Selecting the Right Plants for the Job

Selecting the Right Plants for the Job

Proper plant selection is the single most important factor in determining how long a plant will survive following installation. The plant selection process not only involves the customer’s needs but also quality and a knowledge of the specific cultural requirements of the plants you have to offer. Considering these elements is the key to well adapted plants, customer satisfaction, and longevity of the landscape design.

The first step in plant selection is to locate your property’s hardiness zone using the USD Hardiness Map. Hardiness zones help landscapers and growers to determine which plants are most likely to thrive given the weather condition in the region. This is one of the best ways to ensure your new plant material will thrive.

Selecting a high-quality product is important too. Consumers should look for plants that are sturdy, clean, shapely, well-potted, and that have dense, healthy foliage. It is important to avoid plants which have yellow or chlorotic leaves, burned leaf margins, water soaked or wilted foliage, spots or blotches and rank, spindly growth. You should also avoid plants that have been mechanically damaged in some way, have obviously dropped lower leaves or appear wilted. Flowering plants with only one half to three fourths of their flowers fully open will extend the blooming cycle for maximum enjoyment. Plants should be free of insects and diseases. Check the undersides of leaves and leaf axils for the presence of insect pests. Also, avoid plants with gray, moldy or water-soaked flowers. This is generally a symptom of a disease called Botrytis which causes flowers to drop prematurely.

Another element to consider is where the plant will be situated. All vegetation has its own sunlight and shade preferences and determining their ideal exposure is necessary. Here are some general guidelines…

• Northern exposure is great for shade-loving plants that thrive from little to no direct sunlight
• Southern exposure is the best for flowering plants who require constant sun all day long
• Eastern exposure experiences sun only during the mornings, making it fantastic for plants needing partial sun
• Western exposure is perfect for heat resistant plants that can receive full sun throughout the afternoon

Water availability, soil quality, and wind exposure should also be measured when evaluating site conditions.

In addition to proper selection, transportation plays an important role in the plant’s survival. Transporting plants from the store to the final destination creates a special set of problems to deal with. Plants are often mechanically damaged in the store during handling and check out. Take all precautions to avoid this problem by using sleeves, boxes or any other available packing materials.
Many plants grown in full sun have leaves (sun leaves) which are structurally different from those grown in the shade (shade leaves). Since sun leaves receive more light, they are typically less efficient at photosynthesis than shade leaves. Therefore, when plants with sun leaves are placed in low light areas, they frequently drop their foliage and make a new set of shade leaves which are photosynthetically more efficient.

To reduce the shock which occurs when a plant with sun leaves is placed in the shade, gradually reduce the light levels it is exposed to. This process is known as acclimatization. You should acclimatize plants when placing them outside during summer by gradually increasing light intensities. The process is reversed before plants are brought indoors in fall. Newly purchased plants can be acclimatized by initially locating them in a high-light area (southern exposure) and gradually moving them to their permanent low light location over 3-4 weeks.

Our Landscape Consultants are constantly receiving training and advice on selection, transportation and planting process. Our team oversees the whole process to make sure that your new landscape will not only look great, but become a healthy established design for the long term.

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