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  Section: Principles of Horticulture » External characteristics of the plant
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Plant size and growth rate

External characteristics of the plant
  Plant form
  Plant size and growth rate
  Plant form in design

It is important for anyone planning a garden that they recognize the eventual size (both in terms of height and of width) of trees, shrubs and perennials. This vital information is quite often ignored or forgotten at the time of purchase. The impressive Ginkgo (Maidenhair tree) really can grow to 30 m in height (at least twice the height of a normal house) and is, therefore, not the plant to put in a small bed. Similarly, X Cupressocyparis leylandii (Leyland Cypress), seemingly so useful in rapidly creating a fine hedge, can also grow to 30 m, and reach 5 m in width, to the consternation of even the most friendly of neighbours.

The eventual size of a plant is recorded in plant encyclopaedias, which should be carefully scrutinized for this vital statistic. It may also be wise to contact a specialist nursery which deals with this important aspect on a day-to-day basis, and will give advice to potential buyers. It should be remembered that the eventual size of a tree or shrub may vary considerably in different parts of the country, and may be affected within a garden by factors such as aspect, soil, shade, and wind. Attention should also be given to the rate at which a plant grows; Taxus (Yew) or Magnolia stellata (Star Magnolia) are two notable examples of slow growing species.

Note that trees are large woody plants that have a main stem with branches appearing some distance above ground level. Shrubs are smaller, usually less than 3 m in height, but with branches developing at or near ground level to give a bushy appearance to the plant.

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