Plants and landscaping are not only esthetically pleasing, but provide shade, privacy and add oxygen to the environment. Many new homes come with a backyard full of barren dirt and not much else. Landscaping a front yard of your current home is a major challenge and can be costly. Don't waste time and money by choosing the wrong plants.
How low the average winter temperature drops affects what plants will live through the winter. Roses, for example, are difficult to grow in zones 1 through 3. Some roses, but not many, will grow in zones 4. The USDA has a map of hardiness zones in the United States, so check that the plants you're considering will thrive in your zone.
Similar to the variation in hardiness zones, some climates have longer warmer summers than others. California and Florida have year-long growing seasons with little if any chance of frost. Some plants require these warmer temperatures and mild winters to continue growing. Bougainvillea and lantana are two examples. Other plants like lilacs need a period of dormancy brought on by colder weather.
Most plants prefer acidic soils and some, like gardenias and hydrangeas, won't do well in alkaline soils. The pH level determines whether the soil is acid or alkaline. Test the soil with a kit easily obtainable at a local garden center. Alkaline soil is difficult to change into acidic. It is possible to mitigate some of the effects by adding gypsum or other soil amendments. Choose plants that will do well in your type of soil.
Rich, loamy soil full of decayed organic matter is preferred by plants. Unfortunately, most home soils require the addition of compost, peat, rotted manure and fertilizer for plants to do their best. Amend the soil before planting. It's difficult to make up for poor soil with fertilizer after planting.
Goal of Landscaping
Choose plants that fulfill their goal in the garden. If time for yard maintenance is limited, don't choose plants that will have to be trimmed and pruned to maintain their shape. Consider the size and shape of the mature bush or tree before planting. Grass is lovely in a lawn but requires regular watering to stay green. If you live in a drought-prone area, another ground cover would be a better choice.