Research to see what grows here

We have a great number of people living in the Augusta area that move here from all parts of the country, even some overseas. I get asked about growing particular plants that may have done well in Michigan, California, Pennsylvania or Oregon.


Others go for a visit to other parts of the country and want to bring some beautiful or interesting plant back with them.

One time I had a friend ask me to identify and tell him how to grow a plant he had brought back from Poland, but I was stumped because I had never seen the plant.

Some plants may grow here, but in many cases they won’t. My answers to these folks is don’t bring them back and don’t try them if they are not recommended for our area. Some people are determined though, especially if the plant has some emotional attachment.

Well intentioned as everyone may be, but we’re always growing plants without thinking about their environmental context. We are convinced it will make it in our backyards.

Some of you may want to grow only “native” plants. Yes native plants will do well in the landscape provided they are grown in the same conditions where they naturally grow. Can you grow a native plant in your sunny, drought stricken back yard when they grow along streams in the wild? I wish I could, but not a chance. Even though they’re native, their particular growing conditions must be met.

One Masters week a few years ago, I went on a vacation to St. Augustine, Fla., and my wife kept seeing this palm tree she really liked. She told me we should buy one and take it home to plant. I told her I had never seen one in Augusta so I was almost positive it would not be hardy here. After asking a man at a garden center, I was right. It was only hardy to north/central Florida. And he told me some will get some cold damage down there on occasion during the winter.

Colleges of agriculture in each state test plants’ growth under that state’s growing conditions and recommend the plants that grow best. Tests are done on all plants – vegetables, fruits, ornamentals, cotton, corn, peanuts, soybeans and turf grasses.

Someone just doesn’t decide to grow and sell something here without some research behind it. Granted some things don’t always turn out like we thought, but we usually find out years down the road.

A good example of a plant gone bad is the Red Tip Photinia with its disease problems.

It’s important to find out which plant will do best in a particular place. If a plant doesn’t make the grade, it’s tossed off the recommended list.

If the plant you want to grow isn’t on the recommended list, you have alternatives. One of the best sources of information is to ask gardeners in our area. I have found very few gardeners who weren’t overjoyed to share growing experiences and be honest in their recommendations. The only warning to give you though is that you will have to listen to all their other stories, like growing a 10-pound tomato or the time when the Chronicle did a story on their yard or garden.

If you want information on growing plants in Georgia visit the University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Extension Web site at and click on “Publications.”

Click on alphabetical or subject listings and follow the instructions.

Or you can always visit your local Extension office and pick them up.


Reach Sid Mullis, the director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office for Richmond County, at (706) 821-2349 or



• Remove honeysuckle and other weedy vines from deciduous plants while the shrub or tree is still leafless. It’s much easier now to distinguish between the weeds and the desired plants.

• While going about your business or when you are in garden centers, keep an eye out for plants with interesting winter form or color. Consider similar varieties in your yard so you can enjoy them at home next year. For instance, Winter Daphne is a low growing shrub (about 3 feet) that is in bloom now (or will be shortly) and can brighten up the winter landscape.

• If bird feeding has been a favorite activity for you this winter, plant trees and shrubs that provide cover and small fruit for your feathered friends. Consider species such as crabapple, holly, dogwood, and pyracantha that can help lure hungry birds.