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Choosing the Right Plant

Choosing the Right Plant

How to Choose the Right Plant For Your Space


The view out your kitchen window is awfully different than the picture in the magazine you’re gripping.


Year after year it feels like the same outcome – another flawed garden. You select beautiful but fragile plants that are doomed from the start, and every year your lovely plants get flattened or end up withering away beneath a shady tree.


This seems more than undesirable and gardening can seem difficult at times, but a little bit of planning can save a lot of stress and headaches. Choosing the right plant for each spot in your yard can make your gardening life much easier, and is the sure-fire way to happy, healthy plants.


Assess Your Surroundings


Identify Your Zone


Start off by observing and researching the growing conditions of your area.


You can begin with taking a look at USDA hardiness maps to determine what exactly you’re working with. Identifying your zone will present plants that work well in your location.



Which Plants Grow Naturally


It’s also important to take into consideration the plants that grow naturally in your zone. This gives you a head start in knowing which plants will thrive with little assistance. For guidance, discover your area’s native plant list by selecting your region.


From there, you can then investigate what unusual plants are surprisingly effective in your area, because although you found hardy, native plants, don’t limit yourself to them. Consider other potentials that could also thrive in your location, allowing yourself to create a wonderfully diverse garden.


Roaming local garden centers or visiting Proven Winner’s website can help you find great new plant possibilities. At the site, you can narrow your search by keywords, zones, light level and more. Once you find what you wish you can bring your selection to your local garden center.


Ask Around!


Though this seems quite obvious, some gardeners gloss over the fact that it’s important to do research. Don’t be afraid to go out and ask your neighbors, take a trip to visit your local garden center or surf the internet for tips and tricks.


  • How large does this certain plant grow?
  • Who is the culprit eating my plants and how do I deter them from doing so?
  • How and when should I weed and prune my garden?
  • Which plants are hardy enough for my region’s weather?
  • How do I improve my soil?
  • What are some plant recommendations for this season?
  • How much soil do I need for my particular space?


These questions just scratch the surface, but are important nonetheless. So whether you are a gardening novice or gardening professional, never stop asking questions.


What Best Suits Your Landscape


Evaluate Your Yard Environment


Since you now know what garden zone you belong to, let’s investigate the type of land you have to work with.


Scan your surroundings and take note of particular microclimates (the climate of a small area that is different from the area around it, ex: warmer, wetter, drier, more or less prone to frost) or nearby structures that might affect prospective plants.


Are there any brick or concrete walls in your garden? Don’t forget trees or shrubs that could produce unwanted shade or have overpowering roots, stealing nutrients and sunlight from struggling vegetation.


The image provided below may help you visualize how common elements in your yard can easily create microclimates without you even realizing. This is essential information to know when choosing plants for your landscape.




Plant Care & Growth Habits


Most yards have high traffic areas that you’ll need to think of when planting. Children and pets will easily trample plants if you put them in a certain location in your yard.


Beware of different plant growth and don’t forget to consider plant upkeep. How large will each individual plant become? Will they outgrow the chosen space? What are their sunlight, shade and routine maintenance requirements?


Ponder other conditions like saltwater and weather so you are prepared to provide your plants with everything they need to succeed.


Plant Accordingly


Now it’s time to find ideal plants based on your location and your specific tastes. Below are a few resources to help your selection process.



Plant-Worthy Soil


Soil Testing


Now that you have an idea of where and what to plant, is your existing garden soil worthy? Testing the soil is significant to prepare for incoming plants. One easy way to do so is to bring in a sample to Northeast Nursery and you will have your results within ten days.


Soil samples can be taken with a soil probe, spade or trowel, about six to eight inches in depth. Discard any surface residues, thatch or stones. Be sure to take a minimum of ten to twelve cores from different areas, separately to make sure that the sample represents the area being sampled. Then, place the different samples into a clean bucket and mix well.


Once you do so, all you need to do now is bring in the sample with an attached and completed Turf and Ornamental Soil Sample Information Form.


If you desire to soil test yourself but need some guidance, you can reference About Home’s Soil Testing Article which includes easy steps and an educational video.


Fertilizing & Mulching


Now, don’t overlook mulching! This is key to retaining the moisture in the soil around the plant roots and preventing weeds from growing. For best results, apply about two inches deep near the base of the plant.


Though there are many different kinds of mulch, the main differences are in their physical appearance. Types include hemlock, pine/spruce mix, cedar, pine bark nuggets, cocoa shells & buckwheat hulls.


For more indepth content view Northeast Nursery’s Mulch Selection article.


If in need of a recommendation, we advise using Coast of Maine products due to their undeniable benefits and proven success.


Their hand crafted compost-based products are rich in nutrients that plants require to succeed. For example, their Lobster Meal is an organic plant food supplement that is high in nitrogen and calcium, which promotes strong stem growth, healthy green foliage and a vigorous root system.


You can’t go wrong with Coast of Maine Soils, Fertilizers and Mulches.


Crop Rotation


Once testing and fertilizing is complete, using an organized process of choosing which plants to grow where will benefit your soil even more. Rotating your plants on an annual basis helps maintain the rich soil and helps reduce pests and disease risk. This technique supports healthy plant growth and improves your garden success.


