We are probably all guilty of buying plants that die or just sit there and do nothing. It's easy to avoid when you understand the basics of plant selection. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind before you start shopping for plants.
Right plant, right spot
Before you make any plant selections, make sure you do your homework. The right plant for the right spot means taking into consideration...
- ...the mature size. Do not buy plants that will outgrow the planting space. This will mean a lot of maintenance on your part or removing the plant because it grows into a monster. Make sure you know how big the plant will get!
- ...a species that wants to live there. Planting a species not suited to your climate and soil type will bring on all kinds of problems, including nutritional deficiencies, pests, and poor performance.
- ...sun orientation. Some plants must have full sun to survive; some must have full shade. Consider the orientation of the planting spot before selecting a plant.
Know your zone!
Knowing your climate zone will help you make better plant choices, as these zones were created for just that purpose.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zone maps work great for much of the country. However, if you live in the west, you should use the Sunset Climate Zones. This is because the USDA's zones only focus on cold hardiness. For example, the USDA Zone for Seattle is the same as Tucson, Ariz.
If you need help, visit your local Cooperative Extension Service or hire a landscape design professional.
The bigger plant isn't always the best buy
If you buy a bigger tree you will have a bigger tree sooner, right? Actually, no. Larger plants take longer to acclimate in their new surroundings. A smaller plant will establish quicker.
Another bonus for buying smaller plants is you do not need to dig as big of a planting hole. This can be a real back-saver if you live where digging is a major operation.
Another important thing to remember: Never dig holes deeper than the rootball. The planting hole should be at least three to five times wider than the rootball, but never any deeper.
Finally, do not assume plant nursery employees will know what will work for your situation. They do try to help, but without seeing your yard they may recommend plants that are not suitable.
Linda is a landscape architect and certified arborist in southern Arizona. With over 20 years experience in landscape design, she also has a passion for all plants and gardening. As a freelance writer for a number of websites, she has produced hundreds of articles on plants, plant care, and design.