STILLWATER – A beautiful landscape takes more than simply digging a few holes, sticking in several plants and turning on the sprinkler every now and then.
Before you visit the local nursery or plant store, take a good look around your landscape. David Hillock, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist, said homeowners should consider factors such as the amount of sunlight and shade your selected garden area receives each day, soil condition, drainage patterns and possible wind blocks.
“Prior assessment is key when planting perennials, trees and shrubs, and can likely save you both time and money down the road,” Hillock said. “It can be extremely disappointing when your plants grow poorly, fail to bloom or even die. It’s vital to select plants well suited for your landscape characteristics and hardiness zone. This also will help with your long-term success.”
Keep in mind, however, while some of your landscape conditions can be altered, it is easiest to choose plants that are suited to the existing conditions in your yard. Plants placed in a location that meets their requirements usually thrive without requiring a lot of attention.
Plants in a location that does not suit their needs are usually stressed, vulnerable to attack from pests and diseases and most likely will require more care.
When selecting plants for the landscape, Hillock said it is important to learn the specific needs of each plant to determine if it is a good match for your landscape.
“Check the plant’s hardiness zone rating. Most of Oklahoma lies within zone 7. Southeastern Oklahoma is within zone 8 and the northern border of the state, along with the panhandle, falls within zone 6,” he said.
Gardeners can access a hardiness zone map at planthardiness.ars.usda.gov to identify their local zone rating.
Different plants have different sunlight requirements in order to prosper. Plants are identified as suited to full sun, part sun and shade. Full sun means a minimum of six hours of direct light found in open areas. Most plants requiring part sun do well in filtered light for most of the day or in direct sun for morning or afternoon.
“It’s important to remember several hours of afternoon sun are more intense and create more heat than morning sun. While plants can survive well in full sun conditions in more northern states, they’ll struggle in Oklahoma’s more intense sun,” Hillock said. “If a label indicates the plant requires full to partial sun, it is best to give it some shade, particularly from the hot afternoon sun.”
Shade plants may require anything from the indirect light found on the north side of the house to the deep shade found under evergreens. True shade plants, such as many ferns, can perish in too much sun.
Some plants labeled part sun/part shade will perform well under a wide range of conditions. However, be careful not to push their limits too far. Plants needing part shade may be stressed if it’s too sunny, and the part sun types fail to bloom if it’s too shady.
In addition to light conditions, plants are categorized according to their moisture requirements. Certain plants favor wet conditions, while others require a well-drained soil. Still others are described as drought tolerant and require very little water once they are established. The amount of moisture available to plants in particular landscape areas depends on a number of variables, such as soil type, slope, drainage, sun and wind exposure, and the amount and frequency of irrigation.
“As you place plants in the landscape, remember to group plants with similar light, soil and water needs together for the greatest success,” he said.