Plant Database forum: New plant habit option suggestion.

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Name: Ângelo B. P. III
South Jordan, Utah, United Sta (Zone 7a)
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BlueOddish
Jun 24, 2018 10:23 PM CST
Forgive me if this isn't the correct place to ask this.

As you may know (if you've looked at my location above), I live in Utah which is almost entirely desert. Because of the harsh climate, we have relatively few tree species but a boatload of shrubs and subshrubs (the reason for this thread). As a result, there is a very large number of plants native to Utah and elsewhere around the world (especially in similar climates) that don't fit the description of either a shrub or an herbaceous plant because they are somewhere in between. And because they are woody plants, they don't always respond well to being treated as herbaceous plants so a new category could keep people from inadvertently killing or severely damaging their plants.

Sorry for my long rant but I would really appreciate it if "subshrub" could be added as an option for plant habit.
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Name: Joshua
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Australis
Jun 24, 2018 10:32 PM CST

Plants Admin

Thanks for the question, Angelo.

@dave, @zuzu - thoughts? I have located this page on plant habits:
https://plants.usda.gov/growth...

Seems like we need a category for "subshrub"?
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Name: Ângelo B. P. III
South Jordan, Utah, United Sta (Zone 7a)
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Cactus and Succulents Hybridizer Region: Utah Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Southwest Gardening Xeriscape
Dog Lover Garden Photography Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Sempervivums Bookworm Enjoys or suffers hot summers
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BlueOddish
Jun 24, 2018 11:05 PM CST
Just as an example, I have listed some commonly used plants that are subshrubs.

Iberis sempervirens
Lavandula angustifolia
Phlox subulata
Delosperma cooperi
Thymus spp.
Berberis repens
Perovksia atriplicifolia
Catharanthus roseus
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Name: Zuzu
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zuzu
Jun 24, 2018 11:59 PM CST

Plants Admin

Do we really need this category? Is there any difference other than height? Where would we draw the line between a subshrub and a short shrub? The USDA definitions of shrub and subshrub seem to differ only in height, so does this mean that some fuchsias are subshrubs and some are shrubs, but the difference will depend on measurements with a yardstick? It seems to me that "shrub" fits both categories well. It's just that some shrubs are shorter than others, but we already list the plant height in the database, so do we really have to change thousands and thousands of database entries to accommodate this new subcategory?
Name: Joshua
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (Zone 10b)
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Australis
Jun 25, 2018 12:18 AM CST

Plants Admin

Zuzu, I was wondering after my previous post whether we could just change the label from "shrub" to "shrub/subshrub", much like "herb/forb".

Angelo, is there a particular characteristic of these subshrubs other than the height that significantly affects their care?
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Name: Ângelo B. P. III
South Jordan, Utah, United Sta (Zone 7a)
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Cactus and Succulents Hybridizer Region: Utah Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Southwest Gardening Xeriscape
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BlueOddish
Jun 25, 2018 8:05 AM CST
From my experience, subshrubs commonly have woody tissue near the base of the plant. One local example is Gutierrezia sarothrae which is herbaceous about half its height. In the winter, the herbaceous tissue mostly dies back and what is left becomes woody. In the spring the cycle starts over again.
In my "Woody Plants of Utah" book, a subshrub is defined as "a perennial plant, woody only at the base or slightly above." Many plants can be both shrubs and subshrubs depending on their conditions but a lot of them never cross into the shrub threshhold.
As someone who has worked at a garden center, one problem I have seen is that people try to divide their plants the same way they would an herbaceous perennial.
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[Last edited by BlueOddish - Jun 25, 2018 8:10 AM (+)]
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Name: Suzanne/Sue
Sebastopol, CA (Zone 9a)
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Calif_Sue
Jun 25, 2018 9:51 AM CST

Plants Admin

Too confusing to the average gardener IMHO. Maybe add new heading as Joshua suggested at most.
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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Jun 25, 2018 9:53 AM CST
If the term really must apply to woody plants, Delosperma cooperi would be off the list. I see all sorts of potential for people using "subshrub" for other things which are not woody at all. And in the case of the Delosperma, plants which are creepers or form mats instead of an actual subshrub with a defined base and central stem or stems. In my mind (not an expert, like most of the users of the database) that would be a different habit, but I see lots of gray areas where people could disagree, with no particular productive benefit.

My preference would be to combine "subshrub" with "shrub" since the two are only really separated by size.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Jun 25, 2018 9:54 AM (+)]
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Name: Ângelo B. P. III
South Jordan, Utah, United Sta (Zone 7a)
🇧🇷🇺🇸
Cactus and Succulents Hybridizer Region: Utah Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Southwest Gardening Xeriscape
Dog Lover Garden Photography Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Sempervivums Bookworm Enjoys or suffers hot summers
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BlueOddish
Jun 25, 2018 10:24 AM CST
Yeah, I think having a "Shrub/Subshrub" option would be the best thing to do.
Eu sou Brasileiro! 🇧🇷
Eu falo Português!
Avatar photo is the bloom of Brittle Pricklypear (Opuntia fragilis).
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tx_flower_child
Jun 26, 2018 10:20 PM CST
Calif_Sue said:Too confusing to the average gardener IMHO.


That would be me. I've seen the term 'subshrub' and and always thought 'Hmm. What could that be? A sub shrub. Hmm.'

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