I love plants. I like them so much that I spend my spare time working at a local plant nursery. It's therapeutic to have my hands in soil; it fills me with hope to see buds forming on shrubs and fern fiddles developing. I wanted to bring this passion into my work as a home inspector, so I give all my clients a packet of wildflower seeds to plant their own pollinator garden. It may come as no surprise that one thing I always notice is a home's landscaping.
I see two extremes commonly: well-kept homes with lush vegetation growing around the house, and poorly-kept homes with out of control tree branches and overgrown plants attached to the siding. What those two scenarios have in common is moisture retention. Planting closely to your home can prevent siding from adequately drying, and watering the plants adds moisture in the soil. To add to this water equation, a lot of homes have sprinkler systems that are set on a timer to water every morning because they are maintaining manicured lawns. This can be poor planning if all of this moisture is held along your foundation. Do you know the biggest threat to a home is water!?
Most home inspectors would prefer no trees within a 50-foot radius of a house, but I think there can be a balance. Pruning tree branches and pointing sprinkler heads away from your siding are great starting points. Another great option is planting native plants instead of tropical or exotic ones.
Native plants are conditioned to the climate of a particular region, which includes the amount of rainfall, sunlight, and duration of freezing temperatures. One of the biggest perks to planting native flowers, trees, and grasses is that they require much less water because they already know what to expect. Another perk is the pollinators (such as bees and butterflies) easily recognize these plants as a food source or habitat. I named my home inspection company after one of the most recognizable pollinators: the honeybee.
When starting your landscaping project for the spring, remember that plants want to grow. They'll do everything they can to succeed. There are a few items you'll need to check to make sure you choose the right plant, though. What kind of soil do you have? Where are your sunny/shady spots? How does water collect in your yard? Seeds and potted plants will have labels stating the plants preferred amounts soil, sun, and water. For a general example, a fern requires more moisture and less sun compared to a cactus which needs more sun and less water.
This is an example of what not to do:
Here the seller found something that looked pretty and assumed it would work. Well, it will, but that is the problem. This tree will grow to be at least 20ft tall and about 8ft wide which will engulf the house; the roots may push at the foundation, and the branches will scrape the house, window, and roof. The lesson here is to select plants for their mature size so that its dimensions are acceptable around your home.
If you'd like to dig deeper into horticulture, explore plant hardiness zones and find out which zone you're in. You can also check out the native plants sales that Audubon Arkansas hosts each spring and fall. During Covid, all their sales have been online and you pickup your plants at the office after the sale closes. Here is the link for Audubon Arkansas's facebook site.