Landscape architect Ryan McKnight on his favorite flora for Louisiana homes

Photos courtesy of McKnight Landscape Architects.

This article originally appeared in an October 2020 edition of [email protected]


Landscaping is no easy feat, especially here in Louisiana, where every expert can expect to face multiple decisions surrounding our state’s finicky weather, drenching humidity and plentiful of wildlife. But all of that trouble tends to culminate in the ultimate reward: an abundance of natural beauty. There’s a reason magnolias bloom in springtime and cypress trees flourish in the most inhospitable of swamps, for example—our subtropical climate can’t help but let lush vegetation thrive.

Since sunny days are still ahead, we recently spoke with Ryan McKnight of McKnight Landscape Architects to harvest a few answers on the tricks of the trade when it comes to home landscaping.


What plants would you recommend for lining a walkway and/or porch?
It really depends on the style of the home and property. For a traditional Southern look, I like to use sasanqua ‘ShiShi-gashira.’ These shrubs are evergreen, slow growing, provide a late winter/early spring bloom, and are fairly maintenance-friendly.

What type of trees would be best for a front lawn, near windows, or near a body of water?
Depending on the size of the front lawn, you could always use oaks, maples or elms. It’s fun to look out the window and see a beautiful bloom or sculptural branching. In these situations I like to use Japanese magnolias, Japanese maples, Chinese fringe, sweetbay magnolias, rising sun redbuds and occasionally a chaste tree. Near a body of water, cypress, maples and willow will always work.

Which plants and trees offer the best shade?
Large trees such as live oaks, red oaks and white oaks are the best for shade, but it usually takes years to get any significant amount of shade from these trees. Lacebark, allee elms or similar trees are faster growing and will provide shade sooner.

Are there any plants that offer pleasant scents?
Gardenias, sweet olive and banana shrubs are old Southern favorites for sweet-smelling plants.

Which plants and trees are easiest to maintain for homeowners, and which might need professional maintenance?
Maintenance can be the trickiest part of the landscape, and it’s certainly one of the most important aspects. If the landscape planting was properly selected and installed, a homeowner is capable of maintaining anything, and if not, they’ll struggle maintaining everything.


What are your favorite plants in your yard? Share with us in the comments below.