10 Steps For Choosing The Best Plants For Your Garden

wildflower garden photo by gail worley
Photo By Gail

Having a lush, green garden to elevate your outdoor space sounds like a dream come true.  But making that dream a reality involves a lot more careful thinking than just recreating your favorite Pinterest board. Yes, you can probably recreate the decor, paving, furniture, etc., but plants are delicate, and require careful planning. Your garden plants are affected by so many natural factors, from the climate, seasons, sunlight, soil, and more.  Before planning your own green oasis, let’s find out how to choose plants for your garden.

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10 Steps For Choosing the Right Plants for a Garden:

1. Plan Out Your Garden Size in Advance

When it comes to choosing the right plants for your garden, size matters — and not just the plant sizes, but the garden size! This is mostly because each plant needs a specific amount of space to grow and thrive. For example, your standard flowering bush needs just a few square feet of space. But a large tree would need at least 5 times that. Fail to plan for the optimal space and you’ll be faced with either dying plants or overgrown tree roots that destroy your building and paving.

Always measure your garden space first and use this as the foundation to understand the types (and the number of) plants that you can potentially grow on it.

2. Choose Plants Based on Your Climate Zone

Next, identify what “USDA plant hardiness climate zone” you fall under. These climate zones are decided based on the average temperatures, humidity, rainfall, snowfall, etc. of a region. Only choose plants for your garden that are compatible with your zone.

soil
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3. Identify Your Garden’s Soil Type

The soil literally nourishes the plant and helps it grow, so when you choose plants for a garden, you must ensure they are compatible with your existing soil type and its pH levels.  First, get a simple soil pH test done (or do it yourself with a pH test soil kit). Then, based on color, texture, and moisture retention, you can identify your soil type. The most common soil types are clay, sandy, silty, peaty, chalky, and loamy. Remember, you can boost the soil with plant food or balance it out by mixing in other soils, but the core soil type will not change.  (If you love a certain plant, but it isn’t compatible with your garden’s soil, consider growing it in containers or pots placed above ground.)

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4. Don’t Forget About the Local Ecosystem

The local ecosystem is crucial for ensuring a plant’s survival in an outdoor garden, so do a quick study to find out what insects, pests, birds and small animals share your garden space. This includes everything from your everyday slugs and bees, to pigeons, mice, and badgers. Also, if you are a pet-friendly space, consider any pets that might wander in. Now, these do not mean you can no longer choose plants for the garden that are susceptible to being damaged. In most cases, you can take simple precautions while planting to ensure the plants are protected.

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5. Understand Your Garden’s Facing Direction

Yes, your entire garden is technically outdoors and under the sun, but the overall direction your garden is facing still makes a huge difference.

  • North-facing gardens tend to receive the least light.
  • South-facing gardens receive the most light throughout the year.
  • East-facing gardens only get bright, direct light in the mornings.
  • West-facing gardens receive the hot afternoon light and direct evening light.

Use these guidelines to choose plants for your garden that are likely to thrive in those overall conditions.

evergreens
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6. Keep in Mind The Beauty of The Evergreen

While growing your garden it is ideal to have one that is designed for all seasons. This will help you avoid the harshness of a bare garden come winter. Bring in at least a few evergreen plants to the mix while choosing plants for your garden. Also, layer your annuals and perennial plants together for a stunning mix of textures, colors, and shapes.

Pro tip: If you want to avoid the awkward growing phase of a plant, simply lease fully grown plants from a plant leasing service. This way you can have beautiful, healthy, and lush-looking plants right from day one.

crocuses in the sun photo by gail worley
Photo By Gail

7. Identify Shaded and Sunny Zones in the Garden

Now that you’ve finalized the plants that you’d like adorning your garden, it’s time to figure out what to plant where.  You will find that some plants are light-loving, and some shade-loving, and when it comes to sunlight, it’s not just the garden direction that matters. Even within your garden, you will find that certain spaces receive more sun, and some less. Before planting anything, run a quick eye across your garden, or better yet, study it through the day to determine its sun exposure. This will help you mark out the shade-heavy spots, the bright, sunny zones, and everything in the middle. Use this to guide your garden zoning and design.

8. Plan Your Garden Layout Based on Plant Compatibility

We’re almost ready to start planting, but there’sone last factor to keep in mind. You will most likely have different plant types that grow next to each other in close quarters to create some depth. While doing this, it is crucial to ensure plants with similar needs — meaning plants that have similar requirements for sunlight needs, water, and even fertilizer – all grow together.  Following this rule will make it much easier for you to maintain the garden in the future, so don’t ignore it.

spring flowers photo by gail worley
Photo By Gail

9. Grow Plants in Clumps for a Lush Aesthetic

If you want a garden that looks lush, colorful, and thriving, then take note of the way you are planting your green friends.  Large statuesque plants and trees can stand alone. But for the rest, it’s best to grow them in closely packed clumps in well-defined beds. Think a bright cluster of daffodils, rather than a lone plant that is too weak to hold anyone’s eye. Use this little gardener’s trick, and your garden will look professionally curated.

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10. Maintain Your Plants Regularly for Year-Round Beauty

You can have selected the most suitable of plants for your garden, but they will not survive without regular care. Finally, be sure to water, weed, prune, fertilize and maintain your garden on a regular basis.  If you’ve leased your plants from a reputable source, then they will take care of your maintenance for you.  Otherwise, learn how to care for a garden yourself or hire professional plant maintenance teams to keep your carefully curated garden looking fresh through the year.

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