Color & Contrast in the Landscape

 

by Elmer Krehbiel, Master Gardener
January 25, 2002

Shrubs and trees may provide a rainbow of colors in the landscape. Their longevity is important because of the cost to establish and maintain them.

If you transplant any shrubs or trees, there is usually considerable damage to the root system. The limbs should be pruned down more than the damage to the root system, so the plant will continue to grow this year. If no limbs are pruned off, the plant may die during the summer or not grow much for several years.

The hole should not be dug as deep as the size of the roots, so the soil mark on the plant will be higher than the ground level when finished. The soil that was removed from the hole should be used to backfill around the roots. Only, backfill the hole about half, then cover the soil with water and wiggle the plant so the air around the roots will bubble up. The remaining soil should be backfilled and a small berm formed around the plant and over the edge of the hole. Then apply more water to soak the top soil. More water may be needed each week during the first year.

Shrubs and Flowers

The spring-flowering shrubs with color are:

  • azalea - pink, purple, red or white;
  • flowering quince - orange, pink, red or white;
  • forsythia - yellow;
  • hypericum - yellow;
  • Indian hawthorn - pink or white;
  • mountain laurel - purple;
  • snowball - white;
  • weigela - pink, red or white

The spring and summer flowering shrubs with color are:

  • althaea - pink, red, violet or white;
  • bridal wreath - purple or white;
  • gardenia - white;
  • hydrangea - blue, pink or white;
  • oleander - pink, red, white or yellow;
  • pomegranate - red.
  • The summer flowering shrubs with color are:
  • abelia - pink or white;
  • bottlebrush - red.

The summer and fall flowering shrubs with color are: 

  • crape myrtle - pink, red, purple, or white;
  • flowery senna - golden yellow;
  • purple sage - lavender-pink or white.
  • The late fall-to-spring flowering shrubs with color are: 
  • camellia - pink, red or white;
  • Italian jasmine - yellow;
  • primrose jasmine - yellow.
  • Shrubs with fruit
  • The shrubs with colorful fruit are:
  • aucuba - red;
  • barberry - purple or red;
  • cotoneaster - red;
  • euonymus - red;
  • holly - red or yellow;
  • honeysuckle - red;
  • Indian hawthorn - purple;
  • juniper- steel blue;
  • ligustrum - blue-purple;
  • mahonia - steel blue; 
  • nandina - orange-red;
  • photinia - red;
  • pomegranate - red;
  • pyracantha - orange, red or yellow;
  • redwing - red;
  • rose - red; 
  • Viburnum - black or red.

Longevity of Trees

The trees with a long life span (over 50 years) are bald cypress, bur oak, cedar elm, Chinese pistache*, Chinquapin oak, crape myrtle, dogwood, Eastern red cedar, lacebark elm, live oak, Loblolly pine, magnolia, pecan, red oak, slash pine, sweetgum, water oak and yaupon holly.

The trees with a medium life span (25 to 50 years) are Chinese tallow, cottonwood, crabapple, Deodar cedar, golden raintree, green ash, hackberry, loquat, ornamental pear, redbud and silver maple.

The trees with a short life span (under 25 years) are Arizona ash, boxelder, catalpa, Chinaberry, fruitless mulberry, Lombardy popular, mimosa, Siberian elm, sycamore and willow.

Trees and Flowers

These trees produce spring flowers with color:

  • crabapple - pink, rose-red or white;
  • dogwood - pink, red or white;
  • possumhaw holly* - white & red berries;
  • flowering peach - pink, red or white;
  • flowering pear - white;
  • flowering plum - pale pink or white;
  • redbud - burgundy, pink or white;
  • saucer magnolia - white/orchid blend;
  • southern magnolia - white;
  • Texas mountain laurel - lavender.

The summer flowering trees with the color are:

  • althaea (rose of Sharon) - lavender, pink or white;
  • crape myrtle - lavender, pink, red or white;
  • golden raintree (northern) - yellow;
  • golden raintree (southern) - yellow;
  • mimosa (silktree) - pink;
  • pomegranate - orange-red;
  • retama (Jerusalem thorn) - yellow.
Trees with red leaves

The best trees for red fall color are blackgum, Chinese pistache*, Chinese tallow, crape myrtle, dogwood, Japanese maple, ornamental pear, red maple, red oak, smoke tree, sumac and sweetgum.

Trees with yellow leaves

The best trees for yellow fall color are American elm, Arizona ash, ginko, green ash, persimmon, pomegranate, silver maple and western soapberry.

Transplanting

When shrubs or trees are transplanted there is usually considerable damage to the root system. The limbs should be pruned down more than the damage to the root system, so the plant will continue to grow the first year. If no limbs are pruned off, the plant may die during the summer or not grow much for several years.

The hole should not be dug as deep as the size of the roots, but several times wider. The soil that was removed from the hole should be used to backfill around the roots. Only, backfill the hole about half, then cover the soil with water and wiggle the plant so the air around the roots will bubble up. The remaining soil should be backfilled and a small berm formed around the plant and over the edge of the hole. Then apply more water to soak the top soil. The soil mark on the plant should be higher than the ground level when finished. The loose top soil around the plant will aid root development. More water may be needed each week during the first year.

*Texas Super Star Trees. They are adapted to Texas conditions, and have no expected disease or insect problems.

More on Texas Superstars

Dr. Elmer Krehbiel is the former President of Keep Brazos Beautiful. See his column in The Eagle.