A well-maintained garden can be a delight to the senses with fresh herbs providing taste as well as fragrance and a number of other plants providing rich textures and brightly contrasting colors. Gardening can be a relaxing and rewarding hobby. A well-prepared gardener is one who can readily identify plants and knows what makes them thrive.
Knowing what to expect from your plants begins with knowing what type of plant you are working with. Plants are divided into groups based on their growing cycles. Annuals are renowned for being colorful and for blooming prolifically, but will only bloom for a season. Annuals complete their cycle and die within one growing season.
Perennials may not bloom as long as annuals, but will return for several seasons to bloom again and again. Perennials go through the same cycle of growth, blooming, seeding and dying that annuals do, but continue repeating the cycle for years.
Plants can be categorized by their light needs. Some plants--such as hydrangeas, day lilies, stone crop and juniper--are considered "full sun" plants, as they require six to eight hours of sunlight daily.
Some plants require only partial sunlight, meaning a few hours of sunlight a day is enough. Other plants prefer areas where they will receive as little sun as possible. Some popular shade-loving plants including daffodils, begonias, ferns, hostas and astilbes.
Most plants prefer soil that allows water to drain through it quickly. When water builds up in the soil and does not drain properly, it can contribute to root rot.
A soil's pH level is the amount of acid versus the amount of alkaline in the soil. Different plants prefer different levels of each. Test the soil pH prior to planting to ensure proper levels of acid and alkaline for your garden.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture divided North America into 11 planting zones based on climate. Zones are divided based on a 10-degree difference in winter temperatures between each zone. To maintain a healthy garden, it is useful to know what zone you are planting in and what grows best there.
Save on the cost of plant care by installing rain barrels near your gardens and harvesting the rain water for your plants. Another way to make your garden more economical is to start some plants indoors as seeds rather than buying established plants to transplant into the garden. Seeds cost less than seedlings, but may require a bit more work to grow.