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Perfect Spot Not Always Perfect for Impulse Buy

March 01, 1997|From Associated Press

The impulse purchase of a plant can create many problems, so it's wise to choose the location first and then decide on the plant to fill it.

While this requires some research, it's insurance against wasting money or winding up with a monster in a few years.

Washingtonia palms, for example, are real charmers in small containers at a nursery and often sell for $2 or less. But the Mexican fan palm, W. robusta, will reach 100 feet high, and the California fan palm, W. filifera, grows to 60 feet and spreads 20 feet wide. That can be pretty dominating stuff in a typical yard.

So before adding any plant, check as many reference books as possible. Ask the plant seller about drawbacks as well as advantages. It's a good precaution to also talk to someone growing it now.

Note, too, that while berries and fruit trees sound enchanting, they often attract messy and noisy birds. It's enormous work to process the fruit and a perpetual worry that someone will track fruit stains onto carpets.

And in any case, before buying, ask yourself the following questions:

* What are the plant's growth habits? Does it need sun or shade? How tall will it get? How wide?

* Will something that tall or wide look out of place where you plan to put it? Will constant pruning be needed to keep it within the allotted space?

* Is litter likely to be a problem? In some species, the female or male plant is the one creating obnoxious smells or excessive mess. Are you positive of the correct type?

* Will it need constant protection if winds are forecast or look poorly during summer heat waves? Is the contemplated location likely to cause it to struggle? Some areas always will be wet and soggy or hot and sunny.

* Are there equally attractive plants that will flourish with less watering? If not, is the required water going to be available?

* If landscape fires are possible, is the foliage fire-resistant? Are you positive? It's wise to double-check.

* Colors of some flowering plants clash dramatically. If it's not in bloom, can you be certain the colors will blend with the rest of your plants?

A hedge of roses, for example, usually is quite beautiful but may be precisely the wrong look for a specific area.

* Will a tree grow too large for the available space? Project ahead, keeping mind the location of power lines, swimming pools and potential house expansions.

* Will the plant eventually block a desirable view? Can a neighbor's view of your patio be obscured or improved with a better selection? Is privacy important? Do you want to attract birds or butterflies? Should the plants be child-friendly? Will thorns become a problem?

* What is most disagreeable to you now? Cutting grass, pruning roses, a ground cover that can't handle foot traffic? Will the plant ease or add to such problems?

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