13 Common Landscape Mistakes: 5. Proper Plant Spacing

Because most plants are not mature at the time of installation into new landscapes, there is a tendency to plant trees and shrubs closer together than they probably should be planted.  What happens is, everything looks good for a couple of years and then one day your landscape is out of control.  Resist the temptation if you want long term success in the landscape.  If you don’t, you’ll deal with the ramifications of a jungle like appearance for years and ultimately you’ll reduce the life of your landscape. The first strategy to resist the temptation would be to install more mature plantings.  Whether you are installing 1 gallon Boxwoods or 3′ Boxwoods, they should be placed a certain distance apart.  This distance is variable based on variety of plant, and the look you are trying to achieve.  For a hedge, 2.5′ spacing is pretty common.  If you want the Boxwoods to remain separate entities in the landscape, 4′ spacing would be more common.  If you are planting 4′ on center, the space between the plants starts to look awkward when you are planting 1 or 2 gallon plants.  This is when spacing becomes a problem.  Most people will feel the urge to push the small plants closer together.  As the plants grow, they become a tight mass and that wasn’t you attention.  Worse, an over planted landscape is hard to maintain and insects and diseases love the poor air circulation the over planted landscape creates.  After 5 or so years, this is usually the point where the existing landscape starts to get transplanted to other parts of the property.  Instead of that, a better approach in my opinion is to keep the spacing the way it should be and use filler plants, annuals or perennials, around the boxwoods until the plants mature.  That way, the landscape looks like it was well thought out and all the plants will mature in place rather than having to find another home for half the plants down the road.

Annuals and perennials are used around the base of Viburnum and Chamaecyparis until they mature.

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Richard Schipul
Richard Schipul

For the last 30 years, I have owned the landscape company Designing Eden LLC based in New Milford, CT. We offer landscape designs, landscape installations and garden maintenance services in Fairfield and Litchfield County Connecticut. I am currently the only Nationally Certified Landscape Designer in Litchfield County and sit on the board of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and Mad Gardeners.

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