Best Plants for Softscape In Central PA


Have you ever heard of softscape landscaping? This is a somewhat new term in the lawn and garden industry. However, what the term means is about as common as the grass in your yard. In this blog, we want to help you understand what softscape landscaping is and how to get the most out of it in central PA.

Before you get your hedge trimmers and lawnmowers started up, take a look at this blog and get a better understanding of this type of landscaping.

What Is Softscape Landscaping?

softscape landscaping

Softscape landscaping consists of all of the living plants in your garden. These plants are not just the plants that you see in a manicured flower bed but anything that you see in a yard that is living. This means the trees, shrubs, grass, and flowers on your property qualify as areas of softscape landscaping. The other items that people have in their landscaping areas are known as hardscapes. These items could be pavers, patios, and other ornamental features such as water-fountain or statues.

Is Softscape Landscaping Dependant On My Climate?


Yes, the plants that you use are going to be dependent on your climate. Very few plants will thrive all the way from Florida to Maine! Even turf grass blends are different depending on your climate. When selecting trees, shrubs, and flowering perennials for your softscape, it is important to know what growing zone you are located in.

What are Softscape Planting Zones?


A softscape planting zone (or grow zone) refers to the hardiness of plants that are able to grow in certain weather conditions. In the United States, we have several planting zones running from planting zone 1a to planting zone 11a. Each of these planting zones will inform you as to what is best to plant in your local climate.

What Is The Softscape Growing Zone Of Central PA?


Central PA’s landscape growing zone is zone 6a. This growing zone is ideal for a wide range of vegetation, trees, shrubs, and flower covering. However, some plants may not do well in this area, camellias and many orchids, as they need more of a tropical climate found in zone 10.

What are the best softscape landscaping plants for PA?

softscape fire place

When you want to find the best kind of softscape landscaping plants, it can feel a bit overwhelming. Never fear! We want to help you make the best-looking softscaped home on the block! We have worked hard to compile a list of plants that do well in your particular planting zone.

Many gardeners also prefer to include plants that are native to the area, as they may be best suited to support pollinators and wildlife in your area. In the lists of plants below, we have noted those that are considered native to central PA.

To learn more about the first three zones and the plants to grow in them, check out our blog on Rain Gardens.

Softscape Landscaping For Zone 6a |Trees

softscape house

In softscaping zone 6a, there are a wide variety of trees that will do well. However, keep in mind that trees will take up a large amount of space and need to be maintained. Some of the maintenance will include trimming off dead branches as well as pruning to make them bountiful for harvesting.

Fruit Trees

  • Apple Trees
  • Cherry Trees
  • Peach Trees
  • Plum Trees

Shade Trees

  • Red Maple (acer rubrum is native)
  • Red or white oak (quercus rubrum or alba is native)
  • Dawn Redwood
  • Zelkova

Flowering Trees

  • Saucer Magnolia
  • Sweetbay magnolia (magnolia virginiana is native)
  • Dogwood (cornus florida is native)
  • Redbud (cercis canadensis is native)
  • White Fringe Tree

Softscape Landscaping For Zone 6a | Shrubs

softscape shrubs

Shrubs are a great way to add a living fence to your home. Additionally, you may like shrubs more than a tree if you enjoy not needing to use a ladder to help with the upkeep of your softscaping. Something worth keeping in mind is that a shrub should be planted at an ample distance away from your home so as to not interfere with the foundational structure.

  • Summersweet (clethra is native to eastern US)
  • Azalea
  • Roses
  • Red twig dogwood (cornus red-osier is native)
  • Smooth Hydrangea

Softscape Landscaping For Zone 6a | Perennials

softscape flowers

Every softscaping design should include one flowering plate that comes back even better than the year before. These kinds of plants are known as perennials. In zone 6a, there are a wide variety of flowering plants that fall into this category, all of which come in many different colors and sizes.

  • Wild Blue Phlox
  • Hellebore
  • Hosta
  • Ligularia
  • Butterfly weed (asclepias is native to eastern & southern US)
  • Butterfly Milkweed
  • Columbine (aquilegia canadensis is native)

Softscape Landscaping For Zone 6a | Ferns

softscape fern

When creating your softscape landscape, a fern is a great way to add some bush-like greenery that has no flowers or branches. These kinds of softscape plants have leafy structures that help to add depth and texture to your softscape arrangement. Some popular ferns for zone 6a would be the following:

  • Christmas Fern (polystichum is native)
  • Sensitive Fern
  • Hay Scented Fern
  • Northern Maidenhair Fern

Softscape Landscaping For Zone 6a | Annual Flowers

softscape more flowers

When creating a softscape landscape, having a flower that has the life of one growing season is a great way to add some vibrancy to your arrangement. These flowers are known as annuals. Annuals come in a variety of flower families and are great for adding your own unique gardening flare to your softscape in growing zone 6a.

  • Petunias
  • Sunflowers
  • Sun coleus
  • Pansies
  • Cleome
  • Sweet Alyssum

How Do I Create A Softscape Landscape?

softscape landscape

Creating a basic softscape landscape is a job that you can do with relative ease, especially if you have a green thumb! A quote that no one quite knows who to attribute to, but has been said on occasion by Monty Don, states, “You only need 3 plants to make a successful garden.” To make your softscape successful, we recommend picking plants that are of different heights. A very easy way to do this is to select the basic features of a tree, a shrub, and some type of flower.

For the most beautiful gardens, you may find it helpful to turn to a professional designer to help select colors, textures, and plant varieties that will complement each other and grow well in your climate.

How do I make my Softscape Landscape Complement My Hardscape features?

softscape-yard and pool

The easiest way to make sure that your softscape landscape and hardscape features complement each other is to research the plants that you desire to have. This means understanding the size your plant will grow to at full maturity, what kind of growing medium it will need, and if they grow well in a confirmed growing space. In understanding these aspects of landscaping, you can ensure a more successful union between the hardscape and softscape plans that you desire.

Now that you know more about softscaping, you may still feel like doing a full-on landscaping job is outside of your comfort. That’s okay! At Willow Gates Landscaping, we are here to walk alongside you and make the ideas in your head become a reality. So give us a call, schedule a consultation, or subscribe to our email list to have ideas come right to your inbox.