Where to Plant

Ravine planting

It is important to choose the best sites for plants so that they will thrive in their environment. Planting something you want but that doesn’t want to grow where you are is a waste of your time and money.

Good planting sites will vary for each species, according to soil type and other factors, such as allowing for adequate planting space and exposure to the sun.

Some species are very specific to certain soils or moisture levels, while others are more widely adaptable.

Planting in the species’ preferred conditions improves survival and growth, and reduces the need for maintenance. In the words of FGCA, “The most expensive planting is a failed planting, because you have to pay for it to be done again, and you’ve also lost the time you spent doing it“.

SITE TYPES
1. Moisture
Dry – Upper slopes, weedy roadside edges, and very shallow soils over buried concrete. Often clay or gravelly soil. They may be moist in spring but are dry and cracked in summer.
Dry-average – Mid to upper slopes, exposed flat sites that are higher than the surrounding ground and drain very quickly, or flat sites and riverbanks where soils are mixed with concrete rubble.  Often colonized by sweet clover and Queen Anne’s lace.
Average – Most flat sites and moderate slopes.
Average-Moist – Lower slopes, some riverbanks. Often has luxurious growth of grasses.
Moist – Places that have moist soil most of the year but without surface water. May have dense growth of cattails and loosestrife within 1 metre.
Wet – Soil is always soggy, may be flooded in spring. If you dig a hole water comes up inside right away.

2. Light
Full sun – no overhead shade at all; open field, or south forest edge that gets sun all day
Semi-shade – slightly shaded; large openings in forests, forest edges that get sun for only a few hours a day, or narrow strips of trees with abundant sunlight reaching the forest floor.
Shade – under an existing forest with a light overhead canopy or well-spaced trees. Many groundcover plants are growing there already.
Full shade – very dark, inside an existing forest. Usually has little or no groundcover vegetation.

SPECIES PREFERENCES
The first choice listed is the preferred habitat. Some species have a wider adaptability than listed here but this is where they prefer to be, and will grow best. Specialists and very rare species that you are unlikely to encounter are not listed here. Native species that are frequently substituted with invasive exotics by nurseries are marked with *, so be careful when buying them to make sure you get what you want.

Species Desired Soil Moisture Light
Blue beech Average to moist Semi-shade
Bur oak Average-moist to dry-average Full sun
Bush honeysuckle Average to dry Full sun to shade
Butternut* Average to average-moist Full sun
Buttonbush Moist to wet Full sun
Chokecherry Average to dry Full sun to semi-shade
Common elderberry Moist to average Full sun to semi-shade
Cottonwood* Average-moist to average Full sun
Fragrant sumach Dry to dry-average Full sun
Green or red ash Moist to average Full sun to semi-shade
Grey dogwood Average to dry Full sun
Hawthorns* Average Full sun
Hemlock Moist to average Semi-shade
Highbush cranberry* Moist Full sun
Ironwood Average to dry-average Full sun to semi-shade
Largetoothed aspen Average Full sun
Meadowsweet Moist to average Full sun
Missouri willow Moist to average-moist Full sun
Nannyberry Moist to average Full sun to semi-shade
Ninebark Dry-average to moist Full sun
Paper (White) birch* Average-moist to average Full sun
Peachleaved willow Moist to wet Full sun
Pin cherry Average to dry Full sun
Purple flowering raspberry Average to moist Full sun to shade
Pussy willow* Moist to wet Full sun
Red cedar Average to dry Full sun
Red elderberry Average Semi-shade to shade
Red maple Average to moist Full sun to semi-shade
Red oak Average Full sun to semi-shade
Red osier dogwood Average to wet Full sun
Red raspberry Average to moist Full sun
Sandbar willow Moist to average-moist Full sun
Smooth serviceberry Average Full sun to semi-shade
Shagbark hickory Average to average-moist Full sun
Shining willow Moist to wet Full sun
Silver maple Moist to wet Full sun
Smooth rose Average to dry Full sun
Snowberry* Average to dry Full sun to semi-shade
Speckled alder* Moist to wet Full sun
Staghorn sumach Average to dry Full sun
Sugar maple Average Semi-shade to shade
Swamp rose Moist to wet Full sun
Sycamore Average to average-moist Full sun
Tamarack (Larch)* Moist Full sun
Trembling aspen Average Full sun
Virgin’s bower Average to moist Full sun
Virginia creeper Average to moist Full sun to semi-shade
White ash Average Full sun to semi-shade
White cedar Moist to average Full sun
White elm Moist to average Full sun to semi-shade
White pine Average to dry Full sun
White spruce Average to average-moist Full sun to semi-shade
Witch hazel Average Semi-shade to shade
Yellow birch Average-moist Full sun to semi-shade

Note: White spruce is not native to Toronto ravines, but is often used for habitat or screening.