Commercial Landscaping with Native Plants

Your parking lot is the front door to your business!

Attract customers

Customers relax, and spend more time and money in an area that looks beautiful with plants and trees.


Save money

Maintenance costs of native plants, once established, are less than other landscaping options, and far less than turf grass.


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.

Why use NOVA natives?

  • Native plants are naturally beautiful and distinguish your business from run-of-the-mill commercial spaces.

  • Natives provide curb appeal and can raise property values.

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

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

  • Introduced plants - plants that are native to other parts of the world - are bred for instant gratification; native plants bred themselves for long-term success in Northern Virginia.

  • Sunken areas planted with wet-tolerant, drought-resistant native plants help drain the parking lot.

  • Tall plantings can be used to block unsightly views.

Using NOVA native plants demonstrates good citizenship

  • Native plants provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.

  • Native plants provide more value to the environment than non-native, introduced plant species.

  • Buy a sign to advertise you native plantings.

  • Educate the public about native plants and demonstrate the values of your company.

  • You can order a native plant sign here.

  • Many non-native species have become invasive, escaping from where they were planted.

  • Invasive plants in our area now include: Miscanthus Grass, Black-flowered Fountain Grass, English Ivy, Japanese Pachysandra, Yellow Archangel, Asian Wisteria, Orange Daylily, Dame’s Rocket, Asian Honeysuckles, Japanese Barberry, Nandina, Asian Beautyberry, Autumn Olive, Rose of Sharon, Privet, Bamboo, Japanese Spiraea, Bradford Pear

Yucca filamentosa and Coreopsis verticillata

Cercis canadensis and Amelanchier species

Tips for success

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.

  • A young tree requires supplemental watering for two or three years after it is planted.

  • 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.

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

  • Not every plant labelled as “native” is actually native to our area.

  • For NOVA native plant suggestions, see the  Guide to Native Plants for Northern Virginia.

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.

Itea virginica and Juncus effusus

Equisetrium hyemale

Ilex verticillata

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), Virginia Wild Rye (Elymus virginicus), 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), Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), White Wood Aster (Eurybia divaricata), Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), Short-toothed Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), Rudbeckias, Common Yucca (Yucca filamentosa)


Vines – Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata, climbs walls), Yellow Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens, needs a trellis), 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)

More photos 

in our 

Photo Library


(all public domain)


Habitat Program


Virginia Dept of Wildlife Resources

NOVA natives are good business!

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