedroom window so the fragrance comes wafting in the house in fall.
Berkman’s Gold Arborvitae – is this not beautiful? It looks like this all year round! I never water mine or prune it. It likes full sun. It grows slowly, but after 10 years it gets about 7 feet tall and 5 feet wide, which is rather big, but for several years it will just be a lovely specimen much smaller than that.
Chamaecyparis Obtusa Nana – Dwarf Hinoki Cypress. This, to me, is the perfect evergreen. Mine after several years became 4 feet tall and stopped. It provides excellent contrast to everything around it. Likes full sun and isn’t fussy about water or fertilizer.
Cryptomeria Japonica Globosa Nana – this is my neighbor’s. I have successfully killed both of mine by overwatering! Put this in the ground, not too deep but let the roots spread wide, and then leave it alone! Don’t fuss over it. It gets 3 feet tall by 4 feet wide. Full sun.
Frostproof Gardenias are great plants. Deer hate them. They have beautiful gardenia blossoms in summer. They look good in winter. They do thrive with a little acid slow-release fertilizer (for azaleas). Although the label will say it gets 3 by 3, my experience with these is that they can get as big as 5 feet wide, and 3½ feet tall. Space them 5 feet apart. They don’t need a lot of water. If they get too big, they can be pruned, but they’ll get equally big in another year, so it’s best to give them the space to spread out.
Frost-proof Gardenia bloom
Rose Creek Abelia is a workhorse in the garden. I finally had to move two of mine from their location because at mature size, they were 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. But if you have a full sun location that can take their size, this is an amazing plant. Evergreen, beautiful leaves, covered in blossoms June through September, and I never watered, pruned, or fertilized mine!
Goshiki Holly is a great winter plant. This photo was taken on a cold but sunny winter’s day when nearly everything else in the garden was lifeless. Goshiki is the Japanese word for FIVE, and this plant has that name because the new leaves have five different colors in spring when they come in: dark green, light green, pink, yellow and ivory. This plant loves full sun, doesn’t need a lot of water, and gets 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide, but can be pruned smaller. It grows very slowly.
Chamaecyparis Pisifera – Threadbranch Cypress – this plant looks great 365 days a year! Here, on a cold winter’s day, it’s a lovely golden color. Below, in the middle of summer, it’s still yellow but slightly greener. Gets 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. I never prune it, water it, or fertilize it!
Golden Globe Arborvitae – we’ve had this plant for a while now. It’s 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide and looks great all year round. Mine only gets morning sun and it does fine. It doesn’t need much water or any fertilization.
This is a Sierra Sunrise Nandina, but nowadays there are all sorts of nandinas on the market. What I love about them is the colors! And for a plant that gets no extra water, no fertilization, and is never pruned, this plant is amazingly pretty all year round! It looks fabulous in mid-winter especially. It gets about 3 feet around. I have some that face north and don’t get a lot of sun and they are just as pretty as this one.
Pyracantha Silver Lining – one of my all-time favorites. I put three of these in the front of someone’s yard and he said people actually rang his doorbell to find out what it was. They get 4 feet wide and 3 feet tall so they need space to spread. All summer long they are green but once the cold weather comes, they turn brilliant orange! These pictures are of the same plant, one taken in August, the other in January.
Camellia Japonica – this camellia is covered in red blooms in early March. Although camellias can handle full sun, they do prefer a little shade during the hottest part of the day. Some stay relatively small – 6 feet tall. Others can get twice as big. Just make sure you read the label before buying so you get the right size. They benefit from slow-release acid fertilizer, and like to be watered during drought. It’s best to prune once every few years, and then only to thin them out by removing inner branches to increase air circulation.
Spring Bouquet Viburnum is an amazing evergreen. At the end of January, it produces beautiful pink and white blooms that no amount of frost can kill! Mine faces north, so even in summer it doesn’t get a lot of sun, and in winter it only gets about two hours a day. It can get quite large – 6 feet tall and wide, but it can easily be kept smaller than that with an annual trimming. Doesn’t need a lot of water, and benefits from an all-purpose fertilizer.
Sunshine Ligustrum stays small and is bright yellow in winter. It looks great paired with anything red. It benefits from a tree and shrub slow-release fertilizer in early spring, doesn’t need a lot of water, and likes full sun. No need to prune it since it doesn’t get very big, but it can be kept pruned to any size.
Right next to Sunshine Ligustrum I always put the Ruby Loropetalum which is also evergreen, has red and green leaves, beautiful pink blossoms in spring, and stays 4 feet around. It loves full sun, although it can handle afternoon shade. It benefits from an acid-based slow-release fertilizer in spring. Doesn’t need a lot of water to thrive.
Here is the old staple, Emerald Green Arborvitae. It loves full sun, grows about 12 feet tall and 3 feet wide, and doesn’t need any care at all – no water, no fertilizer and no pruning.
If you need a pillar-like plant that gets 6-8 feet tall and can be kept 2 feet wide with pruning, consider Silver King Euonymus. It’s evergreen, has beautiful variegated foliage, and provides great contrast. I don’t water mine and don’t fertilize it. The only work required is pruning a couple of times a year to keep it the shape you want it. I had to borrow this picture from the internet because in the process of transplanting mine, I almost lost them. Hopefully they’ll spring back next year!
Another great evergreen that thrives in shade is Spreading Japanese Plum Yew. The leaves are two-toned. It grows slowly to 2-3 feet high and 3-4 feet wide.
Distylium Coppertone – this is a relatively new plant that has beautiful reddish new growth. It’s best to let it grow without pruning since its shape is so attractive. It reaches 3-4 feet high, and 4-5 feet wide. It likes sun or part shade, and can handle wet ground.
Cedrus Deodara Sprite is a great plant for providing contrast. It grows very, very slowly though. This one is five years old and has only become two feet tall this year. I’ve noticed that it grows more when I water it every couple of weeks or so. Apart from that, no care necessary!
An evergreen that I have had really good luck with is Eleanor Taber Indian Hawthorne. When all the other hawthorns took many months to come back from the beating they got in 2014 and 2015 when the temperatures went down to 5°, my Eleanor Tabers were unphased! They are evergreen, the leaf shape is lovely, and they produce pink blossoms in spring. They don’t require a lot of water. This is just a perfect plant for Cobb County, if you ask me. They get 2 feet tall and 3 feet around. BUT, I have not been successful in producing prolific blooms like this, but now that I have Nelson Plant food, check back with me next year and I bet mine looks like this!
Jerry French Landscaping – serving Cobb County since 1994