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Commercial Landscaping with Native Plants

Your landscaping is the front door to your business!

Attract customers

Customers relax and spend more time and money in beautiful areas with plants and trees. Well-designed landscapes are perceived as a signal of efficiency and a detail-oriented and caring approach to business. One study shows that quality landscaping yields a return on investment of more than one dollar for every one invested.


Cool your parking lot and building in summer

Plantings can significantly cool parking lots and nearby buildings, encouraging people to stay and enjoy your business. Shade trees can help lower summer cooling bills by as much as 25 percent. Tree also can create the perfect kind of wind block and snow barrier needed to keep things warmer in the structure during winter.

Why use NOVA natives?

  • Native plants provide curb appeal and can raise property values. Naturally beautiful, they distinguish your business from run-of-the-mill commercial spaces.

  • Using native plants identifies the business as having local “roots".

  • Turf grass is non-native. Empty lawns are ecologically sterile at best and damaging at worst and do a poor job at capturing stormwater run-off.

  • Sunken areas planted with wet-tolerant, drought-resistant native plants help drain the parking lot and capture stormwater from impervious surfaces.

  • Tall plantings can be used to block unsightly views. Plants and trees can filter out polluation - whether particulate, visible or audible - and create an oasis for your business..

  • Native plants are adapted to live in our climate. Natives flourish without fertilizers, pesticides, or extensive watering.

  • Native plants provide far more value to the environment than non-native, introduced plant species, many of which are invasive and damage the ecosystem of nearby natural areas.​

  • Native plants can put you on the map! Studies show that spectacular landscaping is something folks will pay to be near. Examples include the Opryland Hotel in Knoxville, which has an elaborate, indoor jungle garden. Its occupancy rate runs unusually high at 85 percent, with the hotel netting about $7 million per year in additional revenue from guests willing to pay extra to overlook the green space. It’s one of the many forms of eco-tourism growing popular.

  • Well-manicured outdoor areas create the opportunity for people to interact with nature during breaks and create a kind of natural meeting space and outdoor living area. You might invite a client to take a walk, or sit and talk there. 

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Yucca filamentosa and Coreopsis verticillata

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Using NOVA native plants demonstrates good citizenship

  • Just as you might invest in LEED building standards, landscaping with native plants shows your company's commitment to the environment. You will be sending the message to investors that your company cares about the Earth and is able to adapt to changing conditions and take a leading role in solving serious problems.

  • Trees and other perennial plants sequester carbon, capture stormwater, and prevent flooding. People, including potential clients, employees and tenants, know these things and respect companies that use good practices and make an effort to do their part.

Our natural areas need your help, too!

  • Non-native invasive plants can quickly take over and ruin the buffer zones and other natural areas on your land and in the surrounding community. Please inspect your property regularly and control any invasive plants before they go to seed. Free site visits are available to help you with this. Email

  • Can you participate in stewardship of our parks?  See this page to learn how you can help by providing needed funding.

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Vienna Vintner

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Cercis canadensis and Amelanchier species

Kaiser Permanente medical centers

Planning your plantings for commercial spaces
(Click here for more details and resources for property managers)

General tips

Growing requirements

  • Choose a NOVA native plant that is well-suited to the lighting, soil, and drainage conditions. It will look great and require very little maintenance.

  • If you are new to selecting native plants, consider consulting a local plant expert.



  • Supplemental watering, fertilizer, and pesticides should be unnecessary for established plants that are well-sited.

  • As for any new planting, initial watering is necessary. Water most perennials for the first four to six weeks, shrubs for the first year, and trees for the first two or three years in any week there has been less than an inch of rain.

  • Planting a smaller tree increases the chance of the tree thriving.


Avoid the weedy look

  • Adding native trees, shrubs and grasses to designs is similar to designing with nonnatives.

  • Select perennials with care. If you have a small space, use perennials with a potential height of under 30 inches to avoid plants “flopping over”.

  • Bare soil leaves room for weeds. Mulch well, or be prepared to do weeding until the plants fill in the space.

  • If you are designing for individual plants surrounded by mulch, avoid native plants that self-seed prolifically, such as Senna marilandica, Packera aurea and some species of Solidago. See the list here of plants that might seem over-exuberant.

Keep what you have

  • During construction, try to preserve the native plants that are already there on the site, or relocate native plants.

“Native” status

Use plantings to drain your asphalt

  • Planted areas below the finished grade level of a pavement can help drain stormwater runoff from a parking lot and walkways, while also providing the plants with rainwater. Use cut-curbs to let water through.