If you are curious on how to monitor your yearly crop rotation, here is an easy 4-step system to follow.


Additional Useful Tips


Check Plants Often


By monitoring your plants regularly you can keep an eye out for insects and disease so they don’t become a problem, as well as cut down on major plant care down the road. This will also help you catch issues fast so the outlook of the plant stays positive.


Some important things to check frequently for:

  • Soil moisture around the plant
  • Sun/Lighting conditions
  • Air & soil humidity
  • Air & soil temperature
  • Look of the roots
  • Leaf color & appearance


Warning sings to acknowledge and required actions to take(if necessary):

  • Skinny & floppy stems or leaning plant - a sign of lacking sunlight so they are stretching toward the sun, putting on few leaves in the process, in need of rotation every now and then
  • Perpetually moist soil - a sign that the roots aren’t big enough to drink up all the water which promotes disease
  • Curled, droopy, falling off, or discolored leaves - a sign of insect infestation, not enough water, lacking nutrients, neglect, overheating or over fertilizing
  • Mold on the soil or rotting - a sign that the humidity is too high and in need of ventilation or moving the plant to a drier location and do not over water
  • Dry leaves and soil - a sign of low humidity and need to mist with a water bottle occasionally and think of grouping plants together to help create a humid microclimate
  • Air and soil temperature - plants are like us, enjoying temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees. Avoid placing near temperature hazards like vents, radiators and exterior doors, which may create hot or cold spots as well as undesired drafts.
  • Visible pests (aphids, spider mites, scale, mealybugs) - a sign that they are living on your plant so check the undersides of leaves and the joints where the stem attaches to the leaves and remove


Group Plants with Similar Needs


The best defense against common problems such as disease,pests, rotting, wilting, yellow leaves, weak growth and minimal buds or leaves, is planting in the proper spot the first time. This minimizes plant stress due to poor growing conditions.


Grouping plants together that have similar needs is a smart positioning trick. It is a great way to make plant care much easier and enjoyable.


But don’t just assume that any plant can flourish close to another. Some plants are toxic to others. View this list of companion plants to see which plants will work well with other, and which will not.


Water Correctly


Pay attention to the specific requirements of your particular plants. The amount & frequency can help, or conversely, hinder them immensely. You should water close to the roots rather than overhead, 2-3 times per week until established and then about once a week thereafter.


As a side note, soil polymers could help the watering process. They are typically water-absorbing pellets that can be added to your soil to increase water retention and gradulally release water into the soil.


Storing over 200 times their weight, they release a steady supply of water as your plants need it. Slowly releasing nutrients as they biodegrade, they restore unhappy soil.


Soil polymers can be found in a variety of our Soil Moist products.


Weed & Prune Regularly


Though not always necessary, there are several reasons why weeding is important.


Removing any weeds from around plants prevents competition for water and nutrients. Weeds can harbor insects and diseases that may infect the garden plants, so clearing unwanted weeds reduces the amount of work that your plants will need later in the season.


Don’t forget to prune! Pruning is just as significant as weeding. It prevents the spread of disease, improves the appearance and health of the plants and promotes regrowth for years to come. Below are are some instructions to help you in your pruning process.



Prepare Your Garden!


When it comes to a healthy garden, preparation matters. Putting some time in before planting can seriously decrease the amount of time you have to spend after planting.


Plants that are well-suited for the chosen location will perform well with limited additional input. They will establish quickly, have a strong root system, and be overall healthier plants.


But plants need soil that is rich in nutrients, and some soil needs a helping hand.


Testing your soil, adding essential nutrients to balance deficiencies and controlling weeds, are all great ways to prepare your garden for new vegetation.


Well-maintained soil allows plants to take up and retain the necessary amounts of water to sustain growth while permitting excess water to drain efficiently. It is also becomes the home to fewer garden pests, such as weeds, and ultimately resilts in the maximum production of blooms and vegetables.


Weeds that are not removed in advance of planting continue to grow and spread, competing with the intended plants for critical water and nutrient resources. Controlling competing vegetation is usually necessary so the new plants have a better chance of survival.


Therefore, preparation, as you can see, is quite beneficial to you and your future garden.


In Summary


  • Assess Your Surroundings
    • Identify Your Zone
    • Which Plants Grow Naturally
    • Ask Around!
  • What Best Suits Your Landscape
    • Evaluate Your Yard Environment
    • Plant Care & Growth Habit
    • Plant Accordingly
  • Plant-Worthy Soil
    • Soil Testing
    • Fertilizing & Mulching
    • Crop Rotation
  • Additional Tips
    • Check Plants Regularly
    • Use Companion Planting
    • Water Correctly
    • Weed & Prune Regularly
    • Prepare Your Garden


So what are you waiting for? Get to know your garden zone, evaluate your environment, landscape and soil. Choose the right plant and place it in the right spot. With these tips your garden shall flourish.


Click below to download our “Getting Started” Checklist to help keep your Spring efforts organized.

Click Here to Get The List

Happy gardening!

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