Plants put in the ground now will be able to establish a strong root system through the winter, so they can grow vigorously once spring makes an appearance.
Be careful, however, when you search for and plant those perfect specimens to fill out your landscape. Some stores and catalogs still sell invasive species.
Invasive plants look pretty in gardens and along public trails, but they grow quickly — often seen as a positive trait by home gardeners — and will take over an area, choking native plants that are essential to a healthy environment.
In a 2012 nursery survey conducted by PlantRight, an organization devoted to reducing the spread of invasive plant species, periwinkle (Vinca major) was the most commonly sold invasive plant.
There are many attractive alternatives that homeowners can consider. For instance, instead of planting Vinca major, brighten your garden with geranium ‘Rozanne,’ star jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum), sweet box groundcover (Sarcococca hookeriana humilis) or Serbian bellflower (Campanula poscharskyana).
Grasses are popular for landscapes now, but pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) is on the invasive species list. For a similar look, plant giant wild rye (Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’), deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) or pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris).
As you plan to fill in or complete your landscape, please take a few minutes to research plants that are invasive in our area and look at suggested alternatives before buying something that will harm our native plants.
More information can be obtained from the California Invasive Plant Council, www.cal-ipc.org, or through PlantRight, www.plantright.org.
• The Green Thumb is a column by Tracy’s master gardeners. University of California certified master gardeners answer questions from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 953-6112 or firstname.lastname@example.org.