7 Landscaping Plants You Shouldn't Plant in Parking Lots

Avoiding these landscaping plants can save you time, effort, and money on maintaining the parking lot. Plus, one expert bonus tip on what you should plant.

Judson Burdon
Posted by Judson Burdon on August 4

Picking plants for landscaping a parking lot requires special consideration. You do not want to clean the parking lot every day, nor do you want plants that die quickly. Below are some parking lot landscaping ideas for what to avoid.

1. Trees with Deep or Wide Roots

Not all trees are a danger to your asphalt, but most are. Tree roots are among the top causes of asphalt damage due to their disruption of the asphalt’s foundation. These are particularly bad parking lot plants for islands too.

Avoid planting landscaping plants and trees with deep and wide roots

Tree roots grow in search of water and nutrients to nourish the plant. Asphalt parking lots are not nutritionally dense locations, so the roots tend to spread out in every direction. It’s a hard problem to fix, and removing trees later is an expensive proposition for you.

2. Flowering or Fruiting Plants

Anything that drops fruit, flowers, pods, or anything else like that means that you will spend more time cleaning your parking lot. This parking lot landscaping idea comes from wanting an exciting landscape.

Many of the things landscaping plants drop, like berries and petals, can also stain your parking lot. Plus, they can stain your customer’s cars or prove a nuisance for them to clean up as they leave your building.

3. Plants That Need Extra Water

Water is among the most powerful erosion forces on asphalt, and where you must irrigate is something you control. That means picking landscaping plants that work with your local climate, particularly for your parking lot islands.

Over-irrigation, blown sprinkler heads, and incorrect angles are a few of the ways an irrigation system can start gushing water. While your parking lot handles the rain well, it still takes a toll in terms of erosion. It’s best not to add to that.

Download 5 Ways To Ruin a Paving Job

4. Leaf Heavy Trees

While leafy deciduous trees look stunning, they also provide leaf shed. It’s the same problem as flowering and fruiting plants. You’ll spend the entire autumn cleaning up your parking lot as the leaves fall.

Deciduous trees were parking lot landscaping ideas due to their striking changing leaves. They provide shade through the hot months, allow the sun to warm the cars in winter, and look impressive in fall. However, the mess is not worth your time with so many other tree options.

5. Difficult to Maintain

In general, you want to avoid any plant that is difficult to maintain. Usually, keeping these plants requires contracting with a specialist, and it can be resource-intensive. At most, your landscaping plants should require pruning twice a year.

The other factor with challenging to maintain plants is their demanding environmental requirements. Things like soil pH and precise watering requirements make some landscaping plants for parking lots and islands more trouble than they’re worth.

6. Anything That Needs Heavy Fertilization

Fertilizer and asphalt do not always mix well, and this can be another cause of stains in your parking lot. If a plant cannot handle the soil with a minimal fertilizer addition each year, it’s not the right parking lot plant, especially for small spaces like islands.

Additionally, fertilizer is often not sustainable. Chemical fertilizer often alters the ecosystem around it and has downstream effects. Chemical fertilizer is a believed contributor to oceanic dead zones, including the one in the Gulf of Mexico that is bigger than Massachusetts.

If possible, consider using compost instead of chemical fertilizer. It is available from most local gardening establishments.

7. Turf in the Parking Lot Islands

Well-maintained turf is a common parking lot landscaping idea since the green contrasts nicely with the asphalt. However, grass is not a good parking lot plant for islands. Turf does not tend to stand up well to people tromping over it or car exhaust spraying on it.

Additionally, there’s the mowing problem. You cannot simply let the grass grow wild on your parking lot islands, so regular mowing is necessary. However, islands are often not big enough to mow properly.

Bonus Tip: Use Landscaping Plants for Stormwater Capture

You can use your landscaping to capture stormwater and help manage the water flow in your parking lot. Placing the ground level on islands an inch or two below the asphalt level and covering it with mulch creates a mulch basin, which in turn acts as a sponge for water.

What to Do Instead

A common parking lot landscaping idea you may want to put in is xeriscaping. These artistic gravel and rock arrangements are often complimented with low maintenance plants: non-flowing shrubs, low growing flowers, or native grasses. You can even add pavers to direct traffic.

Are you worried about the condition of your parking lot? Use the free Pavement Assessment from Asphalt Kingdom to see how your pavement is doing and what repairs it may need. 

Contact Asphalt Kingdom at  1-866-399-5562 for asphalt maintenance and supplies. 

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Topics: Property Management

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