A well-planned landscape can enhance any outdoor area. You can use landscape plants to create a warm and inviting entrance, a relaxing retreat or to hide an unsightly view. Whether you are starting from scratch or adding to an existing landscape, choosing the correct plants for the situation you’re addressing is key. If you plan ahead and pick the right plants, you will have a landscape that will be beautiful and functional for years to come.
Know the growing conditions in the area you want to landscape. Find out which plant hardiness zone you are in and note how much sun, rain and drainage the area has. A plant’s hardiness is ranked by its cold tolerance. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has divided the country into 10 zones according to average lowest temperature. Most plant information includes the number of the lowest zone in which it will successfully grow.
Aside from hardiness, note the texture of the soil and have the pH tested. You will have a healthier and easier to maintain landscape if you pick plants that thrive in the conditions present in your planting bed.
Decide how much time and effort you are willing to put into maintaining your landscape. If you enjoy gardening and have the time to water, prune and fertilize, you can choose plants that require more care. If you would rather have a landscape that looks beautiful with very little effort, pick plants that have a pleasing natural shape and can tolerate some neglect.
Decide whether you want to plant annuals, perennials or a combination of the two. Annuals grow to maturity in one season and die once cold weather comes, while perennials come back every year. Annuals are usually less expensive, small to medium in size and often bloom all season long if you pinch the faded flowers off. Perennials usually bloom at a certain time of year, each year, and come in all sizes from small to very tall. If you want to combine the two, you can use perennials as the foundation plants in your landscape and plant annuals to add a splash of color and variety each year.
Consider the area you are landscaping and choose plants that will do what you want them to without being a nuisance. If you are landscaping an entrance, use plants that have a pleasant scent or interesting appearance, but don’t grow too big. If you want to hide an unsightly view, choose an evergreen bush or tree with dense leaves. Use trees to add shade to a patio or brightly colored flowers to liven up a dark corner. Don’t put a plant that drops pollen or fruit in a high traffic area or a plant with a wide, shallow root system next to a building or sidewalk.
Pick landscape plants that complement each other and any nearby structures. Choose plants in a variety of heights, colors, shapes, growth habits and leaf textures. Also, select plants that have visual interest at different times of the year. Put taller plants in the back of the landscape and shorter plants in the front. Keep in mind the mature sizes of the plants so you don’t have to move or severely prune them later.
Buy your plants from a reputable nursery with knowledgeable employees. Pick plants that show no signs of insect damage or disease. Look on the leaves for spots and the bark for splits and soft spots. Check to make sure roots are not coming out of the drainage holes or growing in circles around the inside of the pot. You will have a better chance of success if you choose plants that are healthy.
Tips & Warnings
- The plant size and care requirements found on the tag may not be correct, so double-check with a reputable source.
- Buy your flowering plants when they are in bloom so you can be sure you are getting the color that you want.