Right Plant, Right Place

As we seem to be getting away from cold temperatures and more into warm spring weather, many are beginning look for new plants to add to their landscape. Often one will ask what would be the perfect plant to add to their landscape. Unfortunately it is not a simple answer of one particular plant that would work great.  There are many factors involved with whether a plant is successful in the landscape or not.

The first step in selecting a plant for the landscape is to evaluate the site where you want to plant. Does the site receive full sun or shade?  Does the site have well-drained soil or does it tend to stay wet for while after a significant rainfall?  How much space is available for a plant?  Do you want flower color at certain times of the year?  What cold hardiness zone are you in (Wayne County is in an 8A hardiness zone)?

Evaluating the area where you want a plant and considering what type of plant you think would best suit the area will help give you an idea of plants to look for. It is very important to consider how much space is available for the plant.  Probably one of the biggest mistakes made when purchasing plants for a landscape is not thinking into the future and seeing what the mature size of the plant will be one day.  Many purchase plants when they are small and it appears that they will fit perfectly in a chosen spot.  We all know those plants will grow and often the plant soon outgrows the site in a few years.  Be sure to consider the mature size of a plant and determine whether it will fit in a site before purchasing the plant.

Now that you have in mind what type of site you have, you have to do some research on different types of plants that might work in the area. There are many resources available for learning about plants including the gardening websites, books, magazines, and TV shows.  One internet resource through the NC Cooperative Extension Service is the North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox where you can search for plants based on what categories you select.  The website address is:  https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/. At the top of the website you can click on “Find a Plant” and select categories on the left side of the page that fit with your location and preferences.  The site will generate a list of plants that fit the selected criteria you can then click to view information and pictures of the plant.  Another good resource is to ask neighbors and friends what plants work well in their landscape.  It is also beneficial to spend time looking around at our local garden centers to see what plants they have available and read the plant tags to learn more about the plant.  Now days with technology at our finger tips, you can take advantage of taking a picture with your phone when you see plants you like or plant name tags so you don’t forget the name of your favorite plants.

When someone ask what plant should be planted in a location it is not a question that can be answered with the mention of one plant. It depends on a lot of factors.  Selecting the right plant depends on what type of site is being considered and what purpose is desired of the plant to be planted there.  Also, personal preference has a lot to do with the type of plant selected for a location.  A plant one person likes might be what another dislikes.

The important thing to do when selecting plants for your landscape is to not rush out and buy the first plant you see, but instead do your homework. Doing some research and reading about different plants could save you from problems and headache a few years down the road.

Jessica Strickland is an Agriculture Extension Agent, specializing in horticulture for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County.