  • Adding plantings need not cut back on the number of parking spaces.

  • Often, native plantings can be incorporated into required stormwater drainage structures.

Consider customer safety

  • Tree-lined walkways in parking lots can increase safety, especially for businesses that attract children.

  • Tree-lined walkways encourage people to walk on the sidewalk rather than in the car lanes

  • Consider the line of sight when planting shrubs: drivers are often lower to the ground than pedestrians.

  • Trim up the lower branches of trees to improve visibility and avoid blocking security lights.

  • Install bushes/ shrubs that will not grow tall enough to provide concealment.

  • Intersperse bushes in which no one would want to hang out (e.g. prickly).

  • Install lower-level lighting. 

  • Mature large trees can support lights in their branches. 

  • Smaller trees can also be wrapped in strings of LED lights, which can be efficient and attractive.

  • Although the types of bees that pollinate native plants rarely sting people, your customers may not know that. Plants that attract bees can be installed at a distance from walkways.

  • Acorns from oak trees can be a problem on walkways and driving surfaces.

Treat natives as natives

  • Watering (after the plant is well established) and fertilizing are not only unnecessary but are detrimental to native plantings, causing the plants to overgrow then flop over.

  • Be careful not to mix plants with different growing requirements in the same space.

Tips for trees

Plan for shade

  • Trees planted in an east-to-west line will provide shade for parking spaces.


Choose the right size tree

  • Use small trees in small islands.

  • Large trees do best in large islands or the buffer zone around parking lots.

  • Tree roots need 1 to 2 cubic feet of non-compacted soil volume for every square foot of expected crown area spread.

  • Larger trees will do better in a peninsula or a long strip than in a small island surrounded by curbs on all sides.


Plan around obstacles

  • In locations that might obstruct a store sign, choose a tree with one dominant leader so that the lower limbs can be removed if necessary as the tree grows.

  • Consider the overhead wires and security lights.

  • Place store signs on the road side of the trees.


Avoid soil compaction.

  • Compacted soil will seriously reduce tree growth.

  • Plant shrubs and groundcover between trees to dissuade pedestrians from walking in the planting strip.

  • Replace the clay soil with well-draining soil.


Avoid leaf litter on parking lots

  • Trees with small leaves that shed over a long period are often preferred next to parking lots.

Some good plant choices for public spaces

Groundcovers – American Alumroot (Heuchera americana), Wild Ginger (Hexastylis virginica, for shade), Green and Gold (Taxodium distichum, sun or shade), Moss Phlox (Phlox subulata, for sun)


Ornamental grass – Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans, very tall),  Purple Love Grass (Eragrostis spectabilis, short)

Tip: Place Common Yucca (Yucca filamentosa) next to tall ornamental grass for a dramatic and low-maintenance combination.


Perennials – Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus), Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum), Threadleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata), White Wood Aster (Eurybia divaricata), Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), Short-toothed Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), Rudbeckias, Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium). Find more neat-and-tidy perennials here.


Vines – Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata, climbs walls),  Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens, needs a trellis)


Shrubs – False Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa), Black Chokeberry (Aronia/Photinia melanocarpa), American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum), Wild Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), Shrubby St. John’s Wort (Hypericum prolificum), Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica), Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica,  ‘Lo Gro’ if you want something short that spreads sideways), Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra), Blueberry (Vaccinium species), Maple-leafed Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum),  Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium)


Shade trees – Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), Black Sour Gum (Nyssa sylvatica), Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata), Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda), Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana), White Oak (Quercus alba), Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor), Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata) Swamp Chestnut Oak (Quercus michauxii), Chestnut Oak (Quercus montana, Quercus prinus), Pin Oak (Quercus palustris), Willow Oak (Quercus phellos), Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra), Post Oak (Quercus stellata), Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum)


Short trees – Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis), Downy Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), Canada Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis), Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus), Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida), Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), Southern Wax Myrtle (Morella cerifera), American Wild Plum (Prunus americana), Chickasaw Plum (Prunus angustifolia)


Specimen trees – River Birch (Betula nigra), American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana),  American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), American Holly (Ilex opaca), Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

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Oakton Library


Itea virginica and Juncus effusus

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Equisetrium hyemale

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Ilex verticillata

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Wetlands Studies and Solutions, Inc

Learn about their campus design here

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Wetlands Studies and Solutions, Inc

More photos 

in our 

Photo Library


(all public domain)

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Wetlands Studies and Solutions, Inc

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Burke Centre VRE station

A volunteer Aubudon-at-Home Ambassador will walk your property with you to strategize about creating habitat.

NOVA natives are good business!

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