How to choose the right plants for your garden. Before going to your local garden center or nursery it is best to take notes on your current landscape. Grab a pen and pad, go outside and start taking notes on what you will need. It is easy to get caught up with all the beautiful colorful plants and shrubs in any garden center.
This post is about choosing the right plants for your garden and it can be used for almost any region in the U.S. but it’s best used for the desert Southwest region. The last thing you want to do is choose the wrong plant, tree or shrub for your yard. Here are a few tips on how to buy the right plants for your home.
How to choose the right plants for your garden
Some things to consider before heading out to the garden store.
Perennials or annuals – Year after year plants or do you plan to replace them after each season?
Evergreen or deciduous – Year round greenery or plants that lose their leaves in winter
Sun or shade conditions – Do you have full sun or is your home surrounded by trees and or taller buildings nearby?
Height and width – Do you have the spacing for tall, wide type plants?
Xeriscape or Contemporary landscape – Are you looking for drought tolerant plants or plants that will require consistent watering?
Every home is unique – What are places in your yard where you think plants won’t do well?
What about the soil?
In the southwest, the soil is poor and usually alkaline. So it’s important that you understand what it needs for a successful planting. Most gardening stores will have pH test kits. They are inexpensive and easy to use. Ideally, you want your test to read a 7 or neutral. For alkaline soils use sulfur to get a neutral setting.
Pay attention and observe your area take note on your soil type, Sun exposure, and moisture levels for each of the areas you plan to plant. If you really want your garden to look good, you should also consider testing your soil. Most county extension offices or local community college offer soil testing for a small fee.
The overall pH of your soil can help you determine which types of plants are best. Keep in mind that it is possible to alter the pH of the soil by adding certain amendments. The simplest thing to do is to add composted soil with your current native soil. A good 50/50 mixture will work.
If you want more information on pH test kits check out this post on doing just that. Click here.
If your soil is caliche or hard try incorporating gypsum into the soil. Gypsum will not aerate or loosen the soil in a few days or even months. The best way to apply gypsum is by using a machine that puts holes in the soil then adding your gypsum. Adding it by hand may work but it will take much longer than using the machine method. Ask for an aerator for lawns at your local nursery store.
Vegetables like acidic soil. So, it is best to add some limestone to your vegetable garden. You can also buy soil acidifiers at your local gardening store. Here is a great post on vegetable gardening.
There is no point in buying a beautiful plant only to have it not look good or whither away because you choose the wrong place or plant! So, what is a good gardener to do? Once you get your plants home, it is time to arrange them. Before you start digging and planting them it is a good idea to determine where they should be planted.
Most plants at gardens centers will have a tag that summarizes what requirements the plants will need. Use this information to your advantage. However, do not take it as solid fact. Many wholesale nurseries do not take into consideration the hot sun during mid-summer in the desert Southwest. So, if it says full sun it may require a little afternoon shade.
Asking your gardening expert is the best option. However, the big box gardening stores will typically have untrained or novice gardeners. Ask for the manager or gardening expert to get the best information. Don’t forget to take your notes with you!
One great way to determine how they will look is to experiment with different planting arrangements. Try grouping the plants in small clusters, or spreading them out in even rows. Pay special attention to the height of each plant when it reaches full maturity. Taller plants should go in the back of your flower beds while shorter plants should go up front.
Taller plants should also be placed closer to walls and or fences. Once you have decided where you want to put these plants it’s time to understand the growing and watering conditions. You can go ahead and put your plants in the ground. Taking the time to understand the growing conditions throughout your yard.
Rather than wasting money on flowers that are poorly suited to your location, you can focus on buying plants that are guaranteed to thrive. With careful planning and attention to detail, you can have a wondrous garden that will add beauty and depth to the outside of your home.
Author: Paul Guzman
Paul Guzman – General Manager of Guzman’s Greenhouse. Gardener, Husband, Father and Grandfather. Webmaster of Guzmansgreenhouse.com