We’ve all done it. Even the most experienced gardener has made mistakes when selecting plants for the landscape. Everyone wants a beautiful landscape, only to find out a season or even years later that the plant installed is too large for the space, needs more shade or lots of sun, doesn’t like to get its “feet” wet in the boggy location where you planted it, or requires more care than you have time to give.
Before you start planting, follow these tips to make the job easier and to produce better results in your landscape.
1. Know your zone. Most of us in Wake and surrounding counties are in 7b. Inside the beltline and most of Johnston County is zone 8. Visit planthardiness.ars.usda.gov for your specific zone.
2. Have an idea of the size you want the plant to get at maturity and select a plant that is in that size range. There is nothing sadder than having to cut down a beautiful tree that was planted too close to the house.
3. Pick plants that are appropriate for the style of the house and garden. Formal landscapes use mostly evergreens while informal landscapes use a mix of evergreens and deciduous plants. Also, consider picking flower colors that won’t clash with your home and keep in mind the different bloom times and seasonal foliage colors to maximize color year round.
4. Be aware of how much maintenance you are prepared to do. Deciduous plants lose their leaves which leads to more raking in the fall. Also, you’ll occasionally have to trim dead limbs from trees and shape them. Evergreens also need occasional maintenance. Slow growing plants need less pruning than fast growing ones.
5. Do you have a deer problem in your area? Select plants that are deer resistant.
6. Avoid invasive species that will, over time, take over your yard and cause maintenance problems. Be forewarned.
7. Select plants that are appropriate for the light conditions they will be planted in. Shade loving plants placed in full sun will yellow and become stressed. Planting full sun plants in shade will stunt their growth and limit their blooms.
8. Be aware of the water requirements of each plant. Some plants are drought tolerant, and are suitable for forgetful gardeners or planting by the mailbox where the hose doesn’t reach. Others need constant moisture and will thrive at the base of a downspout or low-lying area in the yard but may need extra watering elsewhere.
9. When possible select plants that will thrive in your soil conditions. Daylilies and hosta will tolerate clay soil while other plants will tolerate sandy soil. Most plants prefer loamy, rich soil so amending your soil with organic materials will help improve growing conditions for most plant types.
10. When in doubt ask the staff at your local garden center for plant suggestions. Give them your landscape conditions and they often can come up with a variety of great plants to fit your needs and requirements—maybe even a fantastic plant you never would have considered.
Chris Clark is the Landscape Designer at Atlantic Avenue Orchid & Garden. He enjoys helping customers reach the full potential of their landscape and outdoor living spaces.