How to Choose Landscaping Plants


Landscaping offers homeowners the ability to place a personal stamp on their property. An appealing arrangement of plants enhances the landscape and increases the overall curb appeal of a home. Choosing landscaping plants requires investigation into the best choices for your property and include such factors as maintenance requirements, blending with existing features and compatibility of plants with the existing soil conditions.

Step 1

Find your planting zone by checking out the USDA Hardiness Zones map and following the color code legend. The information refers to the lowest temperature hardy plants can tolerate in your zone and is printed on each growing label on a store-bought plant.

Step 2

Study your yard to determine sunlight availability for different areas of the property. Sunlight differs based on the season, so you should document the sun's movement to determine which areas are full sun, partial sun, partial shade or full shade locations. Full shade areas receive no direct sun, and full sun areas receive exposure for six or more hours a day. Partial sun locations experience four-to-six hours a day, while partial shade areas get two-to-four hours of sunlight each day, often through the foliage canopy of trees.

Step 3

Take a soil sample from various locations around the property where you plan to add landscaping plants. Label each container by location and visit the garden center for a soil analysis. Landscape plants won't tolerate poor soil. Address the health of the plants by providing a good soil base to protect your landscape investment.

Step 4

Visit the local nursery. Begin with the native plants that have adapted to local climate and soil conditions. These plants are hardy to your area, which means they will most likely survive more than one season. Native plants are a good bargain for the landscaping dollar because that cultivar has already adjusted to local growing conditions.

Step 5

Decide which types of plants you prefer in your landscape. Check out your property drawing for blank spots. Imagine plants filling these blank areas based on maintenance requirements and type of plant. Landscape plants include perennial flowers that return every year and annual plants that survive for a single season. You also need to decide if shrubs will fit your landscape budget and needs. Shrubs are either evergreen or deciduous. Evergreens retain foliage throughout the year, and deciduous shrubs lose foliage in the winter.

Step 6

Pair plants with certain functions in the correct spot in the landscape. Ground covers work well on slopes and as protective coverings around tree roots. Hedges serve as living fences to muffle traffic noise or provide a privacy screen. Shrubs can stand alone or as a focal point plant in any type of garden. Perennial and annual flowers work well in a dedicated garden or as filler plants in a groomed shrub landscape.

Step 7

Read growing labels thoroughly. Growers provide USDA zone, light requirements and cultivation recommendations with each plant. Look specifically for the mature width and height of each plant. Nurseries sell juvenile plants that will eventually reach a mature size in your landscape. Plan your landscape choices to accommodate the mature growth size of each plant.

Step 8

Jot down relevant information on each type of plant that appeals to your landscaping needs. Create a planned drawing before adding any kind of garden to your property. A plan helps reduce costs of soil enhancement needs and improper plant selection.

Things You'll Need

  • USDA Hardiness Zones map
  • Scaled property drawing
  • Plastic containers with lids


  • North Carolina State University: Residential Landscaping
  • Unviersity of Rhode Island: Choose the Right Plant for the Right Spot

Who Can Help

  • USDA Hardiness Zone Map
  • Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Residential Landscape Design
Keywords: choosing landscape plants, selecting shrubs, selecting plants

About this Author

S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various sites, including Helium, eHow and Xomba. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.