How to Choose Garden Plants


Many factors come into play when choosing plants for your garden. Consider the size of your space as well as how the garden is to be used. Will it be a natural space where the family can relax and play, or a more formal area for entertaining guests? Consider mixing edible and ornamental plants in the garden for a two-fold use of the space. You may create a garden to camouflage unsightly areas of the yard or highlight an area that makes you proud.

Step 1

Locate your region on the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) zone map. This information is necessary before purchasing plants for your garden space. The Plant Hardiness zone maps, found worldwide, are a starting point. However, it is possible to defy the zone for some plants by creating microclimates in your gardens.

Step 2

Create a budget for plant purchases and stick to it. It is easy to get carried away once you step into a nursery yard filled with sweetly scented blooming plants. A garden is never finished and being a work in progress means that you will add new plants over time. Use either a notebook made specifically for budgeting or a simple spiral notebook.

Step 3

Search nursery catalogs and flyers from local nurseries and make trips to plant nurseries, notebook in hand; take down notes for every plant that strikes a chord in you. This includes ground covers, flowers, vines, shrubs and trees. This is your first list; you will weed out many of your choices later. This is a free-form exercise to get an idea of what you like.

Step 4

Research the plants you have chosen. Consider these specifics when thinking of adding a plant to your final list; type of soil needed, water needs, light requirements and height/spread of plant at maturity. It is important to group plants with the same needs together in the garden. The Master Gardeners located at any County Extension Office are there to help the community and are a wonderful resource for beginning gardeners. They share information concerning gardening in the local area for continued success from year to year. The Master Gardeners at any local CEO will know exactly which plants are suited to your zone.

Step 5

Retrieve the notebook with your first plant list. Equipped with the research from step four, go through and mark off all plants that will not survive in your hardiness zone. Now, mark off any plant that will be too large at maturity for the allotted space. Next, remove plants that you feel will need more care than you have time to give them. The list should be substantially shorter by this point. Plant choices can now be made from the culled list. It is as simple as choosing which color, height, spread, light and moisture requirements will fit in your space.

Tips and Warnings

  • Always wear a sun hat and gloves when working in the garden.

Things You'll Need

  • Zone map
  • Budget
  • Notebooks (2)
  • Catalogs
  • Flyers from local nurseries
  • Recommendations from local County Extension Office


  • "1001 Hints and Tips for Your Garden;" The Readers Digest Association; Fred DuBose, Project Editor; 1996

Who Can Help

  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
  • Plant Hardiness Zone Map for Europe
Keywords: choosing plants, plant choices, how to choose plants

About this Author

Nora Grace is a freelance writer covering the topics of gardening, travel and family issues. Grace has published more than one hundred articles on garden and general interest websites across the Internet since 2007. Web writing credits include feature stories for Suite101, articles for Dave's Garden, Orato and BellaOnline.