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“.
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.
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.
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|
|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.