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Beautiful Plants - It's in the Dirt

caladiums in summer

Here in the southern U.S. we have a warm sunny climate that allows for a variety of plants to be cultivated and enjoyed in and around our homes, businesses, neighborhoods and parks. Although it's obvious that the plants are a necessity to that beauty, it is truly the condition of the soils that are the major component in how lush, large or flowered our plants will become. While landscapes with indigenous plant species incorporated into them have adapted well to their localized geographic region and have already shown their ability to adapt to those particular soils, most commercially installed landscapes use plant varieties that are generally adapted to different soil conditions that may require existing soils to be amended for optimum plant growth and performance. Creating the best soil conditions for the plants is vital to achieve the large showy plantings that we all want out of our landscape investment. Therefore it is important to prepare the beds generously by amending the soils well before planting, which will in turn give plants the optimum conditions for outstanding growth potential and performance.


Soil is a combination of sand (Largest particle), silts (Medium particle) and clays (Smallest particle) in varying proportions depending on your geographic location. Plants require a combination of these soil elements in a proportion that allows the transport of air and water to the roots of a plant. Too much sand and you will have a course soil that allows for good transport of air and water, but poor ability to hold water and nutrients in the soil.

On the other hand, too much clay and the soil is too dense which allows little transport of air and water to the plants roots. Few soils have the ideal infiltration rates (water movement rate) and most require amending the soil to create a more suitable planting soil for most landscapes to thrive. Amending clay soil should consist of the addition of a portion of portion of sand (up to 25% of the soil volume), but also up to 50% composted material, usually pine bark humus. The addition of the composted material will improve the properties of the soil and including the sand, will allow for improved nutrient transfer.

full sun flower bed

In the case of sandy soils the addition of smaller particle materials such as silts and clays can improve water retention and by adding rich compost material vastly improves the soil's ability to sustain your valuable plants and reduces the need for constant watering. Improving the soils in your landscape can be considered as insurance for the health and vitality of your landscape and will allow you to enjoy a showier and visually exciting planting in your garden!

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