How to Choose Landscape Plants


A bare patch of land staring you in the face is a challenge to landscape. Going to the nursery is overwhelming. There are so many different types of plants with varying growth habits, requirements and needs. Annuals, perennials, evergreen, deciduous, ferns, bulbs, seeds and corms: The choices can be confusing. How do you choose landscape plants?

Step 1

Determine how much direct sun or shade the area gets. Different plants have different light requirements. Some thrive in the shade and shrivel up to a burnt crisp in the sun. Plants that need direct sun will grow spindly with yellowish leaves if planted in shade. Afternoon sun is stronger than morning sun. Lots of plants grow in dappled shade but deep shade like under an evergreen tree with low branches limits the type of plants that will grow there.

Step 2

Decide the purpose of the area to be landscaped. Ground cover or lawn might be appropriate for a play area. Slow growing bushes fill the need for borders, foundation planting or hedges, while tall faster growing plants are required for privacy. It's possible to trim tall plants down but difficult to encourage plants to increase beyond their natural size. Space plants as far apart as they need to be when full grown. If the area looks sparse, fill in with annual flowers.

Step 3

Research the hardiness zone of your geographic location. Hardiness refers to the average minimum temperature for an area. Zone 1 is the coldest with the minimum average low temperature below minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit and Zone 11 the warmest with a low of above 40 F. Plants survive in certain zones and not in others. Some plants require a winter chill to produce fruit, such as apples, while others like lilacs won't do well in areas that are temperate all year. Most plants will survive within a zone or two of optimum with special care such as mulching or placing next to a building to provide protection from cold temperatures.

Step 4

Select plants from a catalog keeping in mind, the amount of sun they need, growth habits and their hardiness.

Step 5

Visit a plant nursery. Examine the plants you've chosen for healthy leaves and root systems. The leaves should be a bright, solid green, unless of course the plant is a variegated variety. Check the new growth during the growing season. Tips and edges of leaves should not be brown or yellowed. Remove the plant from the pot. The roots should not be a tangled mess, which indicates the plant is root bound and needs to be transplanted to a larger pot.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't go more than two zones away from the optimum or you risk the plants dying during the winter.

Things You'll Need

  • Hardiness zone map
  • Catalog of plants


  • Hardiness Zone Map
  • The Country Garden; Charlie Ryrie; 2003

Who Can Help

  • Maine Plants
Keywords: landscaping plants, hardiness zones, deciduous plants

About this Author

Katie Rosehill's first book was published in 2000. Since then she has written additional books as well as screenplays, website content and e-books. Her articles have appeared on various websites. Rosehill holds a Master of Business Administration from Arizona State University. Her articles specialize in personal finance, weddings and gardening.