Day #11: Woody Landscape Plants

To be woody or to be herbaceous, that is the question. ‘Tis in the minds of men (and women) of the Green Spring Gardens Master Gardener class of 2016.


I was always told woody plants were made of wood. … Seems like common sense.

When you put it like that, there’s not much more to say.

Lessons Learned

  • Definition, just to refresh the memory: Perennial in which the shoot, the above ground part, persists during plant dormancy (usually winter).
  • As with all things botanical, there are exceptions, but let’s move on.
  • Woody plants include:
    • Trees (but not palms, which are classified as grasses – big honkin’ grasses – and there’s one of those exceptions)
    • Shrubs
    • Groundcovers
    • Vines
  • Categorize your woodies – what the cool kids call Woody Landscape Plants – further:
    • Deciduous angiosperms, which lose their leaves in autumn.
    • Broadleaf angiosperms evergreens that retain they foliage all year long.
    • Conifers, gymnosperms, mostly (but not always) evergreens that have needle, scale-like or awl-like foliage.
  • Reminder: Angiosperms have true flowers and gymnosperms bear naked seeds in cones and modified cones.
  • The distinction between a small tree (15-25 feet at maturity) and a large shrub (more than nine feet tall) is “somewhat arbitrary.”
  • Rules of thumb for pruning “woodies”. That’s the cool kids name for Woody Landscape Plants:
    • Prune spring-flowering plants after they finish flowering.
    • Prune summer-flowering species in the late fall, winter or early spring.
  • And finally, don’t brush snow off your woody plants. You’ll do more damage than good.


  • Microclimate – Atypical high or low temperatures within a larger climate zone. For instance, a back yard can have a climate different from the surrounding neighborhood; that would be a microclimate.
  • Provenance – Geographic source of a plant.


You gotta be careful with common names. They don’t mean a lot.

Today’s Photo

Not a woody, but very pretty.


Read Handbook chapter on Turf. All right! We finally get to the grass.

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