Long, low buildings. Expansive parking lots. Busy loading docks. 

Large industrial sites and big warehouses have their own unique set of landscaping needs.

“They usually want their landscaping to be low maintenance, tough, drought tolerant and to look nice,” says Shelley Russell, landscape designer at Level Green Landscaping. “That’s pretty much everything.”

Luckily, she’s up for the challenge.

Landscaping for factories? Landscaping for warehouses?

Russell shares her best tips.

Industrial Building and Warehouse Landscaping Tips

1. Add Trees, Please

Trees add a much-needed vertical element to long, horizontal factories, warehouses and distribution centers.

These buildings are usually lit up at night, Russell says, so trees’ structural branches cast interesting shadows against plain walls.

Industrial building landscape with trees

Japanese maples, Blue Atlas cedars and Deodar cedars work great for this, she says. The cedars are evergreens, so that’s an added bonus for winter interest. 

Large shrubs like viburnum work well, too.

A Russell favorite? Red twig dogwood.

“These buildings are often white or beige,” Russell says, “and the bright red branches add a great pop of color.”

2. Offer Entrance Appeal 

Landscaping for processing plants, factories and distribution centers might seem more bare bones than other commercial properties, but first impressions always matter.

Pay special attention to entrance landscaping. 

Driveway entrances are great places for impressive seasonal color, Russell says. 

Pedestrian entrances should look great, too. Russell likes boxwood for an elegant backdrop for beds or pots packed with colorful flowers.

3. Highlight Signage

Signage announces your company’s brand and welcomes visitors to your site.

Great landscaping makes it hard to miss. 

Color is great to impress and for visibility, but signage landscaping has to be tough, too.

industrial complex landscape around signage

Russell loves layering plants around signage, using trees, shrubs, perennials, and ground cover for lush and intriguing appeal. 

One of her favorite perennials: nepeta, also known as catmint. Tough, drought tolerant, low maintenance, it blooms with deep lavender blooms all summer long, but also attracts butterflies and is deer resistant. 

Variegated liriope ground cover adds bright yellow stripes to the landscape, but also offers year-round interest as an evergreen, blooms in the summer and is low maintenance.

Pro tip: Adding shrubs to each side of a sign makes the sign itself seem bigger, giving it more impact.

4. Don’t Invite Rodents 

Rodent issues? It happens.

If this is a problem, avoid dense ground covers near the building, Russell says. It provides the perfect habitat for them to nest and tunnel.

River rock or gravel is a better choice, or woody perennials that are less dense than ground covers. 

5. Keep Branches Trimmed for Safety

Russell has seen plenty of landscaping for industrial sites that hasn’t been updated for decades.

“If you have trees that have been there for 30 years, they might be overgrown and blocking sight lines,” Russell says. 

Well-pruned trees at industrial landscape

This is an important safety issue for industrial sites that often have frequent truck deliveries, and security vehicles patrolling the property.

“Prune those trees and thin them out,” Russell says. 

6. Don’t Ignore Drainage 

Landscaping for industrial parks often includes solutions for drainage issues.

A sloping property can encourage water to pool in low areas, which can cause flooding around entrances. 

When water drains to a low spot near a building’s foundation, water can seep in.

Installing river rock can help direct the water, Russell says.

Plant slopes with a terraced system of native plants and groundcovers to break up the slope and slow down water and soil.

Consider a rain garden of deep-rooted native plants and grasses in a low area of your property to encourage storm water to soak slowly into the ground.

Other drainage solutions include retention or detention ponds or bioswales.

7. Plan for Parking Lot Islands 

Sprawling industrial site parking lots need islands of green to break up the big expanses of asphalt.

But they don’t have built-in irrigation, so plants have to be drought tolerant.

Parking lot island plants also get stepped on, blasted with car exhaust and piled with snow.

Grass won’t stand up to the rigors, Russell says.

parking lot island landscaping

She suggests a low-maintenance ground cover like creeping juniper or Level Green favorite liriope, a pretty, grass-like plant. It’s hardy, inexpensive, stands up to foot traffic and offers a lush, wavy, grass feel.

Want no maintenance? Go for gravel, Russell suggests. 

Trees provide welcome shade for hot asphalt parking lots, so include them in parking lot islands when landscaping for industrial sites.

“I like to use native trees,” Russell says. “They help pollinators, caterpillars and birds.”

Red maples are low maintenance and offer pretty fall color. Serviceberry and redbud are also Russell favorites. 

8. Bring on the Color 

Color always attracts attention and makes a property look well-tended. 

Aim for impressive color year-round, Russell says.

industrial complex landscape colorful plants

Think bright, cheerful spring bulbs, followed by striking purple and pink petunias in the summer.

Include plants that have impact in fall and winter, too. 

Dwarf Nandina ‘Gulf Stream’ is a hardy evergreen that offers year-round interest, bright red new growth and red foliage in the fall. 

Evergreens, graceful ornamental grasses and shrubs with unique forms offer winter interest. 

9. Engage Employees 

Offer an outdoor patio for employees to enjoy a sun-drenched lunch, fresh-air break or outdoor meeting.

“This is an up and coming trend,” Russell says. “Higher-end companies provide places for employees to come outside and eat or take a break.”

She outfits patios with tables, benches, and oversized pots packed with colorful plants.

“It makes employees happy to get outside for a break,” she says. “That leads to better productivity.”

10. Look at Lighting 

Landscaping for distribution centers includes basic lighting during the construction process, but don’t stop there, Russell says.

Highlight any interesting building architecture and trees on the property with expert landscape lighting to add drama and interest. 

11. Know Your LEED Needs

More and more DC-area buildings are moving toward LEED certification — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. 

Don’t forget to include landscaping, says Russell, who is trained in LEED certification and earned LEED Green Associate designation.

Consider replacing turf with native plants, Russell suggests. They don’t need much water. They tolerate the heat from big parking lots. And they reduce the need for mowers, which reduces emissions from lawn equipment.

Many commercial properties want to make a less significant carbon footprint, Russell says, even if they’re not pursuing LEED certification. These practices use less energy, so your bills will go down. 

Landscaping for Industrial Sites? Trust Level Green

Level Green Landscaping sign on truckIf you’re managing an industrial site, you already know what Russell points out: you want “pretty much everything,” from low maintenance to great curb appeal.

Let us help you get there. 

If you’re not already a Level Green Landscaping client, we’d love to add you to our growing list of happy customers.

Our focus is on commercial properties like offices, mixed-use sites, HOAs, municipalities, and institutions in Maryland, Washington DC and parts of Virginia.

Contact us at 202-544-0968.

You can also request a free consultation online to meet with us one-on-one.

We’d love to hear from you.

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