Choosing plants from your local nursery or via a catalogue is one of the most exciting parts of gardening. It’s the optimism that grows as you think how this plant will fit into your garden or hopefully improve that spot that’s been screaming out for some attention.

But, just as much fun as this activity is, choosing plants without wisdom is like encouraging your children to stay sugar-free and then giving them a voucher for the the lolly shop. It can be a ton of fun but once you’re back in your garden that pleasure turns into dismay when you realise that most of your choices probably won’t make it.

So, here are 10 tips to help you when choosing your plants;

  1. Choose Plants for your Growing Zone – no matter how good that plant catalogue from India looks you can discount it if you’re living in Wisconsin. For the most success, always stick to searching out your local garden center or choose plants from catalogues that offer plants relevant to your growing zone and climate.
  2. Account for sun or shade – not taking into account the sun requirements of your chosen plant can be just as painful. Finding out that your new purchase requires full-sun while your garden lies under the canopy of a large elm can be quite depressing. It pays to think these things through before handing over your hard-earned cash.
  3. Style of Garden – is your garden more Mediterranean than Cottage? Xeriscape instead of parterre? This obviously makes a difference when it comes to choosing plants. Consider how the rest of your garden fits together at the moment and whether your new plant choices will blend in or stick out like the proverbial “sore thumb”.
  4. Work with Textures, Shape and Colour – one tip I was given many years ago was to try arranging your new plant choices with specimens already growing in your garden right there on the nursery floor. Basically you create a mini-garden that will illustrate for you how your new choices will meld with the old. Obviously try and steer clear of making this aspect look the same by contrasting different foliage colours, shapes and textures.
  5. Check Watering Requirements – this is a common mistake made by new gardeners. You’ve found a plant that conforms to your growing zone, loves dappled shade, offers some variance in appearance but unfortunately requires heaps of water while its future neighbours are all drought-tolerant. This may not seem like an issue until you get going and find that the soil is now too wet for its peers or to dry for your new plant.
  6. Be Mindful of Fads – for some gardeners trendy plants are what keep their hobby interesting and so they always look for the newest and hottest. There’s nothing wrong with new-fashioned plants but it does pay to know that this may be the case and within the next 12 months your garden could be completely out of vogue.
  7. All-Year Flower or Foliage Colour – when you first started gardening the focus was always on Spring. Annuals, bulbs, spring-flowering perennials adorned your garden and made it look beautiful for the next 3-6months. But once autumn turned up your garden began to look a little drab and winter compounded the effect. Consider choosing plants that will retain some composure throughout the year offering flowers in the cooler months or foliage that warms your garden up.
  8. Perennials vs Annuals – Do you want to replace your plants in the future or prune them? This is an interesting point when choosing plants for your garden. Annuals offer incredible blooms during their flowering season but can leave a hole in your garden once they’re spent. However, pruned perennials don’t look that much better in their dormant season either. Your choice!
  9. Risk Analysis – when choosing plants it pays to assess the risks that this plant brings into your garden. Do you have pets or children who might find those berries extremely attractive? Or, will the roots of this plant become invasive and cause problems for your underground services and reticulation? Think through all the possibilities that may eventuate should this plant take up residence at your place.
  10. Do you really need it? – are you joking! You’re a gardener – of course you need it.

Choosing plants is a wonderful pastime to consider the future growth of your garden. But, take these tips and apply to your next plant choices. You’ll be thankful you did.