Landscaping Around Signs: Planting Tips for Better Commercial Properties

Michael Hatcher

Oct 22, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Landscaping around signs is trickier than it looks. 

Plant too little, and your signs get ignored. Plant too much, and they get obscured.

Plants can’t be too tall, too twiggy, too flashy.

Give up? Don’t worry, Pam’s here to help.

Pamela Whitley, director of horticulture and outreach for Michael Hatcher & Associates, keeps three main things in mind when landscaping around signs:

  • A clean look
  • Easy maintenance 
  • Clear visibility

How to achieve her big three? She shares her tips. 

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Bring On the Evergreens

Whitley prefers evergreens over deciduous plants for planting around signs.

Once leaves fall off deciduous plants, they’re basically sticks.

“Sticks in the winter aren’t attractive,” she says. “You want it to look good all year.”

Hollies are perfect, she says. They don’t get too big. They’re easily pruned. They’re tidy and neat.

Holly evergreen plant

These evergreens hit all of her big three:

  • Yaupon Holly is known for thriving in urban conditions and will brighten your signage with bright red berries in the winter.
  • Carissa Holly is neat and compact, boasting big glossy leaves.
  • Boxwoods are a classic, tidy choice.
  • The Plum Yew is heat tolerant, drought-resistant, and needs little pruning to keep its neat shape.

What Else to Plant?

Daylilies are a standard for landscaping around signs. 

Daylily flower

Colorful and elegant, they’re also rugged and happy in a wide range of soil and light conditions. Old-fashioned varieties, especially, thrive in the often tough conditions around signage. 

Pansies are great for fall. They stay nice and low, topping out at 6 to 9 inches tall, and bloom in all kinds of colors — purple, blue, orange, red, and yellow.

Pansy flower

Don’t let their delicate little faces fool you.

“They’ll last six months until the summer rotation of flowers goes in,” Whitley says.

Be sure the annuals you choose for color last throughout the season and don’t start to look ratty, Whitley says. 

Hello, lantana. This beauty offers a nonstop supply of vibrant blooms all summer long, bringing attention to your signage in bursts of red, yellow, white, orange, lavender, and pink.

Lantana plant

And it can take the heat, looking great even as the mid-South hit 90 degrees in late September. 

What Not To Plant

While a lot of commercial properties use dragon-wing begonia for landscaping around signs, Whitley is kind of over it.

Not only are they overused, she says, but they look worn and faded by the end of the season. 

Love the bright yellow of forsythia, that cheerful sign of spring? Who doesn’t?

But it’s a terrible choice for planting around signs, Whitley says.

“It only looks great when it’s blooming for three months of the year,” she says, “then it’s a mess of sticks.”

Hydrangea? They’re stunning. Nope.

“You don’t want anything that needs deadheading or has spent blooms,” she says.

“You don’t want to have to deadhead or constantly fertilize. You know you’re not going to do it.”

Ditto with anything too flashy, Whitley says. 

“You want people to notice your sign, not focus on the plants,” she says.

A showy viburnum “could cause an accident,” she says. “‘Oh, look at that! Oops, I just cut in front of somebody.’”

Maintenance Matters

Proper maintenance is crucial for landscaping around signs, Whitley says. 

A few pointers: 

  • Water. Sometimes, even in the winter. While most irrigation systems are shut off for the season in November, keep it on long enough for those fall pansies to take root. And if there’s a winter dry spell with no precipitation, you’ll need to water, she says. “People forget evergreens still need water in the winter,” Whitley says.
  • Fertilize evergreens once a year, she advises, and use pre-emergent to keep the weeds down. Weedy signage looks messy and neglected. That’s not the message you want to send.
  • Keep fresh mulch around your signage, she says. Nice, dark mulch makes everything look tidy and neat.
  • Trim new growth spurts so they don’t look messy and obscure the lettering on your signs.
  • Don’t let the retailer names at the very bottom of tall tower signs get overgrown with plants. “That person at the bottom paid to be on the sign, too,” Whitley says.

Everybody Loves Appetizers 

“Your signage is like the appetizer of your business,” Whitley says. “It sends the signal, ‘This business cares about me. They want to show me it’s beautiful before I even get on the property.’”

A stark, cold concrete sign isn’t welcoming, she says. 

Plants soften those hard edges and add instant appeal.

“You want to feed people into the business, draw them in,” Whitley says. “Pretty signage will do that. People will see your business is well cared for, so they know you’ll take good care of them.”

Landscaping Around Signs? Let Hatcher Help 

Whitley’s tips for landscaping around signs are like a master class in great signage planting.

commercial landscaping around sign

Keep it tidy, keep it low, keep it full of leaves. But keep it easy.

Too much trouble?

Not for us.

Are you ready to boost the appeal of your commercial property? 

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Talk to one of our commercial landscaping experts today! We’ll meet at your property, create a custom plan, and get you on your way to enjoying a beautiful, worry-free property.

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Image sources: holly, daylily, pansy, lantana                                     

Michael Hatcher

Written by Michael Hatcher

Michael Hatcher is president of Michael Hatcher & Associates.