How to Select Landscaping Plants


Landscape design is the main form of decoration for the exterior of your home. Landscaping adds curb appeal to your property and gives it a finished look. Successful gardening results from studying your planting locations and choosing appropriate shrubs, trees and flowers for your particular space.

Step 1

Evaluate your planting site to determine sunlight availability. Shade plants cannot survive for long in areas of full sun with 6 or more hours of direct light each day. Sun-tolerant plants can't live in the shade. Partial shade plants require 4 to 6 hours of light each day.

Step 2

Check the USDA hardiness zone map to determine your planting zone. Growers include this information on plant labels at nurseries to direct consumer purchases to those native plants that will tolerate local climate conditions. See additional resources for a link to the map.

Step 3

Decide how much garden maintenance you will be able to do. Some plants require continual care, pruning and attention. Annuals need to be purchased and planted every single year. Perennial flowering plants require transplanting every 3 to 4 years to thin the plant. All plants require some maintenance but varieties such as ornamental grasses and some shrubs need only a simple pruning once a year.

Step 4

Choose different varieties of plants. Mix plants that flower at different times during the growing season to have continual blooms in your landscape. Add evergreens for year-round foliage color, and incorporate plants with dramatic leaves instead of flowers. Create a nice mix to provide plenty of interest in your entire landscape.

Step 5

Evaluate your soil conditions by taking a soil sample to the local nursery for evaluation. Match the type of plants to the type of soil in the landscape. Some plants will tolerate clay soils, while others must have soil enriched with organic nutrients.

Step 6

Plan for the eventual full size of any trees, shrubs and flowers in the landscape. This prevents extensive transplanting and pruning and allows plenty of air to circulate around each plant.

Step 7

Consider landscape principles of color, height, texture and continuity. Choose 2 to 3 colors and repeat these throughout the various gardens in the landscape. Keep taller plants in the middle of circular gardens or in the back of borders. Incorporate texture in the form of interesting foliage as well as beautiful flowers. Consider repeating plants from other parts of the landscape to tie the design together.


  • Louisiana State University
  • Penn State University

Who Can Help

  • USDA Hardiness Zone Map
  • Plant Selector
Keywords: landscape design, selecting plants, choosing plants

About this Author

Currently studying for her Maryland master gardener certification, Sharon Heron has written professionally since 2006. Her writing includes hundreds of articles on a wide range of topics including gardening, environment, golf, parenting, exercise, finances and consumer how-to articles.