Gardeners use shrubs, annuals and perennial flowers as decorative elements in the outdoor landscape. Plants serve as accents for the home exterior and complement other features in a yard. Basic care includes plant selection and proper placement in the landscape as well as the standard tasks of watering, fertilizing and pruning.
Choose plants to suit your climate based on the USDA hardiness zone recommendations for your area. Proper plant selection includes pairing each plant with the correct growing conditions. Sunlight, soil requirements and watering needs must be met for optimum plant growth and health.
Match the planting depth to what the plant experienced in the growing container from the nursery. Always improve the soil with organic amendments such as compost or peat moss to give the plant the best chance for survival. Cultivate the soil to a depth of 8 inches for annuals and 12 to 18 inches for perennials and shrubs.
Apply a 3- to 4-inch layer of high-quality organic mulch. Mulch retains moisture and controls soil temperature to limit root damage. Mulch also helps gardeners conserve water during the warm summer months.
Prune dead or dying foliage regularly. Remove spent flowers once a week to keep annual and perennial flowers looking sharp. Clip back dead branches or stems to the nearest branch or center stem. Prune flush with the adjoining branch and make the cut at a 45-degree angle. Use pruning shears for branches smaller than 1 inch and loppers for branches up to 2 inches in diameter.
Water regularly. Outside plants adjust to the moisture levels in the soil, but most plants (except drought tolerant varieties) require 1 inch of water each week. Keep track of rainfall and supplement with additional water if necessary. Place the hose at the base of each plant to water the roots. Avoid sprinkling or spraying foliage since this practice wastes water and provides little benefit to the plant.
Apply fertilizer based on each plant's requirements. Plants require the regular addition of nutrients to soil. Use an all-purpose water-soluble fertilizer monthly during the growing season. See plant-growing labels for specific fertilization requirements for each plant. A general rule recommended applying fertilizer during active spring and summer growth. Limit late summer and fall fertilization unless specifically recommended for the plant to limit excessive growth leading into the dormant winter months.