The key to successfully planting shrubs and flowers lies in making sure that individual plant needs are met. Although needs vary from plant to plant, there are a few basic things that all plants need: warmth, light, moisture and nutrients from the soil, and space. In order to provide ideal growing conditions for individual flowers and shrubs, you must identify the zones in which individual plants can grow; choose a location with proper lighting, nutrient-rich soil and good drainage; and provide adequate space in which flowers and shrubs can grow.
Identify individual plant requirements when making plant selection, and ascertain that these conditions can be met. Some plants require cold winters, while others cannot tolerate colder temperatures. Determine the climate zones to which individual plants are adaptable.
Choose a location that meets individual plant lighting requirements. Plants utilize sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugars through the process of photosynthesis. The amount of sunlight that a plant needs varies, depending upon the type of plant. A full sun requirement means that a plant needs eight to 12 hours of unfiltered sunlight per day, while partial sun refers a plant's requirement for from five to six hours. Plants requiring partial shade need indirect or filtered light, and should only receive direct sunlight for short periods of time each day. Without enough sunlight, flowers and shrubs will have thin, spindly stems, and they may eventually wither and die. Too much sunlight will result in plants that are bleached and blistered and struggle to grow.
Amend soil to make it rich in nutrients and assure good drainage and the proper pH. Plants derive three main nutrients from soil: nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Secondary nutrients and micronutrients are also obtained from the soil plants grow in. The amount of each nutrient required varies with individual plant types. Too much or too little of certain nutrients can stunt growth, produce weak plants or even cause them to die.
Amend soil with compost, which acts as a natural soil enhancer, loosens clay soils, retains moisture in sandy soils and balances soil pH. Compost also provides needed plant nutrients, warms the soil in spring and cools it in summer.
Most (not all) flowers and shrubs do not like extremely dry or soggy conditions. Amend soil with peat moss to absorb and retain more moisture, and prevent nutrients from being leached out of the soil. Improve aeration of plant roots in heavier soils, and add body to sandy soils. Turn 2 inches of peat moss and an equal amount of compost into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil.
Provide ample space. The amount of space available has a direct bearing on plant growth. Plants with a large area to extend their roots will grow and thrive. Crowded plants will have tight, crowded roots, resulting in stunted growth. Assure that flowers and especially larger shrubs have plenty of room to grow.