When it comes to landscape design, landscaping itself is often the feature that ties everything together. Color, texture, and year-round visual interest are all achieved through great landscaping. The right plants are the difference between a yard that will continue to flower and thrive for years to come, and a yard full of expensive plants that are dead within a year. That being said, let’s talk about some of the best plants for landscaping in Richmond, VA.
There are several qualities to consider when you’re choosing the right plans for your Richmond yard. The first consideration is whether or not the plant you’re interested in is a native plant. The second is whether or not your plant will grow in Richmond’s specific plant hardiness zone.
According to the USDA, Richmond, VA and its surrounding areas are generally considered to be located in a 7a/7b growing zone. When we pick plants, we are specifically looking for varieties that are compatible with zoning.
Another aspect to consider when working with your landscape designer is your preferred level of upkeep. Some plants are simply more work than others. If you hate doing yard work, selecting shrubs that require a significant amount of annual pruning is going to be a choice you regret. Instead, selecting low maintenance plantings that require little to no trimming or upkeep will always be your best choice.
That being said, let’s get into our top picks for the best plants to use in your Richmond backyard landscape design.
Green Emerald Arborvitae
When we’re looking to create a privacy screen, one of the best plants for this purpose is a trusty Green Emerald Arborvitae. Not only are they incredibly hardy, but they require minimal maintenance to ensure their success. Above, you can see how arborvitae provides additional coverage to this privacy screen in a Monument Avenue backyard.
These plants can succeed in full sun to partial shade, and grow up to 10-15 feet tall. Perfect for nosy neighbors or homeowners who are just looking for more privacy without sacrificing green in their space. Arborvitae are evergreens, which means you’ll enjoy the color they bring all year long. All things considered, there’s no wonder we use these plants in so many of Richmond landscape designs.
Loropetalum (Chinese Fringe Flower)
Our next top planting pick to include in your yard is Loropetalum, also known as Chinese Fringe Flower. Another option with evergreen foliage, the leaves on this plant come in a range of colorations. While the leaves are attractive all year round, Loropetalum also offers a burst of spring color. Flowering from mid-winter to early spring, they’re a sign warmer days are coming.
We love using Loropetalum to add color into planting plans. They are most compatible with container planting, which means you will need to stay on top of water. A good drink every few weeks should be sufficient, depending on the heat and weather in your area. These plants mature quickly and are a great focal point for feature areas in your outdoor living space.
The best kinds of flowers are the ones that stick around for a while. Abelia, a member of the honeysuckle family, delivers on that front. Their small, fragrant flowers range from white to pink to yellow and provide color to any planting plan from spring all the way until fall.
Abelia comes in a range of sizes, so picking the variety that is appropriate for the space is important. Plants that grow too large can crowd out other planting and cause issues while simultaneously making a planting bed look cluttered. Nearly all types of Abelia are suitable to Richmond, VA’s climate, meaning the world is your oyster. A great landscape designer will be able to make the selection that looks the best and will thrive in your finished space.
If you love the idea of a green screen to create privacy from your neighbors, but don’t love the look of Arborvitae there are other options. The Chindo Viburnum is a departure from the look of Arborvitae while remaining in the evergreen family. Growing up to 10-12 feet tall, they easily rival other screening plants in heights. And the healthier they are, the more densely they will grow.
Chindo Viburnum have wide, dark leaves. In the summer, it offers color in the form of small red berries. These berries make them a good choice for homeowners looking to encourage more birds or wildlife in their backyard space.
Speaking of native plantings, it’s hard to talk about environmentally friendly landscape designs without talking about grasses. Sometimes overlooked in favor of other flowering plants or shrubs, ornamental grass offers the kind of striking, almost sculptural visual interest that many of our clients are looking for in their spaces. Not only is the profile of an ornamental grass symbiotic with modern design, but Muhly grass offers a wonderful shock of color in your outdoor space as well.
Deer resistant and drought resistant, this is a hardy variety of grass that is great for statement areas or any beds that are lacking color or height variation. Muhly grass is known for its large, pink plumes of foliage from mid-summer to late fall.
Speaking of ornamental grasses, Blue Fescue is another one of our favorite plants to use in designs around Richmond. Easily recognizable, this grass grows in a distinct ball shape, and leaves self-contained starbursts of color around garden beds. Like Muhly grass, Blue Fescue is drought resistant and makes a great choice for homeowners who are looking for environmentally conscious options.
Blue Fescue is great for adding texture to any planting plan. With a striking, blue coloration this grass does well in sun or partial shade, and is a low-maintenance way to get some high impact visual appeal in your space.
The next plant on our list is Scotch Broom. This one is controversial and has been given an invasive status in some other areas of the country. However, Scotch Broom can be a hardy and effective way to add a pop of color to your landscape design. Scotch Broom is remarkably hardy and thrives in moderate to full sun. Over time, successful plants can grow 3-6 feet high and 3-6 feet wide, making it a great space filler.
Another plant that is native to the Richmond, VA area is Mahonia. Mahonia is a class of plants that come in up to 70 varieties. Well suited to shade, Mahonia make great privacy plantings for darker corners of your outdoor space and provide an injection of green to your landscape all year long.
One of the most notable features of Mahonia is its unique, floral sprays. The flowering bunches hang from the plant in bright yellow clusters and add color through mid-winter and early spring. Adding to their appeal are their deep blue berries which increase bird-appeal in your yard, without making your outdoor space a target for deer. These berries hang in distinct, grape-like bunches and are extremely low maintenance, high-impact plants for any Richmond backyard.
Love a tropical, structural look? Interested in something a little more unique. Yucca is our final entry on this list of our favorite plants for landscaping in Richmond, VA. Yucca plants are immediately recognizable for their spiky leaves and structural appearance. Growing from the ground in rosettes or on stalks, yucca are slow growers but are completely hands-off.
Yucca can be great for adding visual interest in container planters around patios or pool decks. However, homeowners with kids or dogs may want to talk to their landscape designer about how their yard is used. Yucca has uniquely spiky leaves that can give children or pets a good poke if they aren’t careful. In these situations, Yucca can still be used away from high traffic areas such as walkways or patios.
